Dan Andrews releases tens of thousands of new workers exempt from Covid isolation as rules return


Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) has introduced tough new Covid-19 restrictions have come into force in Victoria today, as the state records 37,169 new cases and 25 deaths

Daniel Andrews has introduced tough new Covid restrictions in Victoria  – but at the same time has released tens of thousands of critical workers from isolation rules.   

The state recorded 37,169 new cases and 25 deaths on Thursday, with hospitalisations at a record high of 953, a slight increase from the 946 a day ago. Some 111 people are in intensive care after contracting the virus.

From midnight, Mr Andrews announced a series of changes to Covid restrictions which were labelled a ‘soft lockdown’ by the Opposition. 

The new restrictions will see indoor dance-floors at hospitality and entertainment venues will be closed – except for weddings. 

Hospital visitors will be barred from entry without being vaccinated or returning negative rapid antigen test results, with unvaccinated visitors ordered to wear N95 masks. 

Aged care residents will be barred from having any more than five visits per day, with all visitors required to return negative RAT results. 

Meanwhile, Mr Andrews announced workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, transport and freight will join the food sector in being made exempt from close contact isolation requirements. 

‘They will be exempt if they are playing a critical role, they will be exempt from having to do home isolation,’ he said. 

Workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, transport and freight will join the food sector in being exempt from isolation requirements (pictured, a traffic controller)

Workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, transport and freight will join the food sector in being exempt from isolation requirements (pictured, a traffic controller)

new restrictions will see indoor dance-floors at hospitality and entertainment venues will be closed - except for weddings (pictured, patrons at a bar in Melbourne)

 new restrictions will see indoor dance-floors at hospitality and entertainment venues will be closed – except for weddings (pictured, patrons at a bar in Melbourne)

Amid a national supply chain crisis causing empty shelves at supermarkets, Mr Andrews had earlier this week eased rules for grocery store workers and essential employees involved in the manufacture, distribution or packaging of food.

The workers will no longer need to isolate if they are designated as a close contact as long as they are asymptomatic, undertake daily rapid antigen tests for five days and return negative results. 

The exemption already applies to disability, health and aged care workers, as well as those working in emergency services, corrections, quarantine and food distribution. 

In order to be eligible, workers must tell their employer they are a close contact with both parties required to consent to the worker returning to the workplace. 

Workers must return a negative rapid antigen test for five consecutive days and return a negative result prior to attending work each day. 

A face mask must be worn at all times – preferably a N95 mask – with meal breaks to be separated, with no mingling in the wider workforce or car-pooling arrangements. 

The exemption from close contact isolation already applies to disability, health and aged care workers, and those in emergency services, corrections, quarantine and food distribution

The exemption from close contact isolation already applies to disability, health and aged care workers, and those in emergency services, corrections, quarantine and food distribution

MAJOR CHANGES COVID RULES IN VICTORIA:

CLOSE CONTACT RULE CHANGES: 

Employees in emergency services, education, transport, freight, custodial facilities and critical utilities will be eligible to return to work even if they live with a positive case, with tough measures to apply. 

– Workers must take a rapid test for five days prior to their return and every day before attending the workplace.

– Workers must wear a face mask at all time – preferably a N-95 mask – other than when eating and drinking.

– To be eligible workers must asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, with both the employee and the employer consenting to their return. 

– Lunch breaks must be taken in solo areas, with car-pooling arrangements or wider mingling within the workplace not permitted.

– If at any time the worker develops symptoms or tests positive on a RAT, the exemption no longer applies and they must isolate. 

NEW ‘SOFT LOCKDOWN’ RESTRICTIONS:  

– From 11.59pm on Thursday, indoor dance-floors at hospitality and entertainment venues are closed, with the exception of weddings

– Visitors to hospitals must be vaccinated or return a negative rapid antigen test before entering the health facility 

– Aged care residents can only have five visitors per day, who must also return a negative RAT

The exemption already applies to disability, health and aged care workers, as well as those working in emergency services, corrections, quarantine and food distribution (pictured, health workers in Melbourne)

The exemption already applies to disability, health and aged care workers, as well as those working in emergency services, corrections, quarantine and food distribution (pictured, health workers in Melbourne)

If at any time the worker develops symptoms or tests positive on a RAT, the exemption no longer applies. 

The employee is then considered a confirmed Covid case and must isolate for 7 days and notify others including their employer.  

Opposition MP James Newbury labelled the rules a ‘soft lockdown’ tweeting: ‘Daniel Andrews has put Victoria into soft lockdown – encouraging isolation of critical workers who are not sick and discouraging people from social events’. 

However, several Victorians defended the premier and said they welcomed the ‘reasonable’ rules as case numbers continued to explode across the state. 

‘Heaps of healthcare workers have been doing this for ages,’ one user said. 

‘Making sensible decisions in the biggest part of the pandemic we’ve seen to keep everyone around you safe is not controversial.’

Severa Victorians said they welcomed the 'reasonable' rules as case numbers continued to rise while the Opposition labelled the rules 'a soft lockdown' (pictured, commuters in Melbourne)

Severa Victorians said they welcomed the ‘reasonable’ rules as case numbers continued to rise while the Opposition labelled the rules ‘a soft lockdown’ (pictured, commuters in Melbourne)

Read the full statement from Daniel Andrews on changes in Victoria

From 11:59pm, Tuesday 18 January, 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:

In order to be eligible, fully vaccinated workers must first notify the employer of their status as a contact, and critically, both parties must consent to the worker returning to the workplace. 

Strong measures will be required of workers to reduce the risk of attending work while infectious: 

– 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

– They must have separated meal breaks and can’t mingle with wider workforce with no car pooling arrangements permitted. 

– 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 7 days, and must notify others including their employer.

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

Source: Victoria State Government  

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