The first batch of around 60,000 COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines being unloaded at Auckland International Airport. (Photo by Handout / NEW ZEALAND GOVERNMENT / AFP) (AFP / Handout)

YouTuber falsely claims New Zealand’s 'frontline workers' could be imprisoned if not vaccinated

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A video of a New Zealand-based YouTuber claiming that “frontline workers” could be fined NZ$4000 (US$2,872) or even imprisoned if they are not vaccinated against Covid-19 has been viewed thousands of times in multiple posts on YouTube and Facebook. The claim is false: a New Zealand Ministry of Health spokesperson told AFP that new regulations mean some workers at airports, ports and quarantine facilities will face a NZ$1000 fine if they continue to work while unvaccinated against Covid-19. The law does not state they can be imprisoned if they ignore the rules, the spokesperson said.

The claims were posted here on YouTube account NZ Street Preachers on May 2, 2021.

A screenshot of the video uploaded to YouTube, taken May 21, 2021.

The video’s title reads: “From May 1st 2021 all non vaxxed frontline workers will be fined $4,000 or imprisoned”.

The video shows YouTuber Grant Edwards claiming the New Zealand government has announced workers at airports and ports will be fined or even imprisoned if they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19. 

In the clip, he says: “MIQ workers, cabin crew and pilots of the sort at airports, airport frontline staff, ports… government employees, whether paid or unpaid, must be vaccinated by today. If they work today and are found out to not be vaccinated, they will be fined $4000 or imprisoned." 

He goes on to claim the fines might be reduced if the accused can prove they “didn’t know” about the new rules. 

Edwards has previously made headlines in the New Zealand media for street preaching. 

The video includes a link to the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 in its description. 

The video has since been shared by Facebook users from around the world including here, here, here and here

However, the claims in the video are false. 

A spokesperson from the New Zealand Ministry of Health (MoH) told AFP in an email that airport, port and government quarantine staff will not be imprisoned if they are not vaccinated. 

The maximum penalty for workers who have not been vaccinated is NZ$1000, not NZ$4000 as claimed in the misleading video, the spokesperson said.

“The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 requires all work in MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) settings to be carried out by people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19,”

“Any breach of these requirements by employers or affected workers is an infringement offence under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, liable to an infringement fee of $300, or a fine imposed by a court not exceeding $1000,” the New Zealand MoH spokesperson said on May 20.

The same fines for breaching the vaccination order are also stated on the New Zealand Govt. website here:

A screenshot of the fines for breaching the May 1 vaccination order, taken from the New Zealand Govt. Covid-19 information website.

The vaccination order only applies to people working environments the government deems to be “high-risk”.

Below is a screenshot of the workers affected by the legislation below taken from this New Zealand Govt. website: 

A screenshot of the workers affected by the May 1 vaccination order, taken from the New Zealand Govt. Covid-19 information website.

People working in the above border environments have to provide proof of vaccination and if they can’t “will need to discuss alternative options with their employers”, said the New Zealand MoH spokesperson.  

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern previously said border workers who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by May 1 will be “redeployed” or “moved on”. Her comments were published in this April report by The Guardian

Nine border workers and four port staff were reportedly fired in early May after they refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine, New Zealand news website Stuff reported