Judith Collins says it is inevitable there will be a breach at the border if the Covid vaccination rollout is not brought forward.
As new variants of the disease - which have reached New Zealand - devastate the UK and South Africa, the National leader doubled down on her comments from yesterday that the Government should accelerate the rollout.
Speaking with Tim Dower on Newstalk ZB this morning, she said the Government had said New Zealand was at the front of the queue for the vaccine and "clearly that's not true".
"The Government told us on November 16 that New Zealand was at the front of the queue for vaccines but clearly that's not true because we've got our MIQ or border staff who are not vaccinated at the moment, we've got our health care workers and those who work in aged care who should be our priority people for vaccines. The Government needs to get moving and get those people protected."
Collins said it was important that key frontline border workers were vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible.
"We've got New Zealand looking at the border staff in April and everyone else in July. It's too late."
She said the "enormous moat" around New Zealand would not be enough to save us if frontline border staff, working in a highly dangerous situation, became infected.
"We've got an enormous moat around us with the oceans that we are in but none of that is going to save us if the border staff are unprotected and they get this infection."
The Government had been silent on the rollout, while other countries were now fast-tracking programmes, particularly for those most exposed to Covid-19.
"That's simply not good enough. We need to start protecting those staff straight away," Collins said.
When it came to mandatory vaccinations, Collins said it was vital every border and health worker be inoculated.
She said it was something the Government needed to consider very carefully.
"I can't imagine any border staff who work in what they work in terms of a highly infectious and dangerous situation will not want to have the vaccine.
"Anyone who understands how this virus transmits and so quickly and so insidiously would want to have that vaccine. I just can't imagine that those healthcare people don't want to have it."
She said if they refused, given the risk of being exposed to the virus these workers faced daily, it was something the Government needed to address.
"I think it is a very important issue and that's what the Government needs to come back on.
"Clearly they are the people in charge at the border and I can't see any of those staff not wanting to do that.
"It simply beggars belief that health professionals wouldn't understand what vaccinations are all about."
Collins said MedSafe, the medicine regulatory body, needed to explain its position a little better if processes clearing the use of the vaccines had already been done overseas.
"The Oxford vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine have already now been widely rolled out with countries we compare ourselves with. It does seem all a bit slow really," she said.
Yesterday, Collins said: "New Zealand has fallen behind the rest of the world with its vaccine programme and the Government needs to explain why."
On Sunday, the Ministry of Health revealed there had been 31 new imported cases of Covid-19 since Thursday – all in managed isolation.
It also revealed that there have been 19 cases so far which have been linked to the new, rapidly spreading strain of the virus which has taken hold in the UK.
"The number of cases reinforces the need for ongoing vigilance at the border, as Covid-19 continues to accelerate overseas," the Ministry of Health said.
But Collins said more than ongoing vigilance is needed to protect New Zealanders.
"It is critical we start vaccinating border workers and people working in managed isolation facilities as quickly as possible."
She pointed out that the Australian government has recently brought forward its Covid-19 vaccine rollout. Health workers, border personnel and aged-care residents are at the front of that queue.
Collins wants New Zealand's government to follow Australia's lead.
"Kiwis are rightly asking why Australia has plans to vaccinate four million people by the end of March while New Zealand won't start vaccinating the general public until at least July."
According to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Covid-19 vaccines will be freely available to everyone in New Zealand midway through this year.
But border staff and rescue workers are at the front of the queue and will get the vaccine sooner than everyone else.
She said the mass vaccination programme would be New Zealand's largest immunisation rollout in history.