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ACCI welcomes close contact extension

The industry group says changes announced by the national cabinet will ease supply chain issues and benefit employers and workers.

14 January 2022

ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said the expansion of close contact rules is welcome and will provide some relief to industries facing critical staffing and supply shortages, ensuring that we keep as many Australians as possible in work. However, until supply constraints on rapid antigen tests are resolved, many employees caught up in isolation requirements will still be unable to return to work.

“The changes announced following national cabinet mean more employees will be able to head back to work, more businesses will keep their doors open, and the problem of critical supply chains grinding to a halt will be lessened.” Mr McKellar said.

“Additionally, the extension of close contact rule changes to employees in the education and childcare sectors is also important to keeping the economy moving. We know that closing these services will further exacerbate the acute staff shortages we are seeing across the economy. However, there is still more work to do.”

Mr McKellar said that it is disappointing that national cabinet did not extend the changes to other sectors: “Thousands of businesses around the country have not been able to open or trade at full capacity since the onset of Omicron. It is likely we will need to revisit the scope of these measures over coming weeks.”

The ACCI has been calling for rapid antigen tests to be freely and widely available for Australians, small business and other industry settings since September last year. 

“The government must re-double its efforts to procure the supply Australia needs,” Mr McKellar said. 

“As soon as the availability of rapid antigen testing makes this possible, national cabinet should take action by extending the close contact protocols announced today to all workers.

“National cabinet should also not lose sight of working to expand and secure Australia’s PCR testing capacity to future proof the economy against further variants where rapid antigen testing may not be as effective.

Common sense changes to temporarily lift visa work right restrictions will allow thousands of visa holders to work additional hours and plug some of the staff shortages that continue to cripple businesses across the country.”

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