New Zealand's largest university has confirmed that it will institute a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all on-campus students and staff, and even for visitors to its campuses.
University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater signalled the move to staff last week, but the vaccine requirement was made official today with a statement to the public.
Those wishing to engage in face-to-face learning will need to have both jabs by January 4.
"We all very much want to return to a normal university experience for our students and staff, and we believe a vaccine policy such as this is the best way to keep everyone safe," Freshwater said today.
"We know that some people feel that this may impinge on their freedom of choice, however it's important to note that the policy does not force anyone to get vaccinated. That decision remains entirely a matter of personal choice, and the university respects the right to choose. However, if you make that choice then you need to be aware that it will carry consequences and limit your ability to take part in university activities."
Freshwater said the university's decision "follows the lead of similar leading universities around the globe". It is also in line with guidelines the Government has set for other sectors, she pointed out.
The university's executive committee had planned to make a final decision last Friday, after gathering additional feedback from staff and students. A majority of students and staff favoured an approach that protects the health, safety and wellbeing of the university community, officials previously said, citing feedback gathered in September.
The university's plan for implementing the vaccine mandate is currently light on details, with Freshwater promising on Tuesday that details will be hashed out "as soon as possible".
The vice-chancellor also acknowledged the pandemic's rapidly changing environment and vowed to review the vaccine decision regularly. There will be a full review in June, she said.
Classrooms, libraries, gyms, student accommodations, health services and labs will all be included in the mandate. In addition to the university's Auckland central campus, the mandate will also cover campuses in Whāngarei and South Auckland, as well as the Leigh Marine Laboratory.
Over 40,000 students attend the university.
Also on Tuesday, Countdown supermarkets, which employ over 18,000 people in New Zealand, announced a "proposal" to require Covid-19 vaccines for all workers by January 10.
Kiri Hannifin, the company's director of health, safety and wellbeing, said a consultation period will take place before a final decision is made. But the company sees such a policy as an "important next step" as New Zealand transitions from elimination to living with the virus, she said.
"As an essential service, supermarkets will be one of the very few places where proof of vaccination will not be a requirement of entry for the general public," she said. "That has the potential to pose a significant health and safety risk to our team and, as an employer, we must reduce that risk as much as we can."