The Government’s announcement to retire the Covid-19 traffic light system from 11.59 pm last night has been welcomed by Retail NZ chief executive Greg Hartford.
He said it was “tremendously good news” that mask mandates would be removed from retail because “lots of customers have been not wanting to comply”.
“There’s no longer that threat of a, sirens from the police or b, aggression from customers,” Hartford said.
“Generally speaking, most people are not telling me that they think masks are keeping them safe,” he said.
“In fact, if you look at the numbers and case numbers across in Australia, where they’ve had no masks in retail for six months now, the case numbers are pretty similar to what they are in New Zealand, so you really do have to question whether it’s been serving any real purpose.”
It did not make sense that people could go to a crowded bar without masks but be expected to wear one in shops, even if they were alone, he said.
“There’s clearly still a risk of Covid spreading through the community, masks are clearly a way we can help manage that, but I think the question is does it need to be mandatory? And the government’s now come down to say people can make their own choices, which is a good thing.
“My key message to everyone really is if you are heading back into the shops, please shop nice, remember to be respectful of others – both workers and other customers.”
From midnight on Monday, the Covid-19 Protection Framework, or traffic light system was turned off, removing most mask requirements and the ability for Government to introduce measures like gathering restrictions.
All the Government’s mandates will end on September 26 including those for new arrivals in the country, however employers can continue their own mandates. From today only positive cases will need to isolate for seven days and masks are required only in health and aged care settings.
Supermarket workers have come in for abuse from customers who didn’t like wearing masks, and Ben Peterson from First Union said while that tension was now gone, there was a downside.
“It does mean that there’ll be more retail workers who’ll be more likely to get sick and that’s going to be frustrating for a lot of people.
“If more people are getting sick there’ll be more people away from store, which will mean that the staffing issues that we’re seeing across the industry are likely to compound.”