As per newly introduced safety guidelines by the state of New South Wales, essential workers in select sectors who might have been in close contact with individuals suffering from COVID-19, can now move out of self-isolation upon the absence of any symptoms.
The new guidelines are applicable for the following sectors:
- Agriculture (biosecurity and food safety personnel undertaking critical duties)
- Manufacturing (production and manufacturing of food, beverages, groceries, cleaning and sanitary products)
- Transport, postal and warehousing (food logistics, delivery and grocery fulfilment)
"The exemption from the isolation rules for close contacts also applies to emergency services workers who are necessary for the delivery of critical services and who cannot work from home," said the announcement.
While the government did clarify that such workers are to leave self-isolation only if their absence poses a "high risk of disruption to the delivery of critical services or activities, and they are unable to work from home”, they have received a strong backlash from Transport Workers Union.
"Scrapping isolation requirements for transport workers is beyond reckless – workers are being thrown to the wolves by a government that continues to ignore all the warnings," TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said in a statement.
TWU also garnered support from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) which stated that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is "turning his back on workers."
"The Australian Council of Trade Unions joins with the Transport Workers Union in urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison against proceeding with his reckless plan to force supply chain workers back to the front-line despite being possibly infected with the COVID virus," said ACTU Acting Secretary Liam O'Brien.
"Forcing potentially infected staff back to work will only exacerbate the already rampant spread of the highly infectious Omicron strain throughout workplaces and the broader community, putting the safety of all Australians at risk," added O’Brien.
He urged PM Morrison to meet with workers and listen to their demands to make Rapid Antigen Tests free and accessible to all.
Following the announcement of 20,293 new COVID-19 cases in New South Wales, the city has mandated workers moving out of self-isolation to nonetheless wear a mark and follow risk-management strategies imposed by their employers, including Rapid Antigen Tests.
With the presumption of Omicron having a mild impact, despite WHO’s warnings against it, several governments and employers across the globe have eased restrictions on movement for individuals not showing any symptoms or testing negative. This comes despite the presence of asymptomatic cases.
Are employees then truly left at their own discretion to exercise safety measures or will the visible surge in cases nudge authorities to reconsider their take on what’s essential to worker safety?
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.