By Mikayla van Loon
Upper Yarra residents who work in several industries will now be exempt from home isolation requirements if identified as a close contact in order to ensure critical workplaces can continue operating.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday 13 January after discussions at a National Cabinet meeting the day prior that emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight services will join the food sector in being exempt from household contacts.
“If they are playing a critical role, they will be exempt from having to do home iso, they will need to take a RAT test for five days and if that is negative they can proceed in doing that critical work,” Premier Andrews said.
The new exemptions will come into affect at 11:59pm on Tuesday 18 January.
Health Minister Martin Foley announced earlier in the week the removal of home quarantine requirements for hospitality and healthcare workers who were living with a close contact.
Premier Andrews said this was a sensible and easy step to take to ensure staff shortages were minimised in all sectors but will only apply to the most essential workers in each of the industries.
“They’re important additions to ensure that whether it is waste or power, gas, all the way through to law enforcement, our prisons, all of those sectors, they need to continue regardless of the fact that we are in a global pandemic and we have this variant of concern,” he said.
“Exempting those [critical] workers is a common sense way we can keep those services, those important parts of our economy and important parts of our society as close to normal as possible.”
Upper Yarra residents who work in these categories will only be exempt to attend work but will not be able to attend any other facility.
Workers must also follow the below rules to ensure they do not spread the virus at work.
• 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
Premier Andrews also noted he had been in talks with major supermarket chains about distribution and other challenges they are having in getting food on the shelves.
The identified challenge has been a lack of truck drivers and transport to move stock from all over the country and state to fill shelves.
“We continue to work with them and the unions to do whatever we can to ease that pressure.”
More information will be published on the website www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/isolation-exemptions when they come into effect.