WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand is requiring that all border workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of the month.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that beginning immediately, employers would need to consider alternative options for any of their employees who haven’t been vaccinated. That could mean those workers are redeployed to roles away from the border or fired.
Ardern had previously set April as a deadline for vaccinating frontline workers but on Monday talked about it in stronger terms after three workers at a quarantine facility caught the virus.
New Zealand has stamped out the spread of the virus within the community, so returning travelers who may have caught COVID-19 abroad are considered the biggest vulnerability.
Ardern said 86% of workers at quarantine facilities have already been vaccinated, although that group only represents a small proportion of all border workers.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Muslims are navigating coronavirus regulations for their second Ramadan in the shadow of the pandemic
— China’s top disease control official said current vaccines offer low protection, mixing them is among strategies being considered to boost effectiveness
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SEOUL, South Korea — The new mayor of South Korea’s capital demanded swift approval of coronavirus self-testing kits, saying that his city urgently needs more tools to fight the pandemic and keep struggling businesses open.
Oh Se-hoon spoke Monday as Seoul and nearby metropolitan towns shut down hostess bars, night clubs and other high-risk entertainment venues to slow transmissions. Similar businesses were also shut down in the southern port city of Busan.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said 350 of the country’s 587 new cases were from the greater Seoul area.
The conservative Oh took office upon winning a by-election last week. He used a news conference to criticize the national liberal government’s anti-virus campaign, which he said was failing to slow infections while also hurting businesses and livelihoods.
He said self-testing kits could be sold at pharmacies or supermarkets and produce results within 30 minutes, which would allow businesses more freedom to operate safely.
Kwon Jun-wook, director of South Korea’s National Health Institute, said earlier this month that authorities are reviewing whether to approve rapid home tests as they explore ways to cast a wider net to detect virus carriers with no or mild symptoms.
But the review has proceeded slowly with some experts saying such tests would do more harm than good because they are less accurate than standard laboratory tests.
TOKYO — Tokyo has adopted tougher measures against the coronavirus as it struggles to curb the rapid spread of a more contagious variant ahead of the Olympics in a country where less than 1% of people have been vaccinated.
Japan expanded its vaccination drive Monday to older residents, with the first shots being given in about 120 selected places around the country.
The tougher COVID-19 rules allow Tokyo’s governor to mandate shorter opening hours for bars and restaurants, punish violators and compensate those who comply.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike urged residents to be cautious while vaccinations are in an early stage. “We are still unarmed as we fight against the resurgence of the infections,” she said.