• PM Ardern said border workers have up to the end of April to be vaccinated
  • A third coronavirus case related to a frontline staff was reported
  • The worker had missed two vaccination appointments

New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said border workers may be moved out of the roles if they do not get vaccinated by the end of April, after a third worker from the frontline staff at Auckland’s Grand Millenium managed isolation facility tested positive for COVID-19.

New Zealand had effectively eliminated the coronavirus within its borders with no community transmission for more than 40 days, until the border worker was tested positive last week. He had skipped two immunization appointments, and had also infected two of his close contacts.

"We want everyone to be vaccinated on our frontline," she said at 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."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a halt to travel into the country from India, shutting out New Zealand nationals for the first time since the virus emerged
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a halt to travel into the country from India, shutting out New Zealand nationals for the first time since the virus emerged AFP / Marty MELVILLE

Ardern's comments came hours before it was confirmed that the worker had missed two vaccination appointments. Since then, two more cases linked to this individual have been reported.

At a news conference, Ardern said, "by the end of April, those not yet vaccinated will not be permitted to work in high-risk workplaces and will be moved to other roles."

She said that 79 percent of the people working at the security company where the frontline workers who tested positive for coronavirus worked, had so far been vaccinated. The figure was not "good enough," she said.

“We believe we have a health and safety obligation to people who are at the frontline in managed isolation,” she said, adding that about 86 per cent of the border workers have been immunized.

The country had commenced its vaccination programme in February by immunizing the border staff, managed isolation and quarantine workers with BioNTech-Pfizer jabs in its first phase.

The Ministry of Health released a statement, saying that as the three people who tested positive had already been isolating at home, there was little additional risk to the community. The Ministry also added that the infected workers and their partners had now been moved to a quarantine facility.

The director-general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, spoke to the reporters on Monday saying that the two close contacts of the infected border worker, have been offered the opportunity to get vaccinated but they were unable to to do so probably because being in isolation.

Earlier Bloomfield said that "it was also an issue" that all the three people who had been tested positive for coronavirus were from the same isolation facility and that "no further returnees were being hosted at the Auckland facility."

"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.