Supply chain crisis: Teachers, truck drivers can leave isolation to work in Australia

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Thousands more people will now be allowed to return to work if they are a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case, with Australia’s national cabinet agreeing to expand which workers should be exempt from isolation rules.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison pictured prior to a working diner with French Presiden at the Elysee Palace in Paris on 15 June 2021.

Scott Morrison is keen for schools to reopen on time so that parents will be able to continue working without disruption to their schedules. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the exemption would be extended to cover all those working in transport and freight, not just food distribution.

He added it would also include all healthcare and support workers, emergency services, teachers and childcare workers and energy and waste management workers.

The new rules also apply to telecommunications data, broadcasting and media personnel.

The changes are designed to help ease the pressure on workforces and supply chains which have been under increased strain as infections have skyrocketed and the number of people sent into isolation as close contacts has increased.

“We heard today from the Treasury Secretary [Steven Kennedy] that we could be looking at up 10 percent absenteeism from our workforce at any one time,” Morrison said.

Under the relaxed rules, some workers who are a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case do not have to isolate if they return a negative rapid antigen test result.

He said the pressure on the workforce would rise if schools did not go back on time, with parents staying at home to look after children.

Queensland and South Australia have both announced plans to delay the start of the school year for most pupils, while New South Wales and Victoria have said their schools will reopen as planned after the summer break.

“If schools don’t open, that can add an additional 5 percent of absenteeism in the workforce,” Morrison said.

“It is absolutely essential for schools to go back safely and remain safely open if we are not going to see any further exacerbation of the workforce challenges we are currently facing.”

Morrison said his government was not trying to prevent people from being infected with the virus.

“That is not a realistic objective and not practical. Nowhere in the world are they trying to achieve that.

“What we’re trying to achieve is to ensure that we can keep hospitals under the least pressure that can possibly be put on them.”

Earlier today New South Wales announced 92,264 new Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday and 22 deaths.

That made it the deadliest day of the pandemic in the state on record.

A total of 61,387 rapid antigen (RAT) tests were logged after the government’s new reporting system went live at 9am.

About 50,000 of those were recorded in the past seven days, but included in the latest reporting period.

The number of Covid-19 patients in Victorian hospitals has risen to a new record high of 953, as the state reports a further 25 deaths of people with the virus.

There are more than 221,726 active Covid-19 cases in Victoria, causing significant disruption to essential industries and sending the number of available workers in the healthcare system to dangerous lows.

The state has recorded a further 37,169 cases of the virus, but the figure is less than the true number of new infections due to an overwhelmed testing system.

– ABC

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