New Zealand’s health and education professionals will be required to be vaccinated against covid-19, the New Zealand government announced on Monday.
According to the Associated Press (AP), physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare workers must complete vaccination by December 1, under new rules announced by the executive.
Teachers and other workers in the education sector are expected to receive the two doses of the vaccine by January of next year.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins, who is also responsible for the response to covid-19, said that many of these professionals are already vaccinated, but that it is important that others do so, as they deal with patients and children who cannot yet have the vaccine.
It is not an easy decision, but we need people who work with vulnerable communities and who have not yet been vaccinated to take this step further”, he said.
The announcement comes as the country is fighting an outbreak of the Delta variant of the new coronavirus in the city of Auckland.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that the city would remain in isolation for at least another week, while regions near Waikato and Northland could ease restrictions from Thursday, if not significant spread of the virus.
Auckland has been confined for nearly two months since the outbreak was discovered in mid-August. On Monday, the city recorded 35 infections, bringing the total number of cases diagnosed during this outbreak to about 1,600.
Last week, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced the abandonment of the covid-19 total elimination strategy and the adoption of a new model that takes into account vaccination rates to ease restrictions on movement.
About 68% of New Zealanders have taken at least one dose of the vaccine, with 47% being fully vaccinated. Among those aged 12 and over, the vaccination rate rises to 82% and 57%, respectively.
The government also announced an agreement to purchase 60,000 doses of a new experimental drug against covid-19 produced by the US laboratory Merck, which is awaiting approval from New Zealand regulators.
Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand has accumulated 4,700 cases of covid-19 and 28 deaths from the disease.
Covid-19 has caused at least 4,843,739 deaths worldwide, among more than 237.46 million infections by the new coronavirus recorded since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest report by the Agence France-Presse.
The disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, detected in late 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China, and currently with variants identified in several countries.