New Zealand has displayed exemplary performance in its fight against the spread of COVID-19. With the country’s borders closed to non-residents over the past 18 months, fewer than 3,000 cases and 26 deaths have been recorded.
However, the first outbreak in six months has seen the country revert to an Alert Level 4 lockdown as of the 17th of August. While most of the country will endure a three-day lockdown, Auckland and Coromandel will be shut down for an entire week.
This has had expected consequences for casinos and other non-essential businesses. SkyCity has had to close its Hamilton, Auckland, and Queenstown properties. One of the newly infected individuals confessed to previously being at SkyCity Auckland.
Alert Level 4
Under the level 4 lockdown, citizens are only permitted to leave home for healthcare, work, or local exercise. Heading out for groceries and COVID testing is also permitted. All public facilities have also been instructed to close and this includes cinemas, libraries, restaurants, and museums, to name a few.
The businesses and services still allowed to operate include supermarkets, petrol stations, healthcare facilities, and pharmacies with any customers visiting these places being legally required to wear masks, under threat of arrest.
Early childhood education centres and schools have been closed and the mask mandate, which also applies to public transportation and flights, as well as a mandatory 2 metres distance from others must be maintained.
SkyCity Auckland feels the heat
One individual who later tested positive for COVID-19 had visited the main casino gaming floor of SkyCity Auckland on August 14th from 1.15 am to 3 am. This means that 1000 customers and 240 staff members could have been exposed and have been asked to self-isolate and get tested.
SkyCity CEO Michael Ahearne commented,
“This is an anxious time for some of the SkyCity team and their whanau, and we are extremely grateful to them for their cooperation in helping us protect the wellbeing of all our people and our guests.”
The casino is now receiving a deep clean from a team of specialists as the operator eagerly awaits the end of the lockdown.
Point of entry
Following an intensive operation, the country’s authorities soon discovered how the virus made its way into the country. It was traced to a 58-year-old man from Auckland who had just returned from a visit to Sydney. His test came back positive for the Delta variant on August 7th and he was quarantined by the next day. The subject was transferred to Middlemore hospital on August 16 as his condition deteriorated.
The number of infections is expected to grow for the foreseeable future and contact tracers have discovered that, in addition to SkyCity Adelaide, the identified infected have also visited schools, churches, restaurants, gas stations, and a hospital.
The nation’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, recently stated that New Zealand intends to keep its borders closed to non-residents until 2022.
“While the pandemic continues to rage overseas, and the virus continues to change and mutate, the best thing we can do is lock in the gains achieved to date while keeping our options open and giving ourselves choices,” she declared.
Closed borders will enable the country to more effectively execute its vaccination program. New Zealand’s vaccinations have had a slow start with currently only 20% of the population having received the first jab and only 17% receiving both doses.
When the borders reopen, only fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries will be allowed to move around freely in the country, while those from medium to high-risk nations will be compelled to take precautions, including self-isolation to a fortnight under quarantine.