New Zealand moved down into the orange setting in the Covid-19 protection framework on Thursday, but businesses think the mask requirement in retail is “disappointing”.
The government announced on Wednesday that the country will move down traffic light setting as cases and hospitalisation numbers drop in the Omicron outbreak.
New Zealand has been in the red setting since January 2022 when the country announced the first community Omicron case.
In orange, face masks are encouraged when leaving the house, but are required on domestic flights, public transport, taxis, public facilities such as museums and more.
The list also includes retail businesses.
On the Covid-19 official website it says that face masks are to be worn “inside a retail business, for example supermarkets, shopping malls, pharmacies, petrol stations and takeaway food stores”.
However, Retail NZ says the requirement “makes no sense”.
“While it is good news that the country is moving to orange, it is absurd that the government is removing mask requirements in the hospitality and education sectors, but keeping them for retail,” says Retail NZ Chief Executive Greg Harford.
The move from red to orange has seen a lift in masking requirements in hospitality businesses, hair salons, indoor events, court and most notably, schools.
Harford says the removal of mask wearing in more crowded settings of nightclubs, schools and cafes is “nonsensical”.
Retail businesses can see a lift in the mask requirements when New Zealand moves to the green light setting.
“Retail NZ is asking the government to take some practical steps to create settings that improve business and consumer confidence. This includes resolution of the issues around masks, and setting a date for a move to the green traffic light setting, to create certainty and help improve consumer confidence,” he adds.
Heart of the City Chief Executive, Viv Beck says the new mask requirements can be a hassle for retail businesses.
“The updated requirements for masks under orange are very confusing and inconsistent and is a source of frustration particularly for retail business. We would hope to see this issue rectified quickly,” she says.
On the other hand, supermarket giant Countdown says they are “pleased” that mask requirements are still in place for supermarkets and will continue to follow government guidelines.
“Face masks are an important Covid-19 safety control for helping keep both our team and customers safe,” a Countdown spokeswoman says.
The Unite Against Covid-19 website encourages to wear a mask “whenever you can”.