Transport workers confront COVID shot mandate in WA

Changes to emergency management directions will enforce mandatory vaccination for transport, freight and logistics workers to enter Western Australia.

At 12.01am, 24 October, freight, transport and logistics workers travelling from or through ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ risk jurisdictions must have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter Western Australia.

The changes to the Transport, Freight and Logistics Directions have been made under the Emergency Management Act 2005.

These workers will need to be fully vaccinated within two months of their first dose, which means they must have received their second dose by 12.01am 24 December.

The decision announced on the eve of the AFL Grand Final hosted in Perth runs contrary to the official Australian Government Department of Health website which states “Vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary – as are all vaccinations in Australia – and people maintain the option to choose.”

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan cited the solitary instance of a COVID-positive truck driver arriving from the ‘extreme risk’ setting of New South Wales as justification for the mandate.

“Being on the road day in day out brings with it risks, and that is why is it important we’ve followed the health advice to ensure this workforce gets vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said in a statement.

“We can never be too vigilant in our efforts to keep this deadly virus out of Western Australia and so I strongly encourage everyone to get their COVID vaccine now and let’s get our vaccination levels up.”

With about 300 daily crossings of the Western Australian border by transport, freight and logistics workers, the Western Australian Government said regardless of where a worker lives, the Directions will apply to them if they have transited through a ‘high’ or an ‘extreme’ risk jurisdiction within 14 days of entering WA.

The Directions include, but are not limited to, freight truck drivers, pilot/support vehicle drivers, removalists, rail drivers and rail support crew, where these employees are required to travel from or through a ‘high’ or an ‘extreme’ risk jurisdiction for work.

McGowan, who called the mandate a “proportionate and appropriate response” had acted on advice of the State Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson.

“This is to protect these workers, their family and networks, the community, our industries and the economy,” said McGowan.

In addition to the mandatory vaccination requirement, these workers must also wear a face mask when in public, show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or undertake a Rapid Antigen Test at the WA border and if they are staying in WA, they must comply with the regular testing regime until 14 days has passed.

It will be the responsibility of employers to collect and maintain records of vaccinated workers.

The Directions provide exemptions for unvaccinated transport, freight and logistics workers, for approved medical reasons.

“The transport, freight and logistics workforce is by its nature highly mobile with truckies and other workers visiting numerous places during the course of their work,” said McGowan.

“I have a lot of admiration for the work of people in transport, freight and logistics, who do an incredible job each and every day.

“Throughout the course of the pandemic they’ve continued work to ensure Western Australians could continue with their livelihoods and keep the State’s economy ticking over.”

Earlier in the month McGowan confirmed that Western Australia would not reopen its borders to coronavirus-hit eastern states until 2022.

Exemptions to travel into Western Australia from Victoria, however, were granted to people considered essential for last weekends AFL Grand Final.

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