Schools, childcare could get exemptions to COVID close contact rules

Services considered to be essential for the purposes of easing COVID-19 restrictions could expand to include mental health support, schools and childcare.

Road, rail, air and sea transport services as well as energy, water and waste industries are also being considered by the federal government for looser restrictions as it holds consultation meetings ahead of Thursday's national cabinet meeting.

Close contact isolation rules that require furloughing of workers have created significant bottlenecks on many industries with both unions and business groups calling on governments to act.

But consensus has not yet been reached on whether businesses should stop requiring their workers to provide negative rapid antigen tests in non-critical industries.

Acting Small Business Minister Anne Ruston. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Acting Small Business Minister Anne Ruston. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Commonwealth is preparing to mount the case for which sector should have current restrictions after successfully obtaining state and territory support for eased restrictions in food and grocery supply. Those changes were based on advice from the peak medical advisory committee, AHPPC.

Several key federal ministers lead by senator Anne Ruston, the acting Small Business Minister, have begun meeting with industry leaders. While on Wednesday Attorney-General Michaelia Cash will meet with key union representatives and Safe Work Australia.

Their objective is the expand the list of workforces exempt from furlough requirements for close contact isolation rules to keep critical industries moving.

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States and territories have already begun implementing easing of restrictions on essential workers in food and grocery supply who are asymptomatic, but only for roles that are not customer facing.

Businesses are also facing a 2.2 per cent decline in consumer confidence compared to the pre-Christmas level according to the latest ANZ-Roy Morgan released on Tuesday.

That prompted Labor's treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers to question whether the momentum of economic recovery was being squandered.

"The scale of this stuff-up is so big, and the consequences for ordinary Australians so bad, that all options should be up for discussion," Dr Chalmers said.

"But Scott Morrison always goes missing when workers and small businesses need him most."

This story Schools, childcare being considered for 'essential' status first appeared on The Canberra Times.