Covid isolation rules relaxed for critical workers in NSW and Qld

Queensland has joined NSW in approving major changes to isolation rules in a bid to tackle labor shortages.

NSW and Queensland have changed their close contact rules for food logistics workers in a bid to tackle supply chain issues that are leaving some supermarket shelves bare.

Employees in the food logistics, manufacturing, transport, postal and warehousing sectors will be able to leave quarantine to go to work in New South Wales if they have no symptoms.

NSW Health announced the new rules on Sunday morning after Director of Health Kerry Chant approved the changes.

Speaking to reporters in the afternoon, Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath confirmed a similar change in her condition.

“We know timing is everything here. We currently have empty shelves in supermarkets, ”she said.

“Once they receive a negative RAT result on day 6, they can continue with their normal routine without the additional demands. “

Eligible critical industries in Queensland include healthcare, emergency services, the resource sector, power and utilities, agricultural and fisheries production, freight and logistics, public transport and retail essential like supermarkets and stores in remote locations.

Teachers and workers in major manufacturing, distribution and critical supply chains like food and gasoline are also eligible.

Ms D’Ath said essential staff should be identified by their employers and would only be allowed to go to work if they were fully immunized, wore a mask at all times and avoided public transportation.

While they can go to work if they are critical workers, they must continue to meet all other quarantine requirements.

In a statement, NSW Health said its workers would only be allowed to exit self-isolation if their employer determined their absence posed a high risk of disrupting the delivery of critical services or activities.

These workers must be unable to work from home, must wear a mask and comply with the risk management strategies put in place by their employer, including daily rapid antigen testing.

Any worker who tests positive or develops symptoms of Covid-19 must self-isolate.

The health department said the exemption from isolation rules for close contact would also apply to critical emergency service workers who cannot work from home.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously tightened the definition of close contact in a bid to reduce pressure on workplaces caused by quarantining staff.

Following a meeting with state and territory leaders in the national cabinet, the prime minister said people would only be considered close contacts if they lived in the same house as a person with the disease. of Covid-19 or spent more than four hours with them.

People considered to be close contacts must self-isolate for seven days – 10 days in South Australia – from the last time they had contact with that person.

The national cabinet will meet again this week where labor shortages and leave pressures are expected to be discussed.

The Omicron-fueled coronavirus wave in Australia, which topped 500,000 active cases on Sunday, has caused supply chain problems across the country as essential workers must self-isolate.

West Sydney Minister Stuart Ayres said the new rules would go into effect immediately in his state.

“It’s about strengthening our food distribution, our food manufacturing supply chains, to make sure that all of these things that we see in our supermarkets and in the economy in general can keep working,” he said. he told reporters on Sunday.

“We have always said that we will pivot and we will adapt to the conditions that lie ahead and that is exactly what we are doing today.”

Mr Ayres said there was no doubt the next few weeks would be “extremely difficult” for hospital staff, but relief was in sight.

“We are reaching the top of this Omicron variant and this wave and so we really have to be able to hold out for the next few weeks,” he said.

Food and Grocery Council of Australia chief executive Tanya Barden welcomed the announcements made in New South Wales and Queensland.

“The challenge will be that in the short term, we still need to have access to rapid antigenic testing for this proposal to make a difference. We are continuing discussions with the government and other parties on this, ”she told NCA NewsWire.

“We urge other jurisdictions to adopt the same approach as a matter of urgency. “

Ms Barden said the supply chain had been affected across the country and industry leaders were trying to strike the right balance between health needs and the community’s access to essential supplies.

“The problem has been widespread, but the challenge is that the bulk of food production in Australia comes from Victoria, NSW and Queensland, where cases are also the highest,” she said.

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