Our business chatter over the past two weeks has been dominated by the downstream impacts of one event. Specifically, the Government decision at 9pm on a Saturday night to lock down Auckland, and to a lesser extent the rest of the country, effective from the next morning.
Think about this for a moment. Sundays are the biggest trading day for most of our cafes, and many of our retailers — businesses already hit hard by the events of the past 12 months. By Saturday night these small businesses have supplies ordered and mostly delivered. Payments for product become due at this point. People are rostered on for their Sunday shifts. Promotions have been advertised.
On this particular Saturday night, Round the Bays participants and sponsors had paid for their tents, food, rented barbecues, bouncy castles and plenty of other things to feed, rehydrate and entertain participants.
Sunday weddings on Waiheke Island, many with guests already having arrived on the island for the weekend festivities, were abruptly halted. No matter that food and venues were already committed and in many cases paid for. As one victim of a lockdown-induced cancellation told me, “I’ve already paid for the wedding, I just didn’t have a wedding”.
Yes, the lockdown called because of an errant gym-going university student and a panicking Government acting before it had all the information, was our cruellest yet. That’s right. Cruel.
Cruel to the very business owners who have suffered as much as any of us in the past 12 months. I find it staggering that here we are, one full year later, and with hardly any cases, with a strategy that hasn’t evolved beyond the brutality of lockdown.
It was on this weekend last year that stock markets tanked, the Melbourne Grand Prix was cancelled and New Zealanders were told by our politicians to come home. I remember the day well. I was in Melbourne that morning, having travelled extensively on a two-week business trip to the United States and Australia. On my return home, I was surprised that I was able to walk straight through the border and go home. No warnings, no information. Nothing different at all.
Lockdowns, as I recall, were invented shortly thereafter, with a stated purpose of easing the flow of Covid-19 patients into our hospitals. Of course, the flow never came. Some say that’s because we managed it well. Others cite our lack of population density and the virus striking at the end of a hot and humid New Zealand summer.