New Zealand is witnessing a rise in demand for services ranging from fast-food pickup and delivery, courier, online ordering, and healthcare services as the Government eased lockdown measures in the country. Currently, the country is at Alert Level 3, which allows some businesses to operate, but only in cases whereby work from home cannot be implemented.
Government Guidelines for Level 3
At this level, the Government expects that interaction with the customers is minimal to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It was said that the Government agencies would not make decisions for the businesses, and the businesses were expected to self-assess their ability to meet the restrictions and operate safely.
Except for essential services, the businesses that require close contact cannot operate under Level 3, and customers cannot come inside the premises of the business.
Businesses are required to operate contactless, payments should be accepted through contactless modes, and deliveries are expected to be contactless as well.
Owners and workers at the premises are expected to maintain hygiene, including regular hand washing, social distancing and disinfecting surfaces.
The Government also expects sick workers to stay at homes. Essential businesses, which were operating under Level 4, are required to minimise or eliminate physical interactions between staff as well as customers. Supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations and pharmacies are categorised as essential businesses.
Under level 3, the Government has allowed bars and cafes to be open provided that customers are not entering the premises. At the same time, deliveries and takeaways services are also encouraged by the Government. However, customers are not permitted to consume food at the premises.
Most of the building and construction sector can return to work. The Government has said that all goods can be delivered given that delivery is contactless. If the company has an off-license, alcohol could be delivered as well.
The Government requires operating businesses to maintain records of contacts that are interacting during service delivery. Healthcare authorities may contact a business when a COVID-19 case is related to the business.
WorkSafe NZ is undertaking oversight of businesses to ensure that necessary protocols are followed that would maintain the health and safety of all stakeholders. It is prioritising support for COVID-19 response, providing support and information, ensuring that businesses are following guidelines.
WorkSafe is making sure that businesses are aware of the procedures and has enforcement options that could be used against workplaces. It would try to undertake non-attendance approaches for investigations. The body will work with NZ Police to gather information and accessing evidence.
The body also gave warnings to shut the businesses if they do not follow the Level 3 rules. PM Ardern also said the Government expects standards are met by the businesses that are operating in Level 3.
Demand under Level 3, and chaos
Vodafone NZ noted that they are witnessing a rise in demand as a result of Level 3. Since the country entered Level 3, the network operator has seen a 23% increase in mobile data compared to pre-COVID-19 levels, but with a slight decrease in fixed data usage.
The company is witnessing a strong increase in customer queries and help. Voda NZ said that the majority of broadband customers (90%) are under fixed price unlimited plans.
They have also seen an increase in queries where customers need broadband connections. Vodafone NZ has seen around 50% jump in data usage through wireless broadband connections compared to February 2020.
Healthcare services are also expecting a surge in demand as people might feel more confident in coming back healthcare systems. News also emerged that online ordering applications are witnessing huge demand.
Since many businesses are using mobile applications to take and deliver orders, unprecedented demand from the customers crashed the systems of aggregators that mobilise orders and delivery.
Customers are facing delays in receiving the orders, and those who paid for an overnight delivery have experienced week-long delays.
NZ Post Boss also noted that a surge in demand is expected as the country moved to Level 3. He also said that the body had experienced large fluctuations in parcel volumes and mails over the past week.
Also, there was a spike in demand for fast-food items with McDonald’s reporting on 30 April that it had to close three drive-throughs in Rotorua as they had run out of stock.
PM Ardern, in her daily briefing, stated that there have been over 1k complaints about businesses breaching rules, relating to physical distancing protocols.
Reports also emerged that New Zealanders are getting complacent about the Level 3 rules, resulting in close contacts, which breaches the physical distancing norms of the Level 3.
Reporters are saying that fast-food operators have been dishonouring Level 3 norms, with deliveries not being contactless anymore. Such behaviour raises the risks of a second wave, which would again need harder lockdown measures in place.
Meanwhile, Wellington docks are getting ready to welcome unusual guests as whale and dolphins are hitting the shores when people and cargo movement is minimal.