Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Queenstown tipped to be closed by Friday

The gleaming jewel in New Zealand’s tourism crown could be about to lose its lustre, after a Queenstown business leader predicted the whole town could be closed by Friday.

There were 51 cases of Covid-19 confirmed across Otago and Southland yesterday, all but 10 of them in Queenstown or Wanaka.

With an ever-increasing list of bars, restaurants and tourist attractions listed as locations of interest or places where people with Covid-19 came into contact with other patrons and staff, Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes predicted “everywhere will be closed by Friday”.

The expectation was that everyone in close contact with a Covid-19 case meant many employees were unable to work and with a severe labour shortage in the resort town, few places would be able to stay open, Stokes said.

Nationally, 981 new cases were reported, a rapid surge in numbers which prompted the Government to move New Zealand into phase 2 of the Red light setting as of 11.59pm tonight.

That would reduce the time required for people to stay in isolation, but that would make little difference to Queenstown businesses, Stokes told Radio New Zealand.

“If you are isolating for seven days or isolating for 10 days, if you’re closed you’re closed, and these are businesses on the brink.”

About 70 per cent of business closures in Queenstown in the past year had been in the past six months, and anecdotally she had been told there were more insolvencies to come, Stokes said.

“These businesses going to the wall aren’t just fly-by-night businesses. These are established firms that have been around for years, contributed millions of dollars to the local economy, and employ a lot of people.”

Meanwhile, late yesterday the Southern District Health Board confirmed a University of Otago student had tested positive for Covid-19 and was now in isolation, as Covid continued to worm its way through Otago and Southland.

Other education facilities were also under the spotlight yesterday, as some senior pupils at Columba College and years 5 and 6 pupils at Musselburgh School were also asked to isolate after possibly being exposed to Covid-positive people at separate events.

Further south, a worker at Clare House rest-home in Invercargill has tested positive for the virus, and visitors have been temporarily barred from the facility.

Chief operations officer Jane Smart said, in a letter to residents and families, all staff and residents had since tested negative, but the health of everyone connected to Clare House was being monitored.

Across Otago and Southland yesterday 19 new cases of Covid-19 were reported, taking the number of active cases in the region to 51.

Although cases have been reported in Queenstown, Dunedin, Gore, and Invercargill, the only locations of interest notified so far in the region have been in Queenstown and Wanaka.

Yesterday, four more Queenstown-linked locations were notified, two flights to Auckland last Tuesday (NZ634 at 6.05pm and NZ612 at 10.30am) and two bars, Harry’s Pool Bar and Cowboys Bar.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult urged all residents to pull together and remain united in dealing with Covid-19.

“Some businesses will experience staff shortages due to illness or the need to self-isolate, and others may need to close temporarily while they deep clean,” he said.

“Stick with them and support local businesses as much as you can.”

An SDHB spokeswoman said there could be many reasons why there had been no identified locations of interest in a place where cases had been detected.

“This could include that people didn’t go out in the community during their infectious period, or that all people at the locations they visited have been able to be contacted and notified, or it was a classified a low-risk location of interest.”

The majority of locations of interest identified in Queenstown and Wanaka have been bars and restaurants, and health authorities yesterday issued a plea for anyone who had been out socialising in recent days to be aware that they could have been exposed to Covid-19.

“If you have been out at a bar or restaurant, or attending parties across the Southern district, please be aware that these are high-risk settings,” the spokeswoman said.

“If you develop cold or flu-like symptoms, please isolate and get tested for Covid-19 immediately.”

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