VIC food and beverage workers exempt from close contact rules, boosters mandatory for key sectors

VIC food and beverage workers exempt from close contact rules, boosters mandatory for key sectors

The Victorian Government has today announced workers in key settings such as health care, hospitality and aged care will be required receive a third COVID-19 vaccine dose before being permitted to work on site from 12 January.

The latest announcement comes as the Victorian Government follows Queensland and New South Wales in changing the rules for close contacts of a COVID-19 case, allowing food and beverage workers to attend work if they are asymptomatic in order to ensure Victorians can continue to access essential supplies.

Under the new pandemic orders, workers in healthcare, aged care, disability, emergency services, correctional facilities, quarantine accommodation and food distribution must get their third dose before being permitted to work onsite from 11.15pm 12 January.

Workers eligible for a third dose on or before Wednesday 12 January will have until Saturday 12 February to get their third dose. Workers not yet eligible for a third dose will be required to get it within three months and two weeks of the deadline to receive their second mandatory dose.

This means residential aged care workers must receive their third dose by 1 March, and health care workers by 29 March. Disability, quarantine accommodation, correctional facilities, emergency services, and food distribution workers will need to receive their third dose by 12 March.

Food distribution workers includes manufacturing, warehousing and transport (freight/port) workers involved in food distribution. Retail supermarket staff are not included in the mandate.

“This order responds to the increased risks of COVID-19 exposure to critical workers, their proximity to vulnerable people, the higher risk of the virus spreading in their workplace and the need to protect access to essential goods and services,” the Victorian Government said.

'All Victorians continue to be encouraged to get their third dose as soon as they become eligible and we’ll continue working with public health experts and industry on vaccination requirements.”

In line with changes made by Queensland and New South Wales over the weekend, Victoria has also moved to allow workers in key sectors to go to work even if they are a close contact, as long as they asymptomatic.

Those in the manufacturing, distribution or packaging of food and beverages including retail supermarket workers may be exempted from close contact isolation requirements in order to attend work, if it is “necessary for continuity of operations and other options have been exhausted”.

Exempt workers must also undertake daily rapid tests for five days and return a negative result prior to attending work under the new rules which come intro effect on 11.59pm 12 January.

In addition, face coverings must be worn, using N95/P2 respirators if possible. Both the worker and workplace must consent to the worker’s return.

In addition, indoor dance floors within hospitality and entertainment venues must close from 11.59pm on 12 January. Venues will still be permitted to operate and there are no more changes to the density settings currently in place.

Indoor dance floors at weddings will still be permitted under the change, but the Government notes hosts and gusts “should still consider the risks of dancefloors and choose to locate them outdoors if possible”.

“Victoria is open and the community is encouraged to support businesses in a COVIDSafe way,” Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley said.

“Closing indoor dancefloors is a simple but important step – we know they pose an extraordinary risk of mass transmission.”

Further, new visitor restrictions will be applied to hospitals and aged care settings. Residents at aged care centres will continue to be permitted up to five visitors per day, but visitors must return a negative RAT result before entering. If no RATs are available at the facility, residents will be permitted no more than two visitors.

Visitors in hospitals must have received two doses of the vaccine or must return a negative RAT result before entering. Adult visitors who are not fully vaccinated must wear an N95 mask during their visit. Standard face masks continue to be mandated for children aged 8 and above.

Finally, Foley has announced fully vaccinated international arrivals will no longer need to get a second PCR or RAT five to seven days after their arrival.

The State Government says this change is in line with the decision of National Cabinet last week and recognises the high levels of COVID-19 transmission currently in the community.

Updated at 11.38am AEDT on 10 January 2022.

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