QLD Health has released a new Exposure Response Framework that will apply from 1/1/2022. This new framework brings welcome clarity to businesses and individuals on the vital question of how exposures to COVID-19 infected persons will be managed moving forward. This Framework is something that ACAPMA has been actively working on with Health and represents a significant step towards ensuring that once the economy opens, it can stay opens. Like all things there are still elements to be addressed, but a risk matrix approach that recognises the risk mitigation impacts of short exposure, masks and vaccination is a welcome step forward.
Current Exposure Response
Current settings and exposure response will remain throughout the Christmas period with the next exposure responses only applying from 1st January next year. Current Responses; https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/current-status/contact-tracing
New Exposure Response
(applies from 1/1/2022)
The Exposure Response Framework details how Health will classify persons who are exposed to an infected person, namely what will determine if they are a Close Contact UNVACCINATED, Vaccinated Close Contact, Casual Contact or Low Risk Casual Contact.
Unlike other jurisdictions QLD has not yet published the decision matrix that Health will use to determine which type of contact a person is, however general guidance has been released and it has been noted that the framework has been based on the South Australian framework..
When a person is diagnosed as COVID Positive the QLD Health Contact Tracers will determine where that positive person has been and then conduct an assessment of the risk the infected person posed at each venue. In assessing the risk the infected person posed to others the QLD Contact Tracers will consider the size of the venue visited, the nature of the visit, interaction with people and mask use. This process results in a general risk for the venue visited, then the QLD Contact Tracers will turn to the actual interaction with the contact to make the final determination of which type of contact the exposed person is. For example, if the infected person came into a service station setting and was instore for 7 minutes, the assessment of the type of contact that the staff should be will include if the staff themselves are wearing a mask and if they are vaccinated.
“Fully Vaccinated” – A person is considered to be fully vaccinated if they have had 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and it has been at least 7 days since they received their second dose. This definition is important to understand when considering the exposure response changes – as the framework calls for different responses for those persons who are vaccinated (fully vaccinated) or unvaccinated.
A staff member exposed they will be defined by QLD Health as a TYPE OF CONTACT based on the following;
- UNVACCINATED Close Contact – A person who has had at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact or shared an enclosed space with a COVID-19 case, and there is a reasonable risk of infection. This will include household contacts, extensive social interaction with a case or being present at a high risk setting.
- Vaccinated Close Contact – A person who has had at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact or shared an enclosed space with a COVID-19 case, and there is a reasonable risk of infection. This will include household contacts, extensive social interaction with a case or being present at a high risk setting.
- Casual Contact – A person who has been near a COVID-19 case and there is some risk of transmission, but does not meet the definition of a close contact.
- Low Risk Casual Contact – A person who has been in the same setting with a confirmed COVID-19 case in their infectious period, but does not meet the definition of a casual contact.
Once classified as a Type of Contact, the exposed staff member will need to comply with the relevant CONTACT TYPE RESTRICTIONS;
UNVACCINATED Close Contact
Exposed person must get a PCR test and isolate for 14 days regardless of the results. Must also get a test on day 5 and day 12 or at any time if symptoms develop. All vaccinated people in the exposed persons household must get a test on day 1 and day 5 and isolate for 7 days unless they can be appropriately separate from the exposed person. Any unvaccinated persons must follow full quarantine and testing requirements in the same manner as the exposed person unless they can be appropriately and fully separated from the exposed person.
Vaccinated Close Contact
Exposed person must get PCR test and isolate for 7 days regardless of results. Must also get a PCR surveillance test on day 5 or at any time if symptoms develop. After release from isolation must wear a mask at all times when around others, not enter high risk settings (health care etc) other than for essential reasons, avoid non essential activities. All vaccinated people in the exposed persons household must get a test on day 1 and day 5. Any unvaccinated persons must follow full quarantine and testing requirements in the same manner as the exposed person unless they can be appropriately and fully separated from the exposed person.
Exposed person must get a PCR test and isolate until results are received. After receiving a negative result must wear a mask around others at all times and avoid non essential activities for 14 days. No further obligations on the exposed persons household
Low Risk Casual Contact
Exposed person must observe for symptoms and get a test if symptoms develop. No further obligations on exposed person or their household.
What does it mean for fuel wholesale and retail?
That missing element is worth remembering, but for now it is clear that for most fuel retail and transport staff, as long as the staff are vaccinated and wearing their masks, usual contact with an infected customers will most likely result in the employee being deemed to be Low Risk Contact which means that if exposed they will be required to monitor for symptoms and get a PCR test if they develop and symptoms, but will not be required to isolate.
Learnings for Fuel Retail and Wholesale
The above example highlights the importance to the business of staff being vaccinated, wearing masks and keeping their distance from customers AND OTHER STAFF. Particularly when it is noted that the federal government support payments no longer apply when a staff member is required to isolate, meaning that they would either need to use their accrued leave or take leave without pay, and in the circumstance of a Close Contacts (UNVACCINATED and Vaccinated) this can include the whole household having to isolate
In order to minimise the impact of exposures to the operation of the business fuel retail and wholesale business should;
- Ensure staff are maintaining 1.5 meter distance from each other and customers
- Ensure staff shift change and cross over is minimised, ideally less than 15 minutes
- Encourage staff vaccination
“ACAPMA is pleased to have clarity on exposure response as we move towards COVID-19 as an endemic disease. There are still questions of operation and response, including cleaning response and isolation leave and payment implications. ACAPMA is working through these with authorities and members, and encourages members to put forward their questions now, so that we can prepare for a much welcome open economy” explained ACAPMAs Elisha Radwanowski.
Exposure Response from 1/1/2022 – ASSESSMENT AND RESPONSE MATRIX – https://www.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0028/228655/Managing-the-risk-for-COVID-19-exposures.pdf
Exposure Response from 1/1/2022 – https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/current-status/queensland-restrictions-update/changes-to-requirements-for-close-and-casual-contacts
Here to Help
HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general information for you to consider and do not constitute advice. You should seek further advice on your situation by contacting your legal advisor. ACAPMA members can access resources and receive advice, guidance and support from the ACAPMA employment professionals via email@example.com , it is free for members. ACAPMA Membership delivers this and more benefits, see; https://acapma.com.au/membership/ for more information.
Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)