Omicron Update #5: Register as a ‘critical service’
10 February 2022
Information about the management of Omicron in the workplace is slowly emerging from the Government. The Government has said it wants to keep the supply chain operating.
As a result, it is setting up ‘a new close contact exemption scheme’ for ‘critical services’ including ‘food production and its supply chain’, and ‘transport’.
We believe the entire horticulture industry falls within the scope of ‘food production and its supply chain’. This means that ‘close contacts can keep going to work instead of isolating if they return daily negative rapid antigen tests (RATs)’.
In addition, the Government has confirmed that close contacts who work alone can continue to operate in a ‘bubble of one’. One of the examples they have provided is ‘farmers… who operate out of their own space and work alone can continue to do so as long as they are vaccinated, don’t have symptoms and don’t have contact with anyone else’.
Note: workers identified for the close contact exemption scheme will need to be vaccinated. If at any point they return a positive RAT test, they will need to take a PCR test and isolate for the time specified under the three phase, Government Omicron response plan.
Imperative to register
It is imperative that businesses register online as a critical service here:
Close Contact Exemption Scheme registration portal (external link) — Business Connect.
Please note you will need a RealMe login, just as you did to register as an essential business.
Businesses that register ‘will be issued with a letter that, when New Zealand shifts to Phase 2 of the Omicron response, will enable eligible workers to either use RAT tests that their employers may hold, or collect RATs from a collection site’.
In other words, the Government is allowing businesses and individuals to hold a supply of RATs (potentially bought at their own expense) in addition to accessing Government-provided RATs. However, at this point, supply remains an issue.
Please refer to these flowcharts to help you understand if someone is a close contact, in either an indoor or outdoor working environment.
Next few months
The next few months are critical for the apple and kiwifruit harvests, and if New Zealanders are to have vegetables in autumn and winter, when growing conditions are not as favourable.
HortNZ and the product groups will continue to work with the Government to ensure it takes a pragmatic and practical approach, so our industry can function at this critical time, while keeping New Zealanders safe, just as our industry has done for the past nearly two years.
Please continue to support each other and reach out to HortNZ (via Covid@hortnz.co.nz) or your product group. The following organisations can also provide support: