• Tony Bosworth

Workers encouraged to return to work from self-isolation in bid to end disruption to food supplies



Food distribution staff are among workers able to return to work from today even if they are in COVID self-isolation, in a move to end disruption to food supplies.


As we reported yesterday, supermarket shelves have in the last week been showing increasing gaps in supply across the Hawkesbury as workers – both shop staff and distribution workers – have been off sick with COVID or self-isolating after coming into contact with a COVID-infected person.


It's a situation being replicated across NSW.


But from today – Sunday – NSW Health has announced that “critical workers in the food logistics and manufacturing sectors furloughed as close contacts will be permitted to leave self-isolation to attend work if they have no symptoms of COVID-19, to ensure the state has continued access to essential goods”.


Do the changes apply to shop staff? It doesn't look like it, the revised rules seem to apply mostly to logistics operations – the people who move the shop supplies around. It could apply to home deliveries though – with “grocery fulfilment” included.


Workers will only be eligible to leave COVID self-isolation if their employer decides their absence from the workplace poses a high risk of disruption to the delivery of “critical services or activities”, and they are unable to work from home.


Any workers who return to work from self-isolation must wear a mask and comply with risk-management strategies put in place by their employer, including daily Rapid Antigen Tests, says NSW Health.


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

The new rules take effect immediately and apply to critical workers in 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, says NSW Health.


For more information refer to the exemption of critical workers from the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order (No 4) 2021





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