Testing essential workers crossing Auckland’s border “insulting”

In News4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 3, 2021

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield’s suggestion that essential workers crossing Auckland’s border should be tested for Covid-19 is insulting, says Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett.

This week, Bloomfield announced that essential workers crossing Auckland’s border should be regularly tested for Covid-19, saying he wants people crossing the border to get tested within three to four days, even if they have no symptoms.

“We are looking at how to put in place a system to check that these commuting essential workers are being regularly tested to support our efforts now and in the future,” he said.

The Auckland region is the only part of the country still under level 4 restrictions, after Northland moved to alert level 3 just before midnight last night.

“I was as surprised as everyone in the industry to hear from media that Dr Ashley Bloomfield had declared workers crossing those borders needed to be tested every three days,” Leggett said. “This is totally impractical for our industry and the announcement caused considerable stress.”

According to the Ministry of Transport, Bloomfield’s statement was “just a personal recommendation from Ashley himself, it’s not a requirement”.

Leggett said while that clarification offered some reassurance, “the fact remains that decision makers are not engaging with business and have no idea how the supply chain works”.

“We find it pretty insulting that the Government doesn’t think essential workers are aware of the risk they are taking every day and are managing that risk,” he said.

“We have also questioned the risk matrix used to come up with this latest bright idea.”

NZ Trucking Association chief executive David Boyce said with thousands of truck drivers passing through the border every day, it would be difficult to implement.

“A lot of the drivers that are crossing that border are long-distance drivers, so quite often they’re away from home for a week at a time and they’re quite often working up to 13 hours a day,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“The opportunity to go and do this testing every couple of days would be fraught with difficulty unless they can come up with a saliva test at the border or something like that.”

Mainfreight managing director Don Braid told Radio New Zealand he was completely blindsided by the news.

“There’s been absolutely no consultation about that whatsoever. Our drivers are crossing the border every night, every day, moving food and water to the nation, working their butts off, and this comes out of the blue,” he said.

“It’s a ludicrous statement to make without consultation with the industry and with those on the ground doing the job.”

Braid said he was confident they could find a solution with the authorities – but that could only be done by sitting down and having a conversation.

“You know, consultation would be great. Making decisions on the fly without consultation is just damn right stupid,” he said.