Border workers have until the end of April to be vaccinated before being moved to lower risk roles, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said after a third worker from Auckland’s Grand Millenium managed isolation facility tested positive for Covid-19.
“We want everyone to be vaccinated on our frontline,” she told TVNZ’s Breakfast on Monday.
“From Monday through until the end of April, that becomes the final window where if people are not vaccinated in that period of time then they are redeployed, they are moved on. And that was always the point we had to get to.
“We believe we have a health and safety obligation to people who are at the frontline in managed isolation,” she said.
The third worker, a close contact of last week’s case, known as case B, was reported to have the virus late on Sunday. The Ministry of Health said that as they had already been isolating at home there was little additional risk to the community and that they and their partner had now been moved to a quarantine facility.
It was not yet known whether the worker, known as case C, had been vaccinated. Concerns had been raised last week when it was made public that case B had missed two vaccine appointments.
Ardern said 79% of those employed by the security company for which cases B and C worked had so far been immunised, adding that the figure was not good enough.
New Zealand began rolling out its vaccine programme in February, with border staff and managed isolation and quarantine workers at the front of the queue for the Pfizer jab.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health, meanwhile told RNZ’s Morning Report he was waiting for more information on case C’s vaccination status but “would have hoped that they would have been vaccinated by now”.
The two latest cases are genomically linked to case A, a cleaner who was diagnosed with the virus on 21 March. Their case was genomically linked to a returnee who arrived at the Auckland facility in March.
Because of the long gap between cases A and B, Bloomfield said it was being investigated whether there had been an intermediary between the two.
“That’s all being looked at through CCTV footage and just whether both the cleaner (case A) and the security guard (case B) were in the same place at the same time,” he said.
He also said it was “an issue” that all three cases were from the same isolation facility and that no further returnees were being hosted at the Grand Millenium.
“Last week when we got this case on Thursday we immediately got our MBIE [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] teams and health teams together to work out what else is going on potentially in this hotel and we’ve convened the technical advisory group to give further advice there,” he said.