New Zealand is implementing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health and education workers, as the country works to combat a coronavirus outbreak.
Chris Hipkins, the country’s COVID-19 response minister, announced in a statement on Monday that high-risk workers in the health and disability sector must be partially vaccinated against the virus by Oct. 30, and fully inoculated by Dec. 1.
The new regulation applies to general practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, as well as non-regulated healthcare work, such as aged residential care, home and community support services and Maori health providers, according to Hipkins.
He said a full list will be published in the next few days.
School and early learning staff and support employees who come into contact with children and students must be partially vaccinated by Nov. 15, and fully vaccinated by Jan. 1, according to Hipkins.
That school mandate is meant to “ensure only vaccinated staff and support people have contact with children and students” and also applies to home-based educators, support people in schools and early learning services and teacher-aides, administration and maintenance staff and contractors.
Hipkins said exemptions “may be possible under some circumstances.” He also said that authorities are still determining if vaccines will be required in the tertiary education sector.
The COVID-19 response minister said the government is implementing the new requirements because “we can’t leave anything to chance.”
“It’s not an easy decision, but we need the people who work with vulnerable communities who haven’t yet been vaccinated to take this extra step,” Hipkins added.
He said a high vaccination rate “will help to protect staff from getting sick and passing COVID-19 onto loved ones.”
“It will also reassure those who are anxious about their children attending school and early learning services,” he added.
The new vaccine mandates come as New Zealand is battling an outbreak of COVID-19, driven by the highly infectious delta variant.
The country was largely successful in controlling the virus in the beginning of the pandemic. It has reported a little more than 4,600 cases and 28 deaths since the virus first took hold.
According to Reuters, 1,622 cases have been reported in the current outbreak.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed on Monday that she was continuing restrictions in Auckland, the largest city in the country, for an additional week, according to Reuters.
Officials have vowed to lift restrictions in the country once 90 percent of the eligible population has been fully inoculated against the virus, according to Reuters. As of now, roughly 57 percent of eligible New Zealanders — roughly 2.38 million people — have received their shots.