NZ widens jab mandate, 173 new COVID cases

New Zealanders expect their police force to be fully vaccinated, Commissioner Andrew Coster says.
New Zealanders expect their police force to be fully vaccinated, Commissioner Andrew Coster says.

After much delay, the New Zealand government will extend its COVID-19 vaccine mandate to police and the defence force.

Those covered by the new mandate have until January 17 to have their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomed the move, which covers sworn members, recruits and authorised officers.

"In today's environment, the community has an expectation that our staff are protected from the virus and are fully vaccinated," he said.

Police vaccination rates are similar to overall community rates, with 92 per cent of police staff partially vaccinated, and 86 per cent double-dosed.

Overall vax rates - of the population aged 12 and above - have hit 85 per cent doubled-dosed and 92 per cent partially vaccinated.

Mr Coster said he would encourage vaccine-hesitant officers to get the jab rather than fire or re-assign them.

"It is not my desire to lose anyone from the organisation as a result of this new mandate," he said.

The police union also welcomed the mandate.

The defence force requirement goes further than the police mandate, including civilian staff and contractors as well as armed forces.

Defence boasts higher vaccination rates than police, with many already covered by mandates as a result of working within the quarantine regime.

Uniformed personnel are currently 98.4 per cent fully vaccinated, while civilian staff are 75 per cent double-dosed, according to the NZ government.

"Our defence forces can be deployed at any time to locations where they may come into contact with COVID-19," defence minister Peeni Henare said.

"For example, the recent mission to Afghanistan saw our defence force personnel assisting in the evacuation of New Zealand visa holders, some of whom had COVID."

New Zealand's "no jab no job" mandate extends into a significant chunk of the country's workforce.

It now covers healthcare and disability workers, teachers and those in the education sector, prison officers - and now the police and defence force.

As of next week, Kiwis must be vaccinated to attend hospitality venues, public facilities and gyms.

On Friday, health officials recorded another 173 community cases of COVID-19, including 154 in Auckland.

A new infection has been picked up in Christchurch, but has been designated low risk given the individual is a close contact of an existing case and already in isolation.

There are 78 New Zealanders with COVID-19 in hospital, including seven in intensive care.

Australian Associated Press