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New Zealand

Omicron has ‘major impact' on staff shortages as apple picking season peaks

Some New Zealand orchardists say Covid-19 is running rampant through their fields. While it is peak apple harvest time across the country, Omicron is not showing any signs of slowing down in the two busiest apple harvest regions: Hawke's Bay and Nelson-Tasman.

Some other growers state they had 10 to 15 percent of their workers off due to Covid-19, and were still far behind on expected RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) numbers due to pandemic disruptions and natural disasters in the Pacific Islands. Even though many household contacts were eligible for the Close Contact Exemption Scheme, growers said most would end up getting Covid-19 anyway and have to isolate.

NZ Apples and Pears chief executive Terry Meikle was not available for an interview, but in a statement said his organization was working with members to ensure they had "robust Covid-19 protocols in place".

"These protocols include PPE, social distancing, routine screening including health and temperature checks and testing prior to entering sites. We are also working closely with members to support them in all matters relating to managing Covid-19, including regular weekly updates to the membership as New Zealand Government information has changed.”


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