Peak food bodies endorse critical worker COVID-19 changes

Friday, 14 January, 2022

Peak food bodies endorse critical worker COVID-19 changes

The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) — peak bodies representing the meat, and food and grocery industries — have both endorsed the recent self-isolation changes for critical workers.

The changes involve allowing critical workers from a select few vocations to leave self-isolation if they are asymptomatic after being close contacts with COVID-19 positive people. They come in response to rising COVID-19 cases, driven largely by the highly infectious Omicron variant, which have left shelves empty without workers to stock them or to manufacture the products that usually sit on them.

“We welcome National Cabinet’s endorsement today of the medical expert panel’s new set of arrangements, which allows workers who are close contacts to return to work if they have no symptoms and are fully vaccinated,” AMIC CEO Patrick Hutchinson said.

“This is a great outcome to support Australia’s food production and supply chain capacity and to feed Australians.”

The AFGC’s Tanya Barden was similarly enthusiastic but noted that further support for workers through the use of rapid antigen testing would be necessary for a strong workforce.

“However, for these arrangements to be effective, there needs to be either priority access to rapid antigen tests for daily testing of food and grocery manufacturers or a more pragmatic approach such as the Day 6 testing in Queensland,” Ms Barden said, referring to Queensland’s requirement that close contacts of COVID-positive individuals get a test six days after the close contact.

The AFGC also pushed for consistent rules across the nation, with the peak of cases from this wave of COVID infections not expected for a number of weeks.

Image credit: © Designs LLC

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