NZ issues list of critical services for close contact exemption scheme

If your industry is included, it's time to sign up

NZ issues list of critical services for close contact exemption scheme

New Zealand has unveiled the list of critical services that would be included in its new close contact exemption scheme, which the government said will help keep supply chains running despite the impact of the Omicron variant on the workforce.

In a media release, the government named the following critical services as the following:

  • Food production and its supply chain
  • Key public services like health and emergency services
  • Lifeline utilities such as power and water supplies
  • Transport
  • Critical financial services
  • News media
  • Social welfare
  • Human and animal health and welfare

According to the government, organisations and businesses who believe they fall under one of the listed qualifications may register online as a critical service.

This means that once New Zealand moves to the second step of its Omicron response, the qualified businesses may continue operating with the assistance of rapid antigen testing (RAT), with their workers exempted from close contact isolation requirements if they return negative tests.

Registration for the scheme, however, will be voluntary, and will require all their identified employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

"It is up to businesses to self-assess and decide if they want to participate in the scheme. In doing so, there needs to be an awareness that bringing close contacts into the workplace will come with risks," said Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall in a statement.

"Those businesses that decide to register will be issued with a letter that, when New Zealand shifts to Phase 2 of our Omicron response, will enable eligible workers to either use rapid antigen tests that their employers may hold, or collect rapid antigen tests from a collection site," she explained.

The workers may pick up enough testing kits to cover what was meant to be their isolation period, according to Verrall. If they yield a positive RAT result, they will need to undergo a PCR test and isolate.

Read more: New Zealand reports record-low unemployment rate

The guidelines for the scheme were issued amid fears that the Omicron variant will also cripple the workforce and affect the supply chains.

"We've seen overseas that a combination of high rates of Omicron alongside isolation periods for contacts has put severe strain on supply chains and the provision of important services," Hipkins said.

Prior to the announcement, the Auckland Business Chamber urged the government to provide RATs to all workers, saying that having a list of critical employees is "discriminatory, confusing, divisive, and disruptive."

"My workers are essential too and need to work as do Government employees already on the critical workers list. Help us do that to help the country," said Michael Barnett, the chamber's chief executive.

New Zealand is still on the first phase of its Omicron response plan, where the country is still trying to stamp out cases of the COVID-19 variant. 

Recent articles & video

Best practice for handling fixed-term agreements in New Zealand

Former dental clinic worker sentenced to community detention for fraud

Court of Appeal reverses 'homeworker' ruling on Fleming, Humphreys

Recap: Winners of the 2024 HRD Awards New Zealand

Most Read Articles

E Tū takes TVNZ to ERA for alleged non-compliance on consultation process

HR leaders gather for industry event of the year

Blenheim worker wins $16,000 in damages over unjust dismissal claim