The government has announced more stringent requirements concerning the wearing of face masks that come into force 11.59pm Thursday 3rd February.
Detailed information will soon be available on the website www.covid19.govt.nz but requirements specific to our members include:
- A face covering will need to be an actual mask and attached to the head by loops around the ears or head. This means scarves, bandanas or t-shirts cannot be used.
- Workers who are mandated to be vaccinated will need to wear a medical grade mask when working in public facing roles. For example a Type IIR/Level 2 mask or above.
- Masks need to be worn at food and drink businesses, close-proximity businesses and events and gatherings. Masks can only be removed to eat, drink or exercise in such situations.
The Ministry of Health will provide further guidance on mask wearing for general health workers and higher risk workers including border staff when the country moves into Phases Two and Three of the Omicron Response.
Rapid Antigen Tests
We have received a number of calls from members seeking advice on sourcing Rapid Antigen Tests or RAT’s.
It is not currently possible to order RAT’s directly and even existing orders with the approved suppliers will in fact be diverted to the Ministry of Health and form part of government stocks.
The business.govt.nz website states:
To ensure that sufficient workers are available to maintain critical infrastructure and supply chains throughout the Omicron outbreak, a critical workforce registration system will prioritise allocation of the Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT’s) to businesses and provide for return-to-work testing for asymptomatic close contacts who would otherwise be required to self-isolate.
Government agencies will, over the coming week, proactively engage with key businesses in their sectors to ensure that critical workforces have been identified and registered, and that there are sufficient supplies of RAT’s for those workers when needed. Beyond this, MBIE will develop an on-line portal – similar to that used for the Business Travel Registration System – to allow individual business to apply for critical worker status. This system will be called the Critical Services Register and more information will be made available to businesses shortly about this.
The Critical Services Register will hold a database of the critical workforce by sector and location. This information will be used by the Ministry of Health to allocate RAT’s depending on supply and need, including the geographical spread of any outbreak. Delivery of RAT’s will be managed by the Ministry of Health to ensure necessary storage and handling protocols are maintained.
It is important to note the change in terminology now being applied with a shift from Essential Service Workers (including Security Services) to Critical Service Workforce with those covered yet to be determined but broadly defined by government as a person with particular skills who:
- Is required to undertake their role in person at the workplace; and
- Is in a role that must continue to be performed to either prevent an immediate risk of death or serious injury to a person or an animal, or prevent serious harm (social, economic or physical) to significant numbers in the community.
We appreciate that this provides limited certainty or comfort for our members who have staff working in many public facing and critical roles and whilst we will actively lobby for the recognition and prioritisation of security workers, the reality is the government does not have access to sufficient stocks to meet immediate needs and priority will be directed to the areas of perceived greatest risk.
Government has advised that they have further orders in place with delivery expected by the end of February however based on current forecasts around the spread of the outbreak, that will be far to late for businesses impacted by staff who either have Omicron or are forced to isolate.
We will provide further updates as they become available.
Face Mask Stock
The NZSA has Ministry of Health face masks from government stocks. These masks are Ministry of Health approved for essential services and are fully compliant with the new requirements as detailed above. The masks are available to order in boxes of 50 and the cost is $37.50 + gst per box ($0.75 per unit) for members and $50 + gst per box for non-members.
If you would like to place an order can you please email us at [email protected] with your requirements.
The NZSA team.