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Prime Minister denies there was a “duty to vaccinate”.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has dismissed calls for compensation for people who have been made redundant from their jobs or have suffered a Covid vaccine injury, stressing that vaccination is “not compulsory” and that “people make their own decisions”.

At a news conference in Auckland on Sunday, Chris Hipkins was asked to comment on Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First. election promise He estimated he could spend “hundreds of millions” of dollars to compensate people who have lost their jobs or have been vaccinated because of Covid vaccination regulations.

“Winston Peters wants to compensate people who have been made redundant and harmed by vaccines – would Labor support that?” asked a reporter.

Mr Hipkins responded by accusing Mr Peters of having “abandoned the elderly New Zealand demographic that he used to want so badly to bring to justice”.

“Older New Zealanders have record vaccination rates, among the highest in the world, and Winston Peters seems to be saying they made the wrong decision,” he said.

The reporter urged the Prime Minister whether he saw “any value in exploring possible compensation for anyone who has been disadvantaged by Covid, whether they have been fired from their jobs or injured by the vaccination programme”.

“There is a procedure for people who are injured in a medical procedure, there are already processes in place to deal with that,” Mr Hipkins said.

“In terms of vaccination requirements, I admit it has been a challenging time for people, but ultimately they have made their own decisions. There was no vaccination requirement, people made their own decisions.”

On the Internet, many people criticized the Prime Minister’s comments.

“Yeah, right! “People made their own decisions the same way a person being threatened with a big stick ‘makes a decision’ to do something,” he wrote a user on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The New Zealand Prime Minister is now accusing New Zealand citizens of taking mandatory vaccinations to keep their jobs and support their families. These people are sick,” said an Australian political commentator Rukshan Fernando.

Independent journalist Maryanne Demasi wrote: “The dictionary literally says that a ‘mandate’ is ‘mandatory’. Politicians try to change the meaning of words.”

At Sunday’s press conference, another reporter asked Mr Hipkins if New Zealand’s ongoing Royal Commission of Inquiry into Covid-19 was looking into any of these issues, including regulations and vaccine harm.

Mr Peters has promised to drop the current investigation – announced In December by former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and led by Australian epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely – claiming its mandate was too narrow.

“The Royal Commission is free to consider whatever it wants in relation to the response to Covid,” Mr Hipkins told reporters.

“Ultimately, it’s a royal commission, so it’s not my job to lead it. They have a mandate for everyone to see and it is certainly not my job to tell them what to do within that mandate.”

Mr Hipkins was appointed Prime Minister in January following Ms Ardern’s resignation.

In his previous capacity, he served as the country’s Covid-19 response minister and led the country in 2021 the introduction of vaccination requirements in certain occupations, including frontier workers, law enforcement, defense, healthcare, education and hospitality.

“Vaccination remains our strongest and most effective tool to protect against infection and disease, and we need to vaccinate as many workers as possible to enable sectors to respond to the pandemic and provide everyday services with the least possible disruption,” he said on March 11. October 2021 press release Announcement of “mandatory vaccination” for health and education workers.

“While most people working in these industries are already fully or partially vaccinated, we cannot leave anything to chance and are making vaccination mandatory. A high vaccination rate will help protect staff from getting sick and passing on Covid-19 to their loved ones.”

Containing the spread of Covid was an important justification for regulations and vaccination certificates.

Ultimately, the vaccines failed to prevent transmission, and drug manufacturers and public health officials later said that was never the intended purpose of the vaccinations.

In February this year, former New South Wales Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet called for an end to vaccination requirements, telling 2GB Radio there was “no evidence” they had stopped broadcasting.

Queensland last week abolished vaccination requirements for healthcare workers, two years after the rules were introduced – but the state can still take disciplinary action against those who refused.

The disputed mandates sparked protests in New Zealand, with protesters camping out outside Parliament in February 2022 before being removed by police in violent clashes.

In October 2022 New Zealand scrapped and lifted most of its Covid restrictions, including border closures and mandates Note on the epidemicwhich represents a transition from emergency to long-term treatment of the virus.

Speaking of Last month As the government lifted its last remaining Covid restrictions, including masks in hospitals and mandatory seven-day isolation, Mr Hipkins was asked if he “would have introduced the regulations anyway, knowing what you know now”.

“I am very proud of the very high vaccination rate that we have achieved in New Zealand,” he said.

“I recognize that for some families it has been very difficult to get people vaccinated to do certain jobs and this has created more division in the community than I think any of us would like to see. “I totally appreciate that. But the high level of vaccination that we were able to achieve was one of the main reasons we didn’t see the high mortality rate that they saw in other countries.”

Mr Hipkins said New Zealand’s high vaccination rate “meant that we have been able to carefully transition from pandemic response to normal operations and ultimately get to the point where we are now”.

Health New Zealand still requires certain staff to be vaccinated against Covid, but Health Secretary Ayesha Verrall denied it was a requirement, saying: “It is not the case.”

“Te Whatu Ora [Health New Zealand] has introduced a Covid vaccination policy for new employees from July, but it does not apply to existing employees,” she said.

“It’s not an order. There are a number of requirements…to be able to work in a hospital. Certain roles require you to be vaccinated. A mandate has always been a legal mandate from the government. Years before Covid, healthcare workers were required to be vaccinated against hepatitis B and other diseases.”

General elections will be held in New Zealand on October 14, with the ruling Labor Party seeking a third term. The conservative National Party is currently ahead in the polls.

frank.chung@news.com.au

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