A controversial move to force workers in the Northern Territory to get a Covid shot or risk a $5,000 fine if they go to work unvaccinated has sparked heated discussions online.
Australia’s decision to mandate a vaccine in an increasing number of states and territories has drawn strong criticism, not least from people abroad.
Already in New South Wales, and soon in Victoria, workers who come into contact with the public are being told to get vaccinated or to be fired if they can’t work from home.
The Northern Territory government has now warned local workers to get a shot or face a $5,000 fine if they go to work unvaccinated – starting the clock for the vaccine-resistant and skeptical people.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said essential workers, anyone in face-to-face customer service, or Territories who work with vulnerable people would pay the fine if they showed up at work on Friday, Nov. 12 without at least one dose.
That puts him just 28 days away from enacting what is considered the toughest vaccine mandate in the world.
Memes soon flooded the internet, with many mocking the strict vaccine mandate — while others agreeing with the move
The Northern Territory government has warned local workers to get a shot or face a $5,000 fine — setting the clock on vaccine-reluctant and skeptical (pictured, customers exiting a Darwin Coles wearing face masks)
Mr Gunner wants to achieve the target of 80 percent of Territories being fully vaccinated by mid-November, but that is apparently not enough.
All workers in contact with the public or who are essential workers must be fully vaccinated by Christmas Day.
‘Just not wanting the vaccine is not a reason’ [to avoid it]Mr. Gunner warned.
So far, 58 percent of people in the NT have been fully vaccinated, well behind the national rate of 65.4 and well behind NSW, which leads Australia at 78 percent.
You should get a Covid-19 vaccine if you come into contact with vulnerable people at work, if your workplace poses a high risk of contamination, or if you carry out work necessary for the operation or maintenance of essential infrastructure or logistics in the Territory,’ he said.
The social media response to Michael Gunner’s strict vaccine mandate was mostly alarmed and sincere or mocked the hashtag
Mr Gunner said that even if people weren’t sure if they should be vaccinated, they should.
The reason for this is that ‘the employee may not know the vulnerability of the person he is dealing with’.
“It’s simple, if your work involves interaction with the audience, then you have to get the shot,” he said.
‘If you work in the hospitality industry, you have to get a shot. If you work in retail or in a supermarket, you have to get a shot.’
‘If you work behind the counter at a bank or are a receptionist or those kinds of positions, you should get a shot.’
All frontline and essential workers must be fully vaccinated by Christmas Day (pictured, a woman is vaccinated in Darwin)
Northern Territory Prime Minister Michael Gunner (pictured) is 28 days away from enacting what is considered the toughest vaccine mandate in the world
Hairdressers, beauty therapists and hairdressers also need it, he emphasized.
He said that while there would be exceptions, these are “extremely narrow and must be supported by medical evidence.”
Mr Gunner’s harsh ultimatum, which was part of his plan to reopen the borders of the Northern Territory, 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 of American or British vaccine skeptics or libertarians appeared to be.
Collin from Manchester wrote: ”How can the rest of the world watch and let this happen? Is Australia a testing ground for this new world order s***? Let’s hope people wake up and stop this before it’s too late.”
Many were also irreverent Australians who hijacked the hashtag.
Angus64 posted: ‘#AustraliaHasFallen for Betty my Wombat friend’ with a photo of a cute wombat Joey.
Social media was polarized in their response to the Northern Territory’s new vaccine mandate
Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie spoke out against misinformation on social media and some church groups for undermining the vaccination campaign in remote communities.
‘The vaccine is safe. There are no microchips in it, or 5G SIM cards,” he said.
NT Police preferred not to take a hard line enforcement approach, said Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker, but he promised local police would do whatever it took to get compliance.
“The trade-off is my people are literally walking around collecting bodies that have died from Covid – that’s a real conversation the Chief Health Officer and I have had about what the worst case scenario is,” Mr Chalker said.
Concerns over the Northern Territory’s strict new vaccine mandate have been raised by employer groups (pictured, Darwin residents wearing masks in August)
Territorians working with the public or in essential work roles must be fully vaccinated before Christmas Day (photo, locals in Darwin)
Meanwhile, concerns were raised about 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 in urban and remote areas found that 17 percent of teachers do not plan to be vaccinated.
The survey also found that 33 percent of respondents disagreed with mandatory vaccinations for school staff, and 11 percent had mixed feelings.
“While it is a minority view, there is a significant proportion of members who do not support it,” council president Jarvis Ryan said on Thursday.
It can affect staffing levels if employees are forced to resign or fired for refusing to get the shot.
Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie (pictured) spoke out against misinformation on social media and some church groups for undermining the vaccination campaign in remote communities
“Our schools have already been stretched and we have members who say they are adamant they will not get vaccinated,” said Mr Ryan.
“We may lose some very capable employees.”
The union has written to members advising anyone who has not been vaccinated to make an appointment immediately.
It warned that “failure to comply with the mandate would likely result in termination of employment.”
The NT police union says about a third of officers have not been vaccinated and would help anyone who refuses to comply with the health edict.
“The safety, health and well-being of our members will always be the primary focus of the NT Police Association,” said Chairman Paul McCue.
‘Anyone who cannot or does not want to be vaccinated will be guided through the process with the department on a case-by-case basis.’
The NT Police Association estimates that about 70 percent of the NT Police Force have had one dose of the vaccine.
NT police enforce a health directive to wear masks in public (pictured on Darwin Esplanade). They will enforce the requirement for all frontline and essential workers to have at least one dose by November 12