Thousands of employees in New Zealand who have close contact with customers at restaurants, gyms, bars and hair salons will be included in a new vaccine mandate, the government said on Tuesday.
As a result, about 40 percent of all New Zealand workers will be required to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
“Vaccinations will be mandated for everyone who works in any workplace where a vaccine certificate is required for entry,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference, noting that the decision had been made at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The mandate “will play a big part in helping to minimize the spread of the virus in the highest-risk venues by reducing the potential for Covid-19 to enter the business in the first place,” Ms. Ardern added.
Unlike the previous mandate for health workers and teachers, the businesses affected by the new rule can opt out of the requirement. If they do, however, they will be subject to steep curbs on capacity.
The announcement came after New Zealand set a target on Friday to vaccinate at least 90 percent of the eligible population aged 12 and over in each region of the country.
New Zealand has had one of the world’s most successful Covid-19 responses. But an outbreak of the Delta variant that began in mid-August prompted the authorities to put Auckland, the country’s largest city, under lockdown.
In a country of nearly five million people, 74 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose and 61 percent are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.