New Zealand’s government has passed rules mandating anti-COVID vaccinations for border workers, including personnel who work at seaports.
Affected workers are forbidden from carrying out work unless vaccinated.
The new COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 came into effect on 14 July. A variety of workers are affected including:
- Workers who board ships
- Pilots carrying out work on, or around, ships
- All workers who transport people (other than crew) to or from ships
- All other port workers who interact with persons required to be in isolation or quarantine
- Workers who handle any items that are not cargo or freight that are removed from ships
The order affects all workers working at a port where ships arrive from locations outside of New Zealand.
Breaches of the order are criminal offences. An intentional breach of the order is a criminal offence with a potential jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to NZ$4,000. There is a further strict liability offence (i.e. it criminalises mistakes and accidents) for any breach of the COVID-19 order and a person who commits such an offence is subject to an “infringement fee” of up to NZ$300 or a court-imposed fine of up to NZ$1,000.
“Workers at our ports and airports who are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19 must now be vaccinated,” New Zealand’s Chris Hipkins’ COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced.
He added that only 54% of active port workers have been fully vaccinated and that the NZ government need to see this number increase.
“I am extending the mandatory order to cover a further 1800 currently unvaccinated active border workers. This is necessary to lift the uptake of the vaccine among the wider border workforce and strengthen our ongoing response to COVID-19… I’d also encourage border employers to look at opportunities to make it easy for their workers to get vaccine appointments and to urge employees to get their vaccination”, he added.
All government workers covered by the order must get their first dose by 26 August and privately employed border workers must have their first dose by 30 September. All new border workers will be required to have a first dose before starting work.
“Border workers who remain unvaccinated after the requirements come into effect will need to discuss options with their employer. They will not be able to continue working in a high-risk border environment until they are vaccinated,” Minister Hipkins said.
Both the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and the Maritime Union of New Zealand supported the announcement.
The primary vaccine used in New Zealand is the Pfizer vaccine. The efficacy of the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine is 92.6%. Vaccine efficacy is the percentage reduction in the incidence of disease in a vaccinated group compared to an unvaccinated group. Adults who are infected with COVID-19 three weeks after receiving one dose of Pfizer are 38% to 49% less likely to pass on the virus to other people in their household compared to unvaccinated people.