More than 10,000 people have received the jab at Auckland Airport’s drive-through vaccination centre since it was established days after the New Zealand Alert Level 4 restrictions began.
New Zealand has been under tight lockdown since the middle of August, and active infections of COVID-19 have jumped to 347 from today – the largest outbreak in the nation all year.
The vaccination hub has been set up at Auckland Airport’s Park and Ride facility, and initially aimed at vaccinating essential workers.
New Zealand has kept a similar pace to Australia in its vaccine rollout, now with 24.9 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and 2.93 million doses given.
“Our essential workers are still busy at work ensuring the continued safe operations of the airfield and terminals, and also assisting government health workers with a drive-through vaccination site,” said Anna Cassels-Brown, general manager operations at Auckland Airport.
She said staff who would normally work in “customer-facing” jobs jumped to assist the operations of the vaccination site.
“It’s a real credit to the resilience of our staff that they can quickly and easily step into completely different roles to support the government’s vaccination drive,” Cassels-Brown added.
The site – run by Northern Region Health Coordination Centre – was chosen due to its large 40,000-square-metre location, which can hold up to 2,500 cars at once.
The nation’s Alert Level 4 lockdown requires citizens to abide by stay-at-home orders, mandatory mask rules, and restricted movement unless for essential purposes, like testing and vaccination.
Since the outbreak began, Auckland Airport’s domestic flight numbers have fallen by almost 90 per cent, only operating a few departures per day.
Today, the airport will only see five flights take off, compared with 143 the same day two weeks ago.
Jetstar New Zealand has suspended all domestic flights until midnight 27 August, and Auckland services until 31 August.
Air New Zealand said earlier this week it would continue to operate its reduced schedule due to the extended lockdown.
“While some staff can work from home, our essential operational staff are still to coming into the airport to work,” Cassels-Brown said.
The airport has increased safety measures to reduce the spread, such as pre-shift temperature checks, sneeze guards between staff in stationary spaces, and a ban on ‘non-bubble’ visitors.
Last week, Auckland Airport released its annual financial results ending 30 June 2020, seeing the lowest number of international travelers since 1972.
Total passenger numbers decreased to 6.4 million, down 58.5 per cent from the previous financial year – but, its domestic passengers kept Auckland Airport afloat.
The airport reported a loss of $41.8 million, falling by $230.3 million compared with 2019.
Cassels-Brown said the temporary groundings on aircraft has required additional parking space, limiting the projects the airport can continue with, including the renewed airfield pavements.
“It’s really a giant game of Tetris to ensure all this activity can happen safely,” she said.
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