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Coronavirus Australia: Northern Territory leader Michael Gunner announces Covid vaccine mandate

A controversial move to force Northern Territory workers to get a Covid jab or risk a $5,000 fine if they go to work unvaccinated has prompted fierce debate online.

Australia’s move to mandate vaccine across increasing numbers of states and territories has faced fierce criticism, not least from people overseas.

Already in New South Wales, and soon to be in Victoria, workers who come into contact with the public are being told to get vaccinated or face being stood down if they cannot work from home. 

The Northern Territory government has now warned local workers to get jabbed or cop a $5,000 fine if they go to work unvaccinated – starting the clock for the vaccine-resistant and sceptical.

Chief minister Michael Gunner said essential workers, anyone in a face-to-face customer service role, or Territorians working with vulnerable people would cop the fine if they turn up to work without at least one dose by Friday, November 12.

That puts him just 28 days away from enacting what is believed to be the toughest vaccine mandate in the world.

Memes soon flooded the internet, with many mocking the strict vaccine mandate – while others agreed with the move

The Northern Territory government has warned local workers to get jabbed or face a $5000 fine - and started the clock on the vaccine-reluctant and sceptical (pictured, shoppers leaving a Darwin Coles wearing face masks)

The Northern Territory government has warned local workers to get jabbed or face a $5000 fine – and started the clock on the vaccine-reluctant and sceptical (pictured, shoppers leaving a Darwin Coles wearing face masks)

Poll

DO YOU AGREE WITH MANDATORY VACCINES FOR SOME WORKERS?

  • Yes – for health care, aged care and hotel quarantine staff 654 votes
  • Yes – for all workers 1156 votes
  • No – no one should have to 4077 votes

Mr Gunner wants to achieve the target of 80 per cent of Territorians being fully vaccinated by mid-November, but evidently that is not enough.

All workers who come into contact with the public or are essential workers must be fully-vaccinated by Christmas Day.

‘Simply not wanting the vaccine is not a reason [to avoid it],’ Mr Gunner warned.

So far 58 per cent of people in the NT are fully-vaccinated, well behind the national rate of 65.4 and a long way short of NSW, which leads Australia with 78 per cent. 

‘You must receive a Covid-19 vaccine if in the course of your work, you come into contact with vulnerable people, your workplace poses a high risk of infection, or you perform work that is necessary for the operation or maintenance of essential infrastructure or logistics in the Territory,’ he said. 

Social media reaction to Michael Gunner's tough vaccine mandate tended to be alarmed and sincere or mocking the hashtag

Social media reaction to Michael Gunner’s tough vaccine mandate tended to be alarmed and sincere or mocking the hashtag

Mr Gunner said even if people were unsure if they were required to get vaccinated, they should do it.

The reason for this is ‘the worker may not know the vulnerability of the person they are interacting with’.

‘It is simple, if your job include interacting with members of the public, then you need to get the jab,’ he said.

‘If you work in hospitality, you need to get the jab. If you work in retail or in a supermarket, you need to get the jab.’

‘If you work behind the counter in a bank or are a receptionist or positions like that then you need to get the jab.’ 

All front-line and essential workers will have to be fully vaccinated by Christmas Day (pictured, a woman is vaccinated in Darwin)

All front-line and essential workers will have to be fully vaccinated by Christmas Day (pictured, a woman is vaccinated in Darwin)

Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner (pictured) is 28 days away from enacting what is believed to be the toughest vaccine mandate in the world

Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner (pictured) is 28 days away from enacting what is believed to be the toughest vaccine mandate in the world

Barbers, beauty therapists and hairdressers also need it, he insisted.

He said while there would be exemptions, they are ‘extremely narrow and must be backed up with medical evidence’. 

Mr Gunner’s tough ultimatum, which was part of his plan to reopen the Northern Territory’s borders, sparked a social media frenzy identified by the hashtag #Australiahasfallen.

While many of the critics on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook were locals, at least an equal number seemed to be American or British vaccine sceptics or libertarians.

Collin from Manchester posted: ”How can the rest of the world stand by and let this happen? Is Australia a testing site for this new world order s***? Let’s hope the people wake up and stop this before it’s too late.’

Many were also irreverent Australians hijacking the hashtag. 

Angus64 posted: ‘#AustraliaHasFallen for Betty my Wombat friend’ with a photo of an adorable wombat joey.

Social media was polarised in its reaction to the Northern Territory's new vaccine mandate

Social media was polarised in its reaction to the Northern Territory’s new vaccine mandate

Chief health officer Hugh Heggie spoke out against social media misinformation and some church groups for undermining the vaccination campaign in remote communities.

‘The vaccine is safe. It hasn’t got microchips in it, or 5G SIM cards,’ he said.

NT Police preferred not to take a hardline enforcement approach, police commissioner Jamie Chalker said, but he pledged local cops would do what was necessary to get compliance.

‘The trade-off is my people literally walking around collecting bodies, who passed away from Covid – that’s a real conversation that the chief health officer and I have had about what is the worst case scenario,’ Mr Chalker said. 

Concerns about the Northern Territory's tough new vaccine mandate have been raised by employer groups (pictured, Darwin locals out wearing masks in August)

Concerns about the Northern Territory’s tough new vaccine mandate have been raised by employer groups (pictured, Darwin locals out wearing masks in August)

Territorians working with the public or in essential worker roles must be fully vaccinated by Christmas Day (pictured, locals in Darwin)

Territorians working with the public or in essential worker roles must be fully vaccinated by Christmas Day (pictured, locals in Darwin)

Meanwhile concerns were raised about the vaccine mandates by employer groups.

The Australian Education Union NT fears the vaccine mandate could lead to staff shortages in schools.

A survey of more than 640 school staff across urban and remote areas revealed 17 per cent of teachers don’t intend to get vaccinated.

The survey also found that 33 per cent of respondents don’t agree with mandatory vaccinations for school employees, and 11 per cent had mixed feelings.

‘Whilst it’s a minority view, there is a significant proportion of members who aren’t supportive,’ branch president Jarvis Ryan said Thursday.

It could impact staffing levels if workers are forced to resign or are sacked because they refuse to get the jab.

Chief health officer Hugh Heggie (pictured) spoke out against social media misinformation and some church groups for undermining the vaccination campaign in remote communities

Chief health officer Hugh Heggie (pictured) spoke out against social media misinformation and some church groups for undermining the vaccination campaign in remote communities

‘Our schools are already stretched and we have members saying they’re adamant they won’t get vaccinated,’ Mr Ryan said.

‘We may lose some very capable employees.’

The union has written to members advising any who are unvaccinated to book an appointment immediately.

It warned that ‘failure to comply with the mandate would likely lead to termination of employment’.

The NT police union says about a third of officers are unvaccinated and it would assist any that refuse to comply with the health edict.

‘The safety, health and wellbeing of our members will always be the primary focus of the NT Police Association,’ president Paul McCue said.

‘Those who are unable or are unwilling to get vaccinated will be guided through the process with the department on a case-by-case basis.’

The NT Police Association estimates about 70 per cent of the NT Police Force has had one dose of the vaccine.

NT police out enforcing a health directive to wear masks when in public (pictured at Darwin Esplanade). They will enforce the requirement for all front-line and essential workers to have at least one dose by November 12

NT police out enforcing a health directive to wear masks when in public (pictured at Darwin Esplanade). They will enforce the requirement for all front-line and essential workers to have at least one dose by November 12

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