Coronavirus: Police at border checkpoints don't have to be tested or vaccinated for COVID-19

None of the nearly 300 police officers manning border checkpoints around Auckland are being tested - nor do they have to be vaccinated.

Health experts are astonished by the lack of protocols, saying vaccinations and regular testing of such staff is a "no-brainer". 

There are 10 police border checkpoints around Auckland, with 292 officers checking documents and conversing up-close with commuters.

A truck driver and a prisoner on bail, both carrying COVID-19, have passed through in the past week - but no testing or vaccination of staff is required. 

"To have police at that border who are not vaccinated and who are not being regularly tested makes no sense at all," says Auckland University epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson.

"Totally flabbergasted - I mean, these are border workers."

As we know, testing and vaccination can slow the spread. Auckland University Professor of Medicine Des Gorman says such police staff are performing high-risk essential roles. 

"I'm surprised, I'm disappointed. At some stage our actions have to start matching our rhetoric," he said.

Professor Gorman told Newshub he’d like to see weekly PCR testing of such staff and or daily rapid antigen tests. 

Police say only officers working in places like managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities or at the international airport must be vaccinated. 

They say it's not a requirement for staff at border checkpoints to be vaccinated.

So how many of those staff have had one dose, two doses, or no doses? Police say they do not hold that information. In other words, they don't know. 

Police say they "view the COVID-19 vaccination as an additional tool in the safety kit", but Prof Jackson says "it is the main tool" and Prof Gorman says it's necessary and essential.

Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister, says vaccination is "very, very critical".

About 49 percent of all police are fully vaccinated, while 76.9 percent have had one dose. 

Chris Cahill, Police Association President, says if possible those who have received both doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should be those deployed to border checkpoints.

But he believes part of the problem is the Government did not prioritise police in the rollout, so they're playing catch-up. 

"Because police were not prioritised with 300 staff having to be deployed quite quickly, we may not have been able to get them all vaccinated before they were deployed," Cahill said.

Prof Jackson says the border checkpoints are a border. 

"It's an absolute no-brainer. This is a border, you need the same criteria you have at any border: compulsory vaccination, regular testing."

Otago Univeristy epidemiologist Amanda Kvalsvig told Newshub mandatory vaccination of all frontline police staff - not just those on the checkpoints - is important. 

"Police, Corrections, and other staff in security-related occupations should all be vaccinated, because of the occupational risk to them of being in very close contact in enclosed spaces with people from marginalised populations who currently have low vaccination rates," she said.

“And I hope that there is a huge amount of resource going to outreach by trusted agencies to support marginalised populations to be vaccinated.”

Mandated vaccines are on the cards for health workers - but so far, police are not part of the plan.