Part of New Zealand’s response to Omicron will mean an increased use of rapid antigen tests (RATs) for critical workers. Using RATs will make sure workers are available to maintain critical infrastructure and supply chains.
Critical workers are people who work for a critical service or organisation. If you are part of the critical workforce and live with someone who has COVID-19, you may be able to keep working as part of the Close Contact Exemption Scheme.
Close Contact Exemption Scheme
During the Omicron response, workers at registered critical services who are identified as Household Contacts may continue to work.
Close Contacts are not eligible for the scheme, as they are not required to isolate.
To qualify for an exemption as a critical worker, you must:
- be deemed critical by your employer
- work in a critical service, as listed below
- be fully vaccinated
- be asymptomatic
- return a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) unsupervised before each day/shift they work during your isolation period
- follow specific health protocols.
Under the scheme, you are only allowed to go to work — you cannot go anywhere else. When you are not at work, you must self-isolate.
You should talk to your employer if you think you meet the criteria to be part of the Close Contact Exemption Scheme.
Critical services included in the exemption scheme
Critical services include:
- food production and its supply chain
- key public services such as health and emergency services
- lifeline utilities such as power and water supplies
- critical financial services
- news media
- social welfare
- human and animal health and welfare.
Businesses and organisations can self-assess and sign up to the scheme on business.govt.nz:
‘Bubble of 1’ workers
You may also be able to keep working if you are a Household Contact if you are not customer facing and can maintain your bubble while working. This applies to any workers or sole traders, not just critical workers. To work under a bubble of 1, workers must:
- be fully vaccinated
- not have COVID-19 symptoms
- not have contact with anyone else at work.
You do not need to use rapid antigen tests to return to work and businesses will not need to register for the ‘bubble of 1’.
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