Life after masks embraced

Smiles front . . . Balclutha store Ladybird Junction staff Casey Milne (left) and Leanne Reichel are sensing a taste of normality without mask mandates in New Zealand. PHOTO: EVELYN THORN

Clutha businesses are breathing a sigh of relief with the removal of most mask mandates.

The recent scrapping of the Covid-19 traffic light system in New Zealand by the Government has rippled through the country.

Masks no longer need to be worn in public areas including supermarkets, but must still be worn in healthcare settings including hospitals, urgent care, primary care, some pharmacies and aged residential care facilities.

Mask wearing has been an everyday part of life for New Zealanders since August 2020, when they were first made mandatory on public transport under the alert level system, and ramped up under the traffic light system and the arrival of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

Clutha business owners have welcomed the move.

Hairworkz owner Carleigh Frisby said she had tried to make the most of an uncertain situation during compulsatory mask wearing and over time had not seen masks as an issue.

‘‘I definitely had a lot of nervous clients at the beginning, along with the continuing uncertainty of what was next.

We did our best to create a positive attitude toward the situation and it kept our client base strong.

‘‘We’re personally going to stop wearing masks, but it is entirely discretionary.

‘‘If clients would like to wear a mask that’s completely up to them, and if they feel more comfortable with our staff wearing a mask as well, we will listen to them,’’ she said.

Ms Frisby said they had earned respect by listening to clients and their requests, just as they have had to do with their business rules during these tough times.

General manager of the Clutha Licensing Trust Mike Curtis said mask wearing began with a bit of frustration and worry, but he hopes with the end of mask mandates people will come out of their homes and get back to normality.

‘‘We’re following the lead of the Government and not going to be wearing masks anymore, but people can wear them whenever they want.

‘‘Our staff are more than welcome to if they feel uncomfortable without one, and so are our customers. ‘‘Bearing in mind how Covid-19 has cycled throughout these past two years, it’s all up to what people choose to do.

‘‘We can see the vibe that people are happy to be rid of the masks, but it’s personal choice,’’ he said. Balclutha retail store Ladybird Junction owner Carmen Peterson said her team had had its time with masks and it was time to move on.

‘‘We’ve done our bit, the masks have done their job and kept us safe. It feels like it’s time to move on.

‘‘In saying that, we’re still going to be cautious and watch out for each other. It’s all up to personal preference in the end.

We’re pleased to see them gone, but if a flare›up in the district occurs or anything happens, we just move with the system and flush it out again,’’ she said.