Coronavirus: WorkSafe, border officials investigate after Swissport employee admits to forgoing COVID-19 tests

A Newshub report revealing allegations that international airport workers were not undergoing regular testing for COVID-19 has sparked an investigation by border officials and WorkSafe. 

Two former workers of the logistics company Swissport claimed workers weren't undergoing testing as managers did not enforce the rules. 

The Ministry of Health said seven Swissport workers were overdue for tests - but the company has now rectified the problem. 

Allegations from a recently resigned Swissport worker were revealed on Thursday

"Myself, I was last tested last year in November... six months ago," the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newshub.

Another former worker claimed he also knew of lapses. 

"Probably about 10 friends that I am aware of are not being tested," he said.

On Friday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said health officials were investigating Swissport.

"When a case like this comes to light, that's something the Government teams working at the border are able to investigate," he said. 

The first former worker, a ground handler, said she completed multiple shifts at Auckland International Airport interacting with passengers, crew and pilots. She says her managers never enforced the rules.

The ministry said on Thursday seven workers were overdue for testing. Swissport has now taken action, telling Newshub on Friday the workers have since been tested.

"Ultimately, the monitoring of who needs to be tested and the responsibility for that has to sit with the employers," Hipkins said.

But Otago University Professor Michael Baker says it's a shared responsibility. 

"I mean, ultimately, the Government of course is responsible for making sure that if they're not delivering something, they're auditing the person that is delivering it. So there has to be a chain of accountability."

Hipkins told Newshub fines can be issued by a Medical Officer of Health or by the police, but his understanding is none have been issued.

The other key mechanism to oversee testing is the testing register, but that system is still being ironed out to ensure people haven't been entered twice. 

"One of the things they've been looking at is if there are any duplicate records in there that might be complicating the system," Hipkins said.

Chris Bishop, National's COVID-19 spokesperson, says the Government needs to be doing better.

"We've had mandatory testing since September. Someone should be checking - and I think most Kiwis watching tonight would have assumed that was what was happening.

"It's just staggering that the register is still not really operational."

The total number of border workers, including managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) staff and port, airport and air crew, still isn't known. 

"At this point in time, we should know how many people are in the occupational groups and what proportion are regularly tested and what proportion are vaccinated," Prof Baker said.

"These are basic pieces of information we need to have to know if the system is working properly, and to identify problems so they can be fixed."

WorkSafe told Newshub late on Friday afternoon it had opened an investigation into the allegations of Swissport workers not being tested. 

Newshub also checked if any fines had been issued to employers for not following the rules, but neither police nor WorkSafe have fined anyone so far.