Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Aucklanders celebrate day one of the new traffic light system; modeller calls it a \”step into the unknown\”

After almost four months of lockdown, Aucklanders were overjoyed to be back drinking at the pub, dining at their favourite restaurant and working up a sweat at the gym yesterday.

On day one of the nation’s move to the new traffic light system, some keen Aucklanders even flocked into bars, including Danny Doolans and HeadQuarters in the Viaduct, after they reopened at one minute before midnight.

Re-opening the doors to customers was a huge relief to hospitality business owners, who have suffered stress and pain, being mostly unable to operate under alert level restrictions since Delta plunged the city into lockdown on August 17.

But while there were plenty of celebrations yesterday and many restaurants reporting they were fully booked over the weekend, there was also some anxiety about the relaxed rules.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it could take people up to a week to get used to Auckland’s new Covid-19 settings.

“Life is going to start to feel a lot more normal for those people who have been subject to restrictions,” he told RNZ’s Morning Report.

Ordinary Kiwis and health officials will be keeping a keen eye on how the reopening of “higher risk” businesses goes and whether it increases the spread of Covid-19 and hospitalisation numbers.

At Longroom on Ponsonby Rd last evening, one waitress said it was great to be back, saying the most popular cocktail during the day had been espresso martinis and “so many jugs of beer”.

Event director Frankie Mahoney said the last four months had been a “pretty tough time”, saying she had got into making 1400 masks in lockdown.

“All people are talking about now is business and how we are going to recover from this,” Mahoney said.

She was critical of the Government giving vouchers for people to go to the zoo and other council facilities in Auckland, but no vouchers for people to spend at bars and restaurants.

“I just think that was disgusting,” said Mahoney, saying restaurateurs will get three weeks of trade before the borders open and Aucklanders are off like a shot to their beach houses and the city will be empty,” Mahoney said.

It was a double-celebration for Aucklander Theo Faithful yesterday morning, who enjoyed a coffee with a friend at Bacio Eatery in Herne Bay on his birthday.

“It’s incredible, I couldn’t ask for a better birthday present to be honest!”

He said he did a gym class as well, but there was a bit of anxiety being close to other people.

Britomart bistro Ortolana duty manager Ella Xue was ecstatic to be back in business after more than 100 days.

About 30 people had been through by 8am, all with their vaccine pass.

Xue said all customers’ passes were scanned upon entry. No one had expressed any frustration with the process so far.

Regular customers Isabelle, Alan and Steve said it was fantastic to be back to their usual spot: “We’ll definitely come here and help the business.”

Leo Molloy was pleased to have patrons back at his HeadQuarters bar and restaurant at the Viaduct Basin.

“Fifteen weeks and two days is too long a time. It’s too long a time when you’re stuck in jail. Just stuck at home on your own watching your modest fortune draining away. It’s not a pleasant experience in my view, it’s very unnecessary,” said the business owner.

Molloy said about 350 people had booked for lunch today and he expected a further 300 walk-ins.

At his first “walkabout” with voters yesterday at Auckland’s Viaduct Basin, new National leader Christopher Luxon said the city should already be in the green traffic light setting.

The Botany MP welcomed the new freedoms but questioned why Auckland was in the red setting, as vaccination rates were so high.

“Why is Auckland in red light? That is designed for when the country has an overwhelmed healthcare system and the Prime Minister says it is fine. And we have some of the highest vaccination rates of any city on planet Earth.”

Answering calls by Luxon to put Auckland in the green traffic light system, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said the Government had always moved cautiously.

And the “proof is in the pudding” that their actions had worked given the low infection and death rates in New Zealand, he said.

Robertson said it was possible Auckland could move down to a lesser traffic light level before Christmas, but he couldn’t pre-empt the decision and it would only be known closer to December 13.

There were 92 new Covid community cases on day one of the nation’s move to the new traffic light system.

The last day New Zealand recorded under 100 community cases was October 28, with 89 cases.

Of yesterday’s cases, 80 are in Auckland, two in Waikato, one in Northland, five in the Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes DHB, one in Nelson-Marlborough and two in Taranaki.

The single case in Nelson came after locals were urged to get tests and officials worked to contact those affected after 14 cases from an unknown source were confirmed this week.

Mayor Rachel Reese said the number of cases had created anxiety among the community of more than 50,000 people.

Public health director Dr Caroline McElnay said it was hard to say whether there would be more cases in Nelson, “but at this stage we have no particular cause for alarm”.

As well as fewer cases yesterday, McElnay reported a decrease in hospitalisations since Thursday. There are now 79 people in hospital, including nine in intensive care.

The Waitematā and Canterbury DHBs have become the third and fourth DHBs to hit 90 per cent double-jabbed with the Pfizer vaccination. The other two are Auckland and Capital and Coast.

Robertson told the last Friday 1pm press conference for the year the nation heads into the traffic light system with 93 per cent of eligible people having one dose of the vaccine and 87 per cent having both doses.

Of the five DHB regions yet to hit the 90 per cent single dose mark, Lakes DHB was just 785 doses away, and the West Coastonly 284 doses away, he said.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff cut a cake to celebrate 90 per cent of the Auckland eligible population being fully vaccinated.

“What a perfect way to celebrate our first day out of lockdown. We’re now one of the most vaccinated cities in the world.

“I’m really proud of the way Aucklanders have worked together to get vaccinated and keep each other safe,” Goff said.

Covid-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy said only time would tell how effective the move into the traffic light system would be.

“It’s a step into the unknown,” he told Breakfast.

“It takes us back, really, to March 2020 when the alert level system was put together.

“We’re just going to have to watch, I think, over the next few months.”

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