Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Ask us anything on Covid – August 27

Living in alert level 4 lockdown comes with a unique set of rules, some of which are not always clear. In our new daily feature we answer questions from readers about anything Covid-related. Email covidquestions@nzherald.co.nz

Myself and my partner are both essential workers, but because our child can’t go school I am having to stay home to look after her. I have talked to my work and they have said I have to use my annual leave if I stay home. I don’t have family around to help me out with childcare and am feeling my hand is forced. This could go on for weeks yet, what is the Government doing to help with this? Can companies make you use your annual leave for my situation?They say there is free childcare but this is limited and there doesn’t seem to be enough carers in our area.
Sarah A

The Government yesterday had 44 in-home care providers contracted to care for the children of essential workers who are unable to make private arrangements through family or friends while daycares and schools are closed in alert level 4.

However, 13 of those providers have updated their listing to say they are not taking new families and the Government has acknowledged the demand is not always being met.

“We are aware there is a big demand for this service and the ministry is actively working with licensed home-based education and care providers to identify supply across the country. Please continue to keep any eye on our website as we will be updating this list as new providers sign up,” the Ministry of Education website says.

As for whether you can be forced to take annual leave, Duncan Cotterill partner Mark Lawlor says companies legally can limit your options to unpaid or annual leave unless there are other provisions in your contract.

“If the employment agreement doesn’t entitle the worker to payment or to paid leave in those circumstances – and it may not do so – then the parties have a duty of good faith to discuss and attempt to agree how the leave will be taken and what payment if any will be made.

“Options would include the worker taking annual holidays, paid special leave, unpaid leave or a combination of these.

“If ultimately agreement can’t be reached, then the worker would in effect be on unpaid leave on the basis that they are unable to work and have opted not to use their annual leave entitlements.”

However, a New Zealand Council of Trade Unions spokeswoman said the Government had been clear annual leave was for rest and relaxation, not for a pandemic, and employers should do all they could to support staff.

She said employers should put those people on special leave whether or not they had a provision for it in their contract.

The wage subsidy scheme was available to employers for just that reason, the spokeswoman said.

As for essential services who might not meet the loss of revenue criteria for the scheme, they should be able to financially support an employee who was not able to do their job because they had not been able to secure childcare, she said.

Can you tell me if banks are an essential businesses? One week in and they are still closed. I have a small business which is an essential service so we are open but we can’t do any banking to get floats etc. I’m getting very anxious about all the cash I’m holding.
Lance M

Banks were not originally classified as an essential service but a public health notice allowing them to provide essential services was signed on August 19.

That means banks and non-bank deposit takers can now open for critical financial services although they still have to ensure customer interactions are via remote means wherever possible.

New Zealand Bankers’ Association chief executive Roger Beaumont said under the exemption banks could provide face-to-face services for essential matters.

“It’s up to the banks how they use this exemption. They are not required to provide these services and will be taking into consideration the safety of their workers,” he said.

“Smart ATMs can take cash deposits, as well as providing for cash withdrawals. Cash use is likely to be reduced during the lockdown for health reasons.”

Most banks have a selection of branches open for limited hours once or twice a week.

ASB has a number of branches open with limited hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

All ANZ branches are closed but from August 31 selected branches will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to noon however vulnerable customers would be given priority.

Westpac was opening some branches with reduced hours on Wednesdays for critical banking needs.

Kiwibank had 50 branches open from 10am to 2pm on August 25 and 27.

BNZ has no branches open.

Have there been any reported extreme adverse reactions from the vaccine in New Zealand such as blood clots, heart attacks and sudden death?
Norma J

After the 2,188,771 of Covid vaccine doses administered as at August 7, there had been 9157 reactions reported. Of those, 8772 were classed as non-serious and 385 as serious.

A reaction is classified as serious if it is medically important; requires hospitalisation or prolongs an existing hospitalisation; causes persistent or significant disability or incapacity; is life threatening; causes a congenital anomaly or birth defect; or results in death.

It is possible for the same reaction to be classified as serious in one person and non-serious in another.

The most common reactions are headaches, dizziness, injection site pain, lethargy, nausea, fever, musculoskeletal pain, chest discomfort, feeling of body temperature change and numbness.

The vaccine is not known to have caused any deaths in New Zealand. Of the 26 deaths reported after the administration of the Pfizer vaccine, 17 were found to be unlikely related to the vaccine, while five were still under investigation. Four deaths could not be assessed because of insufficient information.

Blood clots, strokes, anaphylaxis and deep vein thrombosis are among the reported reactions, although they were not necessarily a direct cause of the vaccine.


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