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America's Cup: Slow release of brakes as NZ set to reduce COVID-19 Alert Levels

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 16 Apr 2020 20:02 PDT 17 April 2020
Te Aihe testing on the Waitemata Harbour © Emirates Team New Zealand

The latest update provided yesterday by the New Zealand Government provides some more detail into the ongoing restrictions and requirements around coronavirus and COVID-19, and how they affect America's Cup and local sailing.

New Zealand reported just eight new cases today, and two deaths - bringing the total to 11 deaths attributed to the disease, including several from a South Island rest home.

The country has been in Level 4 (the most extreme level) since March 26 and has severely restricted borders. All businesses (except for some deemed essential service) are closed. The objective of the NZ Government is the elimination of COVID-19, without a vaccine, rather than suppression to an acceptable level as is the case in most other nations. It is therefore likely that unless this objective changes that some degree of Alert is expected to remain in place until a vaccine is available.

The Lockdown is expected to be eased on Wednesday, following a government decision to be taken on Monday. The Alert Level is expected to be reduced to Level 3 from Level 4.

All businesses (except those involving any direct contact or coming within one metre of another person in an enclosed workspace) are allowed to commence normal operations. Schools will also recommence in a limited manner.

Sailing and boating are not permitted until the country is declared to be at Level 2 - which is expected within 2-4 weeks after Level 3 has been imposed.

Subject to restrictions on gatherings and use of facilities, club sailing should be able to recommence at Level 2. A lot of these issues around sailing participation go away if the clubhouse facility is not opened/used/accessed. Yachting NZ's advice to clubs can be viewed by clicking here.

It is expected that boat and other marine construction activities will be permitted once the alert level is downgraded to Level 3 on Wednesday.

In this respect, NZ will fall into line with two of the four America's Cup nations. American Magic and INEOS Team UK are believed to have continued their AC75 construction on a similar basis to Alert Level 3 environment in the USA and UK respectively. However, Luna Rossa's second AC75 is believed to be still in Bergamo at the epicentre of the Italian COVID-19 Lockdown.

There are general restrictions, (subject to review) on people wishing to enter New Zealand - being a 14-day stay at a Government provided and supervised facility before moving elsewhere. However, currently, there are few scheduled flights in and out of New Zealand. One major airline is reported to have flown just 900 passengers on Good Friday compared to 58,000 on the same day in 2019.

The detailed restrictions for all levels as of April 16 can be viewed by clicking here

At present, there would appear to be no reason why the America's Cup will not be held on time and on schedule. If social distancing requirements are still in place, then there may be some restrictions on fans watching from ashore. However, they should not affect TV and broadcast production. There are no restrictions on sizes of gatherings at Alert Level 1.

It should be noted that New Zealand will be host to a major regional political event - APEC 2021 which is due to be held in New Zealand from December 2020 (before the start of the America's Cup) until the Leaders Summit on December 2021. There will be nine major events held in three centres of New Zealand with 20,000 international visitors expected to attend under more flexible international visitor restrictions than currently apply.

While New Zealand has only suffered in a relatively small way in deaths from CONVID-19, the economic effects are expected to be substantial, particularly in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Some very reasonable accommodation and other deals should be available - both in Auckland for those wishing to extend their stay throughout New Zealand. Many of these small and medium-sized businesses will attempt to recover from a situation where a month ago they were viable businesses with good forward bookings, to a situation where most now have few bookings at all.

One tourism leader told a NZ Parliamentary oversight group that the tourism industry which normally injected $2billion per month into the NZ economy was "in hibernation". Currently, 50% of the hotels in Auckland are said to be closed. Most cafes and coffee houses will have to remain closed until Alert Level 2 is achieved.

New Zealand remains in a State of Emergency, with Parliament suspended. The State of Emergency was declared on March 25 and has been extended three times, with the current extension applying to April 21, 2020.

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