The ‘closed’ sign has gone up on the nation’s hospitality businesses as New Zealand enters an unprecedented month-long lockdown over the Easter holidays.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the measures represent “the most significant restrictions on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history”.
“This is not a decision taken lightly but it is our best chance to slow the virus and save lives,” she told the nation in a televised address this week.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts predicts industry job losses will rise to 100,000 in the coming months, with many employers scrambling to furlough staff positions rather than cut them.
“The redundancies started last week – thousands of people have already been given redundancy notices and they’ll start taking effect. Many, many businesses will be closing this coming week,” he told The AM Show on Monday.
The coronavirus restrictions forced the closure of restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms cinemas and casinos nationwide this week and the mothballing of Department of Conservation visitor centres, huts and campsite bookings.
Air New Zealand struggled to accommodate passengers as thousands of Kiwis raced to get home before Wednesday’s curfew.
While accommodation is among the services listed as essential by the government, many hotels and motels are closing their doors as guests numbers sit at, or close to, zero.
The government has announced two new schemes designed to take some of the pressure off mortgage holders and help small-to-medium-sized businesses weather the coronavirus threat.
Banks have agreed to give mortgage holders whose incomes have been affected by COVID-19 a six-month payment holiday on both the interest and principal of their mortgages.
And a $6.25 billion guarantee scheme will see the government underwrite 80 percent of bank loans to eligible small and medium enterprises, with banks underwriting the remainder. It means in the event of a loan default, 80 percent of the losses will be borne by government and 20 percent by the banks.