In ports around the world, dockworkers have demanded access to vaccines, with unions and terminal operators arguing for priority frontline worker status for longshoremen. The New Zealand government has responded to this call and has gone further: it is making vaccination compulsory for private sector port workers.
“I extend the obligation [vaccination] to cover 1,800 other active border workers who are currently unvaccinated. This is necessary to increase vaccine uptake among the broader border workforce and strengthen our continued response to Covid-19, “COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.” As well as workers of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, workers at our ports and airports who are most exposed to COVID-19 must now be vaccinated. “
According to Hipkins, only 54 percent of New Zealand’s active port workers have been fully immunized. He called for increasing that number to minimize the risk of COVID-19 entering the country through its ports.
New Zealand is one of the very few countries that does not have a case of community coronavirus. Through a combination of border checks, contact tracing, mask warrants and vaccination, his government wiped out COVID-19 from the population (with the exception of a few dozen cases detected during border checks and hosted in managed quarantine). With no community spread to manage, the New Zealand government need only prevent reintroduction of the disease from international arrivals, and the vaccination mandate is part of that effort.
The new legislation gives longshoremen a one-week window to get vaccinated. All government employees covered by the order must have their first dose by August 26, and private border workers must have their first dose by September 30. All new workers covered by the decree will have to have their first dose before starting work.
“Frontier workers who are not vaccinated after the requirements take effect will have to discuss options with their employer. They will not be able to continue working in a high-risk border environment until they are vaccinated,” he said. said Hipkins.
During a press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media that the government had given time for port workers to voluntarily obtain the vaccine, but the vaccination rate was not high enough. His administration has been criticized for not requiring the vaccination of border workers earlier: Previous clusters of outbreaks in New Zealand have been linked to airport and port workers, and although such staff are already under test mandates COVID-19, they have not yet been required to be vaccinated.
“Getting them vaccinated on the front line is essential to maintain elimination as it establishes a security barrier at the border,” epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told the New Zealand Herald.