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Vaccine Announcement "very Positive News" Says Canterbury Chamber

The Prime Minister’s announcement today regarding the arrival of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and subsequent rollout is "very positive news" for the business community, says Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson.

The vaccine will arrive in Aotearoa New Zealand next week with vaccinations for border workers to start from Saturday of next week. Household contacts of those workers will be the next group, followed by healthcare and essential workers, the elderly and vulnerable. The remainder of the population is expected to be vaccinated from the start of the second half of the year.

Ms Watson says businesses have been eagerly awaiting this announcement.

"It is very positive news that we have now been informed about when the vaccine will be arriving, how the rollout will be administered and also the priority groupings. This provides a degree of certainty and confidence for the community as well as businesses and is an important milestone in moving towards operating in an environment with Covid-19 given the likelihood of this pandemic being around for the foreseeable future following the latest outbreaks offshore.

"We look forward to working with Government to provide good science and evidenced-based information around the vaccination to all employers to pass on to their employees, to ensure they are able to make well-informed decisions about the vaccination.

"It will also be interesting to see the impact this will have on the way in which we manage our borders and operate our national Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities in the future which must continue to be evolved as we learn more and develop better technology and systems. We need to learn to live with Covid-19 and in such a way that businesses can continue to operate, trade and travel in a Covid-safe way to continue to support our economy and livelihoods of New Zealanders."

Ms Watson says the priority groupings of the vaccination make sense from a public health perspective and would like to see the rollout also consider a business perspective.

"We would like to see the rollout also take into account international business travellers, where international travel is a critical part of the business, such as exporters and highly specialised staff. Consideration of the most effective, efficient form of quarantine upon re-entry into the country is also imperative, due to the restricted number of spots available through the MIQ programme, the high cost involved and the long wait time for available spots where time-sensitive travel is warranted.

"For exporters, this is causing very real limitations on their ability to operate. We have also heard of businesses that need to send specialised staff with key machinery overseas but are hamstrung by both the MIQ system and the unreliability of ongoing freight disruptions and supply chain congestion.

"As we continue to learn more about Covid-19, ideally we would like to see sophisticated, high-tech border management for timely access to importing critical skilled talent, for business travel and for foreign students; rapid tracking and tracing of cases; and a risk-based approach to the operation of businesses, based on a Covid-19 operational health and safety plan given how acutely aware businesses are of the impact of further outbreaks and lockdowns."

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