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More essential workers qualify for isolation exemptions

More essential workers have an exemption from home-isolation requirements based on close contact with positive COVID-19 cases.

Workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight have joined workers in the food-production sector as being eligible for the exemption.

The State Government introduced the changes, which came into effect late last night.

Under the conditions of the exemption, a worker can return to work if it is necessary for continuity of operations and if other options have been exhausted. 

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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 critically, both parties must consent to the worker returning to the workplace. 

They are already required to be fully vaccinated. 

Premier Daniel Andrews said strong measures were needed to reduce the risk of a contact attending work while infectious. These included –

• The worker must undertake a daily Rapid Antigen Test, RAT, for five days and return a negative result before 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, with a P2-N95 respirator 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 exemption order is identical to the order the government granted to Victoria’s public health team for key food and beverage workers and is designed to protect the state’s essential workforce during the continuing Omicron variant wave. 

This exemption also applies to hospital workers, disability workers, residential aged-care facility workers and ambulance workers.

The use of an N95 mask at the workplace is a requirement, not a preference.

‘Close contacts’, otherwise known as household and household-like contacts, are people who have spent more than four hours with a case inside a house, accommodation or care facility.

The Department of Health has also updated its contact-management guidelines to require workplaces to notify the department when five cases had attended the work premises within seven days. 

Previously, workplaces were required to advise the department and WorkSafe of single cases. 

More information on the conditions of the exemption and applicable cohorts of workers will be available online at www.

Mr Andrews said the change was about helping Victorians ‘keeping food on the table, lights on in the house and staff on in our hospitals’.

“It’s safe and sensible in the eyes of our public health team, but to further protect themselves and the community, workers will have to use a rapid antigen test every day and wear a mask at all times,” he said.

“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.”

List of applicable workers: Emergency services such as police, fire services and the State Emergency Service; prisons and custodial services; critical utilities such as gas, electricity, water and waste disposal; freight and transport operators, including at ports and airports; primary, secondary and early-childhood education; critical care services that support the most vulnerable.

The entire January 19, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!