The Government is expanding mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements to include workers at ports and airports who are at the greatest risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
It's already mandatory for managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) staff to be vaccinated. It will now be extended to cover a further 1800 currently unvaccinated active border workers.
The requirement will apply to staff handling items removed from ships, aircraft or MIQ facilities, as well as accommodation services where specified aircrew members are self-isolating.
It will also include work where the job is for a company that is routinely engaged to provide services for an aircraft, ship, or MIQ facility, and where an employee 'has contact with' people who belong to different groups covered by the requirement.
The new order, made under the COVID-19 Public Health Response ACT 2020, comes into effect at 11:59pm on Wednesday, July 14.
"To prevent the virus getting into our communities, we must continue to strengthen our border by protecting the people who work there," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday.
He said the vaccination of MIQ workers has been successful so far, with the latest figures showing there were 4332 MIQ workers on site for the week ending July 4, all of whom were vaccinated. But only 54 percent of active port workers have been fully vaccinated.
"We need to see this number increased to avoid the risk of COVID-19 entering the country via our ports," Hipkins said.
"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. It is in their interests to keep COVID-19 out and their businesses open by having a vaccinated workforce."
All Government employees covered by the order must have had their first dose by August 26, while privately employed border workers must have had their first dose by September 30.
New workers covered by the new rules, regardless of employer, will need to have their first dose before starting work.
There are 5000 unvaccinated active and inactive border workers out of total approximately 30,000. Of that 5000, around 1800 are active, and around 1400 of those 1800 are air and maritime border workers.
The remaining 3200 are 'inactive' in the Border Worker Testing Register, meaning they haven't worked at the border for at least two weeks. If they are to begin work again in a frontline border role they will need to be vaccinated to do so.