Act leader David Seymour has called for the Government to relax its “no jab no job” stand and allow a regular testing regime to be used as an alternative for workers who refuse to get vaccinated.
By Monday, teachers and other education staff, as well as those in the health and disability sectors, must have had at least one dose and be fully vaccinated by January 1.
It has led to workers in key workforces – such as teaching, mental health, and midwifery – walking away from their jobs rather than get vaccinated, as well as protests over the mandates.
The mandates already apply to border workers – and there is high public support for them in the education and health sectors.
Under the vaccinations certificate scheme once the new traffic lights system kicks in, businesses will also be able to introduce in-house mandates and require staff to be vaccinated.
Seymour said he was pro-vaccination and frustrated by the refusal of some to get vaccination, but the “blunt approach” to mandates had gone too far and would create chaos in many sectors.
“Nearly every sector is experiencing great difficulty with vaccination mandates. As a rule of thumb, it appears these sectors may lose five per cent of their workforce to mandates. None of them can afford that as they are all stretched already.”
He said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should follow the example of Denmark, which uses Covid passes proving someone is either vaccinated, recently tested, or had just recovered from an infection.
“I suspect many people, after a few weeks of testing twice a week, will opt to get vaccinated after all. However, at this point we need continuity and unity over chaos and division.”
Last week, Ardern said she it was still early to say whether vaccine mandates would be a long-term or permanent feature of the Covid-19 response. It would depend what happened with the outbreak and whether very high vaccination rates were successful in holding it back.
National Party leader Judith Collins said on Q&A while she did not like the concept of vaccine mandates in workplaces, “I am very aware that they are going to be necessary”.
She said because the Government had not stood up alternatives such as frequent rapid antigen testing it was having to resort to mandates.
“We are now at a stage because they’ve failed on all these pillars that we think are necessary, we do need to have [mandates] for a period of time. But there needs to be an end in sight for this. You can’t just have a mandate forever.”
Ardern has previously said she was watching Denmark’s experience in reopening after it eased restrictions in September.
Denmark uses a pass requiring people to have a vaccination, or a recent test result, or have recently recovered from Covid-19.
It has just reinstated a requirement to show the pass at bars, restaurants and concerts after its case numbers rose from 200 a day to more than 2000 a day.
It is also fast-tracking a law change to allow businesses to require the passes.
Vaccine mandates for workers in the education, health and disability sectors kick in from Monday November 15 and workers must be fully vaccinated by January 1 2022. Firefighters are also covered by the mandate, but that has been delayed. A mandate on police is being discussed.
Mandates for border staff, MIQ staff and Corrections officers are already in force.
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