Why 350,000 workers may have to isolate at the same time

Employers are urged to avail the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme to minimise losses

Why 350,000 workers may have to isolate at the same time

Up to 350,000 employees in New Zealand could be isolating at once, according to Finance Minister Grant Robertson, a projected impact of the Omicron variant that some fear will also affect supply chains. Robertson said that officials are working hard to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 strain, adding that it is coordinating with supermarkets and other sectors ensure that supply is maintained. New Zealand projected 25,000 cases a day, which including close contacts could see about 350,000 people out of work.

"Obviously that's a significant number of people. Business continuity planning is something I know most businesses around New Zealand have been doing and they are working to see how they can manage their way through that," said Robertson as quoted by Radio New Zealand.

The projected situation is similar to Australia, where supply chains were affected as more workers undergo isolation for either contracting or being a close contact of an Omicron-positive individual.

Isolation coverage

Currently, New Zealand's pandemic guidelines state that isolation will cover both positive cases and their close contacts to prevent spreading the pandemic.

"Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19, those who live with them, and their close contacts will need to isolate from the community to help stop the spread of the virus," government guidelines said. "You should self-isolate until you are told you no longer need to do so by a public health official.”

Read more: New Zealand turns 'red' as new Omicron cases detected

For positive cases, isolation period is at set at 14 days, including 72 hours of symptom free testing. People living under the same household will also need to isolate for at least 10 days. Close contacts also are also expected to isolate 10 days from last exposure, with tests prepared on the fifth and eighth day of isolation.

"If you refuse or are unable to be tested, you may be required to isolate for longer. Public health officials will guide you," the government said.

Benefits for employers, employees

As a huge lump of the workforce is expected to undergo isolation, Robertson reminded employers that they can avail on the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme. The initiative, which is a weekly payment, will help employers pay for their workers who have been told to self-isolate because of COVID-19, according to the government's guidelines.

It said that COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is paid at the rate of:

  • $600.00 a week for full-time workers who were working 20 hours or more a week.
  • $359 a week for part-time workers who were working less than 20 hours a week.

It covers employees who cannot come to work for isolation and are also unable to work from home.

"To be eligible for a one-week payment of Leave Support Scheme your employee will have been advised to self-isolate for at least four consecutive calendar days," advised the government, with a second week payment available if the worker needs to keep isolating for at least 11 calendar days or more.

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