Australia’s Northern Territory is set to impose one of the world’s strictest COVID-19 mandates for workers, as the country plans to reopen its borders.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner imposed a Nov. 12 deadline for frontline and public facing workers to receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and a Dec. 24 deadline to be fully vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
If workers fail to comply to the new rules, they could lose their jobs and be handed a A$5,000 (USD$3,380) fine, Gunner said.
The mandate applies to all employees who interact with members of the public, for example, workers in retail, hospitality, supermarkets, hair salons, beauty centers, and banking, workers who may come into contact with vulnerable individuals, such as those are unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and those who work in essential infrastructure, supply, or logistics.
“You must receive the vaccine if in the course of your work you come into contact with vulnerable people, your workplace has a high risk of infection, or you perform maintenance of essential infrastructure or logistics in the territory,” the chief minster said. “Critically, the direction also applies to industries who directly face customers and circumstances where the worker may not know the vulnerability of the person they are interacting with.”
“If your job involves interacting with members of public you need to get the jab,” he said. “This is a very broad vaccination policy.”
Gunner’s direction also includes a provision that mandates COVID-19 booster shots for eligible workers, NCA NewsWire reported.
“You have 30 days,” Gunner warned. “That is the deadline to keep working in these jobs.”
“You know I am passionate, sometimes aggressively passionate about the importance of the vaccine and I want as many people as possible to be vaccinated,” he continued. “At the end of the day with all the best information, with all the goodwill, with all the repeated attempts, there are some people and some communities who have said no to the jab and could keep saying no.”
“Complacency terrifies me,” Gunner added. “It [COVID-19] will come in. There is an invisible clock ticking on this.”
Northern Territory Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said that the 30-day notice period will allow people to “try and get their house in order.”
The state’s Chief health officer Hugh Heggie described the directive as “a chance for us to save ourselves.”
Gunner said that an “extremely narrow” portion of employees would be eligible to be exempted from the vaccine mandate.
“These … must be backed up by medical evidence,” he said. “Simply not wanting the vaccine is not a reason.”
Australian workers against mandatory vaccinations earlier this month mounted a nationwide strike in dozens of cities across the country as deadlines loom for workers across various sectors.
Efforts among Australians to resist lockdowns and vaccine mandates continue among organizations such as National Education United and Reignite Democracy Australia. Telegram groups have also become a hub for Australians to coordinate and share about their efforts and resources, including by sending letters, signing petitions, launching lawsuits, and organizing peaceful demonstrations.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.