A business events perspective on New Zealand’s Pandemic Purgatory

Adam Leslie General Manager Events, 212F "Our events industry has been wiped out and has suffered in silence for far too long. It desperately needs a government that will stop burying its head in the COVID-19 sand and finally start moving forward with a degree of confidence."

Following the New Zealand government’s recent decision to extend the travel ban for Kiwi’s wanting to return home from Australia, from mid-January to the end of February, there is growing concern in the New Zealand events industry that this will further dent business confidence on both sides of the Tasman.

Nobody doubts the need to manage new variants of Covid-19, but the only strategy that our government [New Zealand] seems to have is to ‘Lock Its Citizens Down’ (A policy the WHO is now highly critical of). This has had devastating impacts on families, communities, industries and our economy.

Furthermore, being fully vaccinated and negatively tested is still not sufficient for returning Kiwi’s to avoid lengthy and costly Managed Isolation periods, despite there often being 1,000’s of COVID-19 positive cases, allowed to self-isolate at home. The irony and cruelty of this is not lost on those who have patiently waited to reunite with friends and family for nearly 2 years, and have to miss yet another Christmas together.

We currently have 91% of our eligible population fully vaccinated and our most populous city, Auckland (unquestionably the epicentre of the Pandemic) is now 95% fully vaccinated. New Zealand is in the top 13% of vaccinated countries in the world, with Australia in the top 12% (Data obtained from Our World in Data, which monitors 221 countries).

Of the 13,161 total cases, the country has recorded only 49 deaths and many of these have been attributed to comorbidities. Even if we include comorbidities, this gives a mortality rate of just 0.12%, which is infinitesimal when as a comparison, half of all deaths in New Zealand are caused by cancers or heart disease.

The biggest challenge facing the New Zealand events industry and (indeed the entire nation), is the lack of uncertainty and a cohesive plan. There appears to be no government strategy to manage COVID-19 and its successive variants for anything beyond a 3-month cycle.  All this does is undermine any fragile confidence that companies have built up, to start planning for their events – that inject much needed capital into the economy, support hundreds of business owners and help to build up other industries across the country.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that, as our national vaccination rate increases (it looks like it could get as high as 95% fully vaccinated), the hospitalisations decrease along with ICU numbers.  This puts New Zealand in a great position to start allowing its border to re-open and whilst that comes with some calculated risks, it means the country can begin to navigate its way out of the Pandemic with more control and clarity.

Our events industry has been wiped out and has suffered in silence for far too long. It desperately needs a government that will stop burying its head in the COVID-19 sand and finally start moving forward with a degree of confidence. As a highly vaccinated country it’s now time for us to move on and learn to live with this virus, just like the rest of the world has done.

Adam Leslie 212F