While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, strong efforts across Australia have served to minimise widespread infection of the population. Measures adopted by different States and Territories have seen border closures, the imposition of mandatory quarantine for returning travellers, and restricted movements for citizens. While limiting the spread of the illness, these measures have severely affected businesses and supply chains.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Victoria which has been seriously impacted by a second wave, resulting in strict Level 3 and Level 4 lockdowns that were deemed appropriate and proportionate.
In Victoria, we have seen the introduction of rules to reduce employee numbers in food businesses and distribution centres and changes in work arrangements to accommodate physical distancing and reduce the potential spread of the virus.
As the second phase continued, the Victorian government mapped regional and metro Melbourne's pathway to exit lockdown and achieve a COVID normal for work.
In regional areas, the second step commenced at 11:59pm on 13 September 2020, with sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, wholesale trade and warehousing, and supermarket and food distribution and warehousing permitted to open with a COVIDsafe plan.
In metro Melbourne, there is a four-step road map, that leads to a COVID normal. At the time of writing the map will see, businesses move from the first step to second step on the 28 September 2020. Most businesses will remain heavily restricted or closed unless permitted – although this is under ongoing discussion. Further easing will occur on 26 October 2020, conditional on infection targets being met (moving from second step to third step if there are <5 new cases (state-wide average over last 14 days) and <5 cases with unknown source (state-wide total over last 14 days).
The actual rules vary between industry sectors, so we direct you to the roadmaps – How we work in Metropolitan Melbourne and How we work in regional Victoria.
Importantly, there are the overarching COVIDSafe principles for business published by the Victorian Government:
- ensure physical distancing (1.5 metres)
- wear a mask or face covering
- practice good hygiene
- keep good records and act quickly if staff become unwell
- avoid interactions in close spaces
- create workforce bubbles.
These principles are consistent with guidance across Australia. Keeping you workforce safe and intact requires strict adherence to this guidance.
There is also a requirement for all businesses to have a COVIDSafe plan for onsite operations. Such plans require you to develop and document a plan to effectively protect your workers, customers, and visitors from COVID-19.
Details on how to prepare a COVIDSafe plan for Victoria may be found here. Other State governments also have published similar guidance and templates – see NSW and Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.