NSW construction reopens, on-site vaccinations for aged care
Unoccupied construction sites across Greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour, have resumed work at 50% capacity, with enhanced COVIDSafe measures in place to sustain the industry, boost the economy and keep workers safe, the NSW Government announced. Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional New South Wales (NSW), Industry and Trade John Barilaro said minimum vaccination requirements have also been introduced for workers from the eight affected local government areas (LGAs), including Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta.
Barilaro added that construction workers from the affected LGAs will be added to the list of authorised workers allowing them to work on unoccupied construction sites in Greater Sydney if they meet the vaccination conditions. “We want workers back on the tools, but we need to continue to keep this virus at bay, and so by opening unoccupied worksites at 50 per cent capacity and vaccinating workers from within those affected LGAs, we can achieve both,” Barilaro said.
Construction workers from the affected LGAs must provide evidence that they have received two doses of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, or one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least three weeks before attending work, or one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and, if less than three weeks since that vaccine was administered, a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 72 hours. NSW is currently trialling rapid antigen testing; when approved by NSW Health, that form of testing could be used as an alternative to a negative PCR test.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said that although the construction industry has helped maintain the state’s strong economy throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, many projects and workers are located within the eight affected LGAs. “For the industry to remain viable, we need to restart those projects and get construction workers where they are most needed. But we also need to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission to keep our communities safe, and these measures will help us achieve that balance,” Perrottet said.
Construction workers in the affected LGAs are urged to get their vaccination shot if they have not already done so, with exemptions in place for individuals with medical or other conditions that make vaccination unsuitable. “We are also working with industry to facilitate rapid antigen testing trials on a number of public and private sector construction sites and that will soon provide added COVID-19 surveillance capability when approved by NSW Health for wider use,” Ayres said.
On-site vaccinations for aged-care staff, disability workers
The Australian Government is supporting primary care COVID-19 vaccination providers to offer vaccinations to residential aged-care and disability support workers through dedicated workplace-based clinics. To ensure residential aged-care workers can access a COVID-19 vaccine before 17 September 2021 — when vaccination becomes mandatory for these workers — the government is offering additional vaccination payments to primary care vaccination providers who set up clinics at the relevant facilities.
Until 31 October 2021, general practices, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) and Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics (CVCs) that prioritise workplace vaccinations for aged-care and disability support workers will be able to access additional payments for every dose administered. These incentives are offered in recognition of the importance of vaccinating workers against COVID-19, to support the wellbeing of the vulnerable people they care for. The incentive payment will be made available to GPs, ACCHS and CVCs where a minimum of 50 cumulative COVID-19 vaccination doses are provided to aged-care and disability support workers across facilities as part of on-site vaccination clinics.
To ensure a coordinated approach, 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across Australia will support primary care providers conducting vaccination clinics for residential aged-care workers. Disability support workplace clinics may be coordinated directly between disability support providers and primary care providers. Practices participating in the Practice Incentives Program (PIP), or practices operating as a CVC are eligible to participate. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has recommended mandatory vaccination of residential aged-care workers, and this has been endorsed by National Cabinet.
AHPPC has also approved the framework for workers the mandate applies to, enabling states and territories to develop the public health orders. COVID-19 vaccination will be mandatory for full-time, part-time and casual residential aged-care workers, volunteers engaged by the facility, and students on placement. This includes anyone employed or engaged by a residential aged-care facility who works on-site. Medical practitioners, such as GPs and consulting specialists, are also covered by this scope. All other workers who provide in-reach services or who attend on a visiting basis are urged to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
A limited range of exemptions are available, for pregnancy or a medical exemption, as well a temporary exemption where access to a vaccine has not been available prior to the 17 September deadline. A further exemption may apply where compliance with the mandatory vaccination requirement will undermine the quality of care available to residents, for example, high rates of community transmission exposing multiple RACFs with high numbers of staff furloughed requiring immediate deployments of workforce to provide care.
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