COVID-19: Government updates rules for businesses

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order (No 10) 2021 (Order) came into force at 11.59 pm on 31 August 2021.  This brought into effect the Government’s decision to keep Auckland and Northland at Alert Level 4, while the rest of the country moves to Alert Level 3.  Currently, Alert Level 4 will continue in Auckland until 11:59pm on Tuesday 14 September 2021, and in Northland until at least 11:59pm on Thursday 2 September.

There are no big surprises in the new rules.  However, as with earlier orders, we would expect various exemptions to follow.  Some key points for businesses to take note of are set out below.

The Order introduces some minor changes to the list of “Alert level 4 businesses or services”.  These are largely clarifications of the older list.  For example, health services (other than pharmacies) have been inserted as a distinct class, as have Courts and tribunals (as distinct from the broader “justice sector” class).  “Postal and courier services” are now expressly included alongside freight and other transport and logistics services.

The Order sets out the rules for operating businesses at Alert Level 3 and is further supplemented by the Government’s guidance here.  The Government continues to recommend that staff work from home if they can.  Only businesses or services that are operating in compliance with the Alert Level 3 requirements may operate in an Alert Level 3 area. These requirements include that businesses must:

  • be contactless;
  • meet physical distancing requirements;
  • implement extra hygiene measures; and
  • may not have customers come onto the premises (unless the business is a supermarket, dairy, butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, petrol station, pharmacy or permitted health service).

Businesses that involve close physical contact may not open and the Government has specifically stated that the following classes of business may not operate:

  • farmers markets;
  • nightclubs;
  • entertainment and tourist facilities where people gather —  for example museums, cinemas, libraries, arcades;
  • hairdressers and beauty salons;
  • gyms and exercise facilities;
  • driving instructors; and
  • outdoor adventure activity operators.

The Order imposes significant restrictions on travel between the Alert Level 4 area and the Alert Level 3 area. Such travel can only occur if it is for one of the following permitted purposes:

  • working for a certain business or service;
  • to visit or stay under shared bubble arrangements and shared caregiver arrangements;
  • to provide urgent care for a child or person in a critical or terminal condition, if no other appropriate person is available to do so;
  • to access health services with appointment;
  • to attend a court, tribunal, New Zealand Parole Board hearing, or other judicial institution;
  • to leave or relocate their place of residence as required by a court order;
  • to leave or relocate their place of residence that is a hospital, residential health service, or residential care;
  • to leave New Zealand;
  • to preserve the life or safety of another person;
  • to go to a person’s principle home or place of residence after isolation or quarantine;
  • to go to a person’s principle home or place of residence from the Alert Level 3 area;
  • to accompany any other person for the purposes of the above reasons.

Support for business

Various financial support packages are available to businesses at this time (see details here).  If you need help identifying or understanding how any of these support programmes may apply to your business, with making applications or with the compliance requirements that may follow, please get in touch with our public law team or your usual MinterEllisonRuddWatts contact.

This article was co-authored by Nathalie Harrington (Senior Solicitor) and Brayden Print (Law Clerk).

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