There are “many happy people” in Northland, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the region would drop back to alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Tuesday.
Tai Tokerau has been at alert level 3 lockdown since October 8, after two Auckland women – who fraudulently obtained business travel documents to travel north – tested positive for Covid-19.
But Ardern said on Monday it appeared the individuals concerned had not spread the virus further.
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There were 16,000 Covid-19 tests completed in Northland and 19 wastewater sites all returning negative results, she said.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said many people would be happy with the decision.
“I’m relieved and pleased for our business economy. And, I guess, there will be a few parents who will be pretty pleased about schools returning to normal as well.”
Mai said while Northland was moving to the lower alert level, vaccinations and testing still needed to be encouraged.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai says she’s furious the actions of a “selfish” person with Covid-19 have put the Northland region into lockdown.
“I just have this dreadful fear that it may still be in our community but maybe hasn’t been picked up yet.
“We need to protect everyone for our families and our economy.”
As well as encouraging vaccinations, Mai said the advice for Northlanders was to get a test if they were driving past a testing station, to get a clear picture of any spread.
But Stephen Smith, chief executive of the Northland Chamber of Commerce, believed the Government had been erring on the side of caution, rather than there being undetected virus in the community.
The decision to drop alert levels was “good news” and he expected many business people would be popping champagne corks – or at least opening a beer.
“It’s definitely a significant step,” Smith said.
“For retail, you don’t have to have that barricade across the front door, you can trade face-to-face with normal precautions like masks.
“For hospitality, getting back to having people seated in their premises is a big step.”
Smith said Northlanders would also be happy they could get back to the likes of fishing from boats, which was important for wellbeing.
The only “fly in the ointment” for Northland was the fact the region was cut off by alert level 3 in Auckland, impacting both visitors and supplies, he said.
But for Paihia restaurant owner Vinnie Pivac, going to alert level 2 meant he could open up his waterfront restaurant, Zane Grey’s.
“It slows down my haemorrhaging [of money],” he said. “We’ve just got to hold on until next year.”
Staff members were excited to get back to work, as well as celebrating the increased freedom that came with alert level 2, Pivac said.
Northland hospitality businesses were hurting after losing almost all of the school holidays, but he was hoping for a reasonable Labour Weekend.
“It won’t be the best weather, so we won’t get even a great weekend out of it, but anyone that comes into Paihia we will be grateful to serve and get some money on the books.”