COVID-19: Border worker who left job this week hadn't been tested for six months

A border worker who left her job just this week says her last test for COVID-19 was six months ago. 

She acknowledges not getting tested regularly was wrong and irresponsible, but says neither her employer nor the Government did anything to enforce the rules. 

The woman worked as a ground handler, periodically servicing international flights out of Australia. 

Given her role, she says she should be swabbed for COVID-19 fortnightly. However, her last test was in November. 

"You think that we're all tested and all clear, but little do people know behind the scenes of what's really going on," said the woman, who spoke under the condition of anonymity. 

"Personally, myself, I was last tested last year in November. So November 2020," she told Newshub.

Up until recently, she worked at Auckland Airport for global logistics company Swissport. 

Regular COVID-19 testing of border workers became mandatory in September, but she says she's had just two tests since then.

Newshub put it to the woman that it was her duty as a border worker to be tested.

"Correct, I personally do agree that I'm in the wrong since I have only had two tests but then again, with the company I work for, there's no enforcement among that," she explained. 

She claimed Swissport does not check if their employees get tested, so she and her colleagues had been skipping them. 

"There's no enforcement anywhere to do it, there's no obligation, there are no so-called fines that they say are in place.

"Us, as employees, have the responsibility, but then again I do think there is a huge gap and failure within my company Swissport and the Government."

Swissport told Newshub it has more than 130 employees in Auckland, but only 15 people are involved in handling international arrival passengers and aircrews. 

"We are aware one worker has not been tested since November," the company said.

But they say the worker has only worked one international shift since then - in mid-April - and they're not overdue as "they're still within the 14-day testing window".

Swissport said: "All employees who come into contact with international passengers are part of the Government's border worker testing register."

However, the Ministry of Health gave Newshub a different explanation. The ministry said 150 Swissport workers are in the register and seven are overdue for a COVID-19 test.

It's understood there are gaps in the records Swissport has given the Government, so it's not known how overdue the seven workers are for their tests. 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday testing is the employer's responsibility. 

Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty

"If the employers are not ensuring their staff are being tested then they're failing to comply with the order that requires them to do that but also they're failing to provide a safe working environment."

But what oversight does the Government itself have that border workers are being tested? Hipkins on Wednesday was asked if an audit has ever been carried out across all border employers.

"No," he responded.

Another former worker of Swissport said many of his former colleagues are also not regularly tested. 

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

"[It's] a bit shameful to see but I can also see where they're coming from - there's no push from the employers."

Newshub sought comment from Hipkins on Thursday for this story, but a spokesperson said he was not contactable.

A Swissport spokesperson said it will now ensure its border workers are tested for COVID-19 every 14 days, as is mandatory.

"Swissport services domestic flights across New Zealand and, since COVID-19, it services a very small number of international flights into the country.

"There is no record of any Swissport employee in New Zealand ever having tested positive to COVID-19. Therefore, there have been zero risks to the New Zealand public.

"Separately, from today, the mandatory testing regime as set by the Ministry of Health will expand to ensure that all aviation ground employees are routinely tested for COVID every 14 days."