When Auckland eventually moves down through the levels, face masks will continue to be legally required on all public transport – even at level 1. Despite this, one exemption to the public transport face-covering requirement means that a person can remove masks to eat or drink “if eating or drinking is permitted by the conditions of carriage on the relevant service”.
As such, Fullers’ onboard cafes will reopen at alert level 1, according to a spokesperson.
This is causing concern for some islanders who are dismayed that they will soon have to share a confined space with people who can legally remove their masks to sip a beer or devour a toasted sandwich.
University of Auckland School of Environment professor Robin Kearns, who has a longstanding research interest in public health, says Fullers needs to consider its corporate responsibility to the public.
“To me, it comes down to the question – is it good corporate citizenship to have the cafes open? Even if it is allowable by the letter of the law, is it good corporate citizenship to be doing so? Maybe there’s a bit of a moral question here.
“I suspect Fullers is reluctant to keep their cafes closed because they’re a real money-earner, but it also strikes me that it’s a bit of a potent mix when you have people sitting inside buying alcohol, which can lead to less vigilance around health and safety.”
Kearns says he’s always impressed by staff onboard Fullers ferries and says it’s often the policies that are the issue.
“A lot of people ride the ferry out of necessity to get to medical appointments and we know Delta is more transmissible. so, as a monopoly provider, Fullers needs to rethink how to safely and comfortably carry passengers.”
The Waiheke Local Board is now looking into ferry operations before the region moves to level 2 and more people begin to return to their places of work.
This Thursday 16 September, board chairperson Cath Handley is meeting with Fullers CEO Mike Horne and an Auckland Transport representative to discuss the best outcomes for ferry users in light of the Delta variant.• Sophie Boladeras
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