More workers in critical sectors of the Victorian economy will be exempt from close contact isolation requirements from next Tuesday, as the impact of Omicron continues to wreak havoc on the supply chain and the delivery of essential goods and services in the state.
As announced today by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight will join workers in the food production sector as being eligible for the exemption from 11.59pm on Tuesday 18 January.
Under the conditions of the exemption, the worker may return to work if it is necessary for continuity of operations and if other options have been exhausted. The exemption will apply to attending work only, not any other settings.
In order to be eligible, the worker must first notify the employer of their status as a contact and both parties must consent to the worker returning to the workplace. They are already required to be fully vaccinated.
“Whether it’s waste or power, gas, all the way through to law enforcement, prisons, all of those sectors - they need to continue regardless of the fact that we are in a global pandemic,” Andrews said.
In order to reduce the risk of a contact attending work while infectious, a number of measures will be in place including:
- The worker must undertake a daily Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for five days and return a negative result prior to attending work each day
- They must wear a face mask at all times, with exceptions in the case of eating or drinking, or safety reasons, and a P2/N95 respirator is preferred
- The worker cannot enter shared break areas and the employer must try and facilitate solo break time. The employer must also take reasonable steps to deploy the worker in areas where transmission risk is lower
- If at any time the worker develops symptoms or tests positive on a RAT, the exemption no longer applies – they are a case, must isolate for seven days, and must notify others including their employer.
“The worker’s rights are protected, and they can’t be directed to work if they are a contact – the worker has to agree to come in, just as they have to agree to the various preventative measures that will reduce risks for others,” Andrews said.
Andrews also noted he spoke with supermarket CEOs yesterday to understand the current constraints on the industry and what they’re facing, emphasising that trucking and freight is the key pain point for the sector right now.
“Last week [the challenge] was distribution centres and there are some real bottlenecks there this week,” he said.
“This week it’s about truck drivers, and a shortage of those to move stock.
“A lot of other challenges are not so much about the availability of stock, but about moving that stock from one part of the state, or one part of the country to another. So we’ll continue to work with them and the unions to try and do whatever we can to ease that pressure.”
The announcement comes as Victoria reported 37,169 new cases of COVID-19 across the state, and in combination with the 92,264 new cases reported in New South Wales brings Australia’s daily tally to more than 100,000 new infections already.
The other Australian states and territories are yet to report the latest case numbers, but yesterday Tasmania reported 1,583 new cases, Queensland 22,069, South Australia 3,715, ACT 1,078, the Northern Territory 352 and Western Australia just two.
In total, Australia reported 103,685 new cases yesterday, 49 deaths, 3,976 people in hospital with the infection, and 341 in intensive care.
Updated at 10.57am AEDT on 13 January 2022.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support