Tens of thousands of Northern Territory workers could be fined or blocked from their workplaces unless they get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie will introduce new rules that make it mandatory for many workers who interact with the public to have their first jab by November 12.
Second doses will need to be complete by December 24, Chief Minister Michael Gunner told reporters on Wednesday.
If they’re not, workers won’t be permitted to go to their workplace and could be fined $5000 for failing to comply with a mandated health directive.
Employees who must be vaccinated under NT law include those who come into contact with people at risk of severe illness from the virus, such as Aboriginal Territorians.
Gunner said that’s almost every worker in the NT.
“If your job involves interacting with members of public you need to get the jab,” he said.
“This is a very broad vaccination policy.”
Workers involved in essential infrastructure, food and goods supply, and security and logistics roles are among those required to get fully vaccinated by Christmas Eve.
As are workers at increased risk of contracting the virus, such as freight transport workers.
“Everything we’ve done has been through the legal team. We worked on this in great detail to make sure it is consistent with how CHO’s directive is implemented,” Gunner said.
The new rules also allow employers to demand proof of vaccination from staff and to keep information on those who are vaccinated.
They also acknowledge a booster vaccine will be required in 2022.
Rates below 10 per cent
Dozens of remote Aboriginal communities are likely to have COVID-19 vaccination rates below the benchmarked 80 per cent when the Northern Territory becomes part of a national plan to ease border and travel restrictions.
Vaccine uptake is lagging in 33 of the 51 communities that report results to the NT government.
Some, like Alpurrurulam 1206 km southeast of Darwin, have first-dose rates below 10 per cent.
It may see the communities fail to reach the required 80 per cent fully vaccinated rate in November.
That’s when the NT plans to introduce sweeping stage three changes to its COVID-19 management plan, including new border, quarantine and lockdown rules.
It won’t automatically mean the COVID Delta strain will make its way to the NT from Sydney and Melbourne, but it will relax quarantine requirements for vaccinated travellers.