TWN sting finds a third of restaurant and café staff in Auckland CBD breaking the law

August 31, 2022

TWN sting finds a third of restaurant and café staff in Auckland CBD breaking the law

ZOE JANSSON-BUSH AT LE PETIT CAFE THINKS WEARING A MASK WHILE SHE'S WORKING IS "SO IMPORTANT". PHOTO: DUNCAN TOLMIE

An investigation by Te Waha Nui can reveal many café and restaurant staff in Auckland's CBD are prepared to break the law – by not wearing face masks when interacting with customers.

Over two hours, TWN walked the CBD streets, checking out cafés and restaurants to see if staff were interacting with customers without masks.

Of the 44 cafés and restaurants observed, 14 had maskless staff interacting with customers. That’s 32 percent.

New Zealand is at traffic light orange, which requires people working in places with food and drink to wear a medical grade mask, unless they have an exemption.

Medical Director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland, Professor Nikki Turner, said while there were still high rates of covid, mask wearing was a simple way to reduce its spread.

"Lots of people walking around in our community are at particularly high risk of covid, and they’re allowed to participate in our community."

Professor Turner said it was up to the rest of New Zealanders “to support and protect them with some quite simple measures -- and [wearing a mask] is one of them.”

For the time being, café and restaurant staff wearing masks was an appropriate measure that had “good evidence behind it”, she said.

On Lorne Street, a quarter of cafes and restaurants had unmasked staff interacting with customers (18 businesses masked, six unmasked).

High Street had nine cafés and restaurants with masked staff, and four without.

Side streets around Lorne Street and High Street were also investigated, which found three cafés and restaurants with masked staff, and four with unmasked staff.

One café with all three staff walking around unmasked, had a sign taped to the entrance that said not to be offended if workers ask maskless customers to provide proof of a mask exemption.

At another café, TWN observed an unmasked staff member wheel a customer’s stroller and talk to a parent cradling a baby.

The café and restaurant workers weren’t asked if they had a mask exemption.

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