Omicron Update #6 - Move to Phase 2
15 February 2022
Move to Phase 2 at 11.59pm on Tuesday 15 February
The Government has announced that New Zealand will move to Phase 2 of the Omicron response at 11.59pm tonight, Tuesday 15 February, given the sharp increase in community cases.
At Phase 2, the isolation period for positive cases is reduced to 10 days and close contacts, to seven days as part of the drive to keep the supply chain operating. In addition, vaccinated people who either work alone, or have the capacity to do so, will be able to continue operating in a ‘bubble of one’ if they are identified as a close contact.
If you have not registered your business yet, I strongly suggest you take the time now to go through the Close Contact Exemption scheme registration process before Covid numbers in the community rise any further.
Phase 2 of the Omicron response will see the Government – through the Ministry of Health – deploying rapid antigen tests (RATs) to registered businesses, so that as many critical workers as possible can stay working in the supply chain.
However, at this stage, the Government has not stood up the RAT ordering system and collection location network so there is no access to Government-provided RATs yet. We will let you know as soon as the Government stands the system up.
In terms of sourcing your own RATs, we are monitoring the situation and again, will let you know if there’s a favourable development.
It remains a very tense time for apple growers starting harvest and kiwifruit growers whose harvest starts in a few weeks’ time. It’s also a tense time for growers who were hit by heavy rain in early December 2021 and again, over the last weekend.
The impact of widespread transmission of Omicron on the severe labour shortage is likely to be significant, with growers faced with some unsavoury and tough decisions: what to pick and plant, and what not to pick or plant.
Speaking with summerfruit growers who are ending their harvest, they say planning ahead and working together helped, as did a good spell of weather in Otago.
Let’s hope that current weather patterns settle down but let’s plan and work together for a very challenging apple and kiwifruit harvest, and period of vegetable production.
All product groups have geared up to support growers. HortNZ and product groups will continue to lobby the Government for a practical, common sense and robust response to Omicron in the community.
If the Australian experience is anything to go by, once Omicron really hits our communities it will be a very intense month or so. So please, do all you can now to prepare for what seems like a certainty.
Register now for the Close Contact Exemption scheme for Critical Services and look at your operation to ensure you have everything in place to prevent the entry of Covid to your workplace as well as manage it, should Covid get in.
For the past nearly two years, our industry has managed Covid well. We have proven the industry can operate effectively, protecting workers and other New Zealanders while growing and supplying fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables, to the world as well as New Zealand.
But the next few months are going to be tough, and at this present point in time, there is an incredible level of uncertainty.
Let’s try and remain positive, work together and reach out to fellow growers and the available support. And remember – the New Zealand horticulture industry grows the best fruit and vegetables in the world, whatever your yardstick.