Seeking COVID clarity for business, workers & residents

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin this week sought clarity from the Office of the Minister for Health on the NSW Government’s working from home direction in regional New South Wales and other related COVID-19 issues.

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin this week sought clarity from the Office of the Minister for Health on the NSW Government’s working from home direction in regional New South Wales and other related COVID-19 issues.

Ms Saffin said she had raised local businesses’ concerns after Public Health Orders had mistakenly lumped in regional NSW with Greater Sydney, where employers were REQUIRED to direct employees to work from home where reasonably practicable.

“Thankfully, those Public Health Orders were quickly amended and the advice is that employers in regional NSW must ALLOW people to work from home where reasonably practicable,” Ms Saffin said.

“There is a difference in these working from home directions as they apply to Greater Sydney and to here, so hopefully this will clear up any confusion for employers and employees.”

The amended Public Health Orders are attached.

Ms Saffin said she had also sought clarification as to whether anyone, including tradies, could leave the lockdown areas of Greater Sydney to travel to regional NSW for essential work.

“Locals are contacting me concerned that people are coming here from Greater Sydney,” Ms Saffin said.

Here is the Office of the Minister for Health’s response:

For residents of Greater Sydney (other than those living in the Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown and Liverpool Local Government Areas who are not exempted workers), it is a reasonable excuse to leave your residence for work – but only when it is not practicable to work from home.

People who travel more than 50km outside Greater Sydney for work they are unable to do from home must not enter a premises for work unless they have been tested for COVID-19 in the preceding seven days. Workers must have evidence of the test available for inspection on request by an employer, occupier of the premises, or the police.

We note that any person whose place of residence or usual place of work is in Greater Sydney must still follow the stay at home rules while they are outside Greater Sydney – that is, they should not go to a restaurant or a pub or go shopping for anything other than essential goods. They should only spend time at work and their accommodation while working in regional NSW.

Ms Saffin said she had also expressed the concerns of the local community that we don’t know where the close contacts of the COVID-positive removalists from Chinderah Service Centre and the Coffs Harbour locations went after they were exposed to COVID-19.

“I asked for an update on the contact tracing that has occurred,” Ms Saffin said.

Office of the Minister for Health’s response:

For privacy reasons, NSW Health does not disclose details about venues unless there is a public health reason.

When a confirmed COVID-19 case attends a venue while possibly infectious, NSW Health carries out a risk assessment on that venue to determine whether other people may have been exposed and whether there is a public health risk.

Risk assessments may be re-evaluated as new evidence emerges, for example evidence of transmission of COVID-19 in a specific venue after further contact tracing has occurred.

Further to this, where contact tracing has allowed NSW Health to get in touch with every possible contact at a venue, and it is determined there is no public health risk, a venue will cease to be listed as a venue of concern on the NSW Health site (if it was even listed in the first place).

Mindful that Minister Hazzard is extremely busy dealing with COVID outbreaks, Ms Saffin has requested that he brief all regional and rural MPs on what is being done to keep regional communities safe.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021.

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