COVID-19 | Government Reveals Critical Workers

The Government has revealed which critical workers will be able to end self-isolation early if identified as a close contact of a Covid-19 case.

The critical workers are those who work in food production and its supply chain, key public services like health and emergency, utilities like power and water, transport, financial services, news media, social welfare, and animal welfare.

These workers will have to return a daily negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) and the scheme won’t kick off until the next “phase” of the Omicron outbreak – when case numbers increase significantly, and the number of close contacts spirals up.

The Government has also confirmed that people who work alone who are identified as close contacts will still be able to go to work.

Businesses will be able to self-assess whether they fit into these criteria, registering as such online from Thursday. This online registration would include a declaration and could be checked.

Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said the scheme was needed to stop pressure on supply chains and essential services.

“We’ve seen overseas that a combination of high rates of Omicron alongside isolation periods for contacts has put severe strain on supply chains and the provision of important services,” Hipkins said.

“The Government has for weeks been working with industry bodies and critical services to set up a workable scheme that gives their workers an exemption from close contact isolation requirements, if they return daily negative tests.

“The scheme will be supported by rapid antigen tests supplied either directly by the business or service, or through our health system in an easy and accessible way.”

Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall said it was up to businesses to self-assess and see if they wanted to participate in the scheme.

“While the new scheme will help businesses continue to operate, rapid antigen testing is about 80 per cent accurate. This may mean they have someone onsite who has COVID-19 and could infect other workers, which could further compromise business operations,” Verrall said.

“Any workers identified for the scheme will need to be vaccinated. If at any point they return a positive test, they will need to take a PCR test and isolate.

“We know isolation is the best way to stop the chain of transmission so businesses and workers involved in the scheme will need to continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by complying with daily symptom checks, and other health measures while at work.”