February 25 2022: Omicron Phase 3

The government’s response to Omicron moved to its planned Phase 3 today. The key changes that beekeepers should note are:

  • Only confirmed cases and their household contacts (the people they live with) will be required to isolate. All other contacts will be asked to monitor for symptoms, but they will not have to isolate.
  • Both confirmed cases and household contacts will need to isolate for 10 days.
  • If you are a household contact and you or your beekeeping business has registered with the Close contract exemption scheme, you will still be able to go to work – if you use RAT tests daily to confirm you are not a case.
  • For those who have not signed up to the scheme, Rapid antigen tests (RATs) will become available from thousands of sites (doctors, pharmacies and community testing centres).
  • Locations where you can obtain rapid antigen tests will be listed on the Healthpoint website.

February 17 2022: Ordering Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for registered critical workers

As New Zealand has moved to Phase 2 of its Omicron response this week, RATs  are now available for critical workers who have been confirmed as a close contact, and are registered with the critical worker scheme.

A detailed explanation of the process of accessing RATs can be found in the Ministry of Health’s guidance for critical workers – see page 7.

You will be able to access RATs via the Rapid Antigen Test Order Form. You will then need to visit a Collection Site to pickup your RAT kits. You can find out where the collection sites are located here.

We are aware that RATs are not available yet in some locations but expect that situation to change.

February 10 2022: Register for close contact exemption scheme

As part of its ongoing management of Omicron, the Government is setting up a close contact exemption scheme for those who provide critical services, which includes food production and its supply chain, and has opened the portal for businesses to apply for workers who are close contacts to continue working, provided they return a negative rapid antigen test (RAT).

Today the Government released more about the scheme including information about rapid antigen testing, which can be found here. Information about when this exemption scheme will apply, see here.

The scheme provides businesses with a way of bringing staff subject to close contact isolation back into the workplace. It will be made available for vaccinated and asymptomatic close contacts for businesses to help maintain critical infrastructure and supply chains.

Businesses and organisations will self-assess if they meet the criteria to join the scheme. You can register as a critical service here: Close Contact Exemption Scheme.We encourage members to register. Please note you will need a RealMe login, just as you did to register as an essential business. 

Businesses that register ‘will be issued with a letter that, when New Zealand shifts to Phase 2 of the Omicron response, will enable eligible workers to either use RAT tests that their employers may hold, or collect RATs from a collection site’.

This means the Government is allowing businesses and individuals to hold a supply of RATs (potentially bought at their own expense) in addition to accessing Government-provided RATs.

People who work alone

In addition to the exemption scheme, people who either work alone, or have the capacity to do so will be able to continue operating in a “bubble of one” if they are identified as a contact.

That means those who operate out of their own space and work alone can continue to do that as long as they are vaccinated, don’t have symptoms and don’t have contact with anyone else. The guidelines apply to any workers, not just critical workers, and do not require them to return regular tests.

January 25 2022: Preparing for disruption from Omicron

New Zealand moved to the ‘Red’ traffic light setting on Sunday 23 January at 11.59pm.  Here’s a reminder of what ‘Red’ means for businesses and workplaces.  The Government has put together essential information here and you can learn about what financial assistance is available here.

If an employee becomes a confirmed (or probable) COVID-19 case and has been at your workplace while infectious, there are protocols to follow, established by the Ministry of Health and can be viewed here.

Even if you are not impacted, it is worth re-familiarising yourself with the steps to take to best prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work.

The biggest risk to your operation might come from those who you rely on to support your business running normally – product suppliers, transporters, assurance providers etc. As a result, it is important to assess these risks and take steps to ensure you are able to mitigate them as best as possible in the event of some services ceasing without notice.

MPI has also released specific guidance for the primary sector.

December 10 2021: Preparing for Covid-19 in your workplace

It’s only a matter of time before a positive case of Covid-19 turns up within your business operation and it’s important you have a plan to ensure your business can continue to operate if you, an employee, or a family member contracts Covid-19.

MPI together with sector representatives have developed detailed checklists to help primary sector businesses prepare for a positive COVID-19 case. Not all categories will be applicable, but the checklists enable you to list contact details for key people, and instructions to carry out essential tasks.

The checklists include reminders of how to continue minimising the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, which include

  • Wearing face masks;
  • Ensuring physical distancing is maintained;
  • Minimising contact with external suppliers (use contactless drop off/pick up where possible);
  • Supporting all team members and their close contacts to be vaccinated;

Dealing with a positive case

If an employee, customer or visitor becomes a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case, and has been at your workplace while potentially infectious, there are standard processes that will be followed.

You may be told by an employee directly, or notified by the local public health unit (PHU).

For processes to follow, including communication with employees and customers see Ministry of Health guidance

December 2 2021: Beekeeping under the traffic light system

The COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF), also known as the traffic light system, will replace the Alert Level system on at 11.59pm on 2 December 2021.

As is currently the case under the Alert Level system, beekeepers can continue to operate under the CPF, at any level with appropriate measures in place.

Travel under the CPF

From 15 December 2021, people travelling out of Auckland, or between the North and South Island, will have to be either fully vaccinated or have a negative test within 72 hours of departure. This requirement will be in place for the core summer period of 15 December 2021 to 17 January 2022.

Essential worker documentation will no longer need to be carried.

Police will have operational discretion on the enforcement of these rules and will perform spot checks.

Holding events and meetings 

Carrying out normal beekeeping operations will be the same across all traffic light settings except where businesses and clubs hold meetings and events. Limits on attendance will be dependent on the use of vaccination certificates and the status of the area.

In regions under the RED setting, meetings or events using the My Vaccine Pass can be held with up to 100 people (25 people if the My Vaccine Pass is not used).

In regions under the ORANGE and GREEN setting there are no limits on numbers at meetings or events where the My Vaccine Pass is used. Where the pass is not used, limits are up to 50 in ORANGE, and 100 in GREEN.

 Advice for businesses on vaccinations in the workplace

The government will soon deliver a vaccination assessment tool for businesses so they have a clear legal framework to help make decisions about vaccinations in the workplace.

The tool will likely include four factors. If at least three of them are met, it would be reasonable to require vaccination for that work. The factors are:

  • Work is done indoors, in a space smaller than 100m2
  • Work is done less than 1 metre apart from other people
  • Work is done in proximity to other people for more than 15 minutes
  • Work involves providing services to people who are vulnerable to COVID-19.

It will be optional for businesses to use the tool.

Current WorkSafe guidance on Covid-19 can be found here

November 25 2021: Auckland boundary settings to change & traffic light settings

Auckland boundary settings will change on 15 December — anyone leaving will need to be fully vaccinated or have a negative test within 72 hours of departure. 

This requirement will be in place for the core summer period of December 15 2021 to January 17 2022.

Police will undertake random spot checks to enforce a range of laws on our roads, such as drink driving, and will take the same approach here. 

All of New Zealand will move into the new Covid-19 traffic light framework at 11:59pm on Thursday 2 December 2021. Read more about the Covid-19 Protection Framework here.

A usual one-page visual guide to the traffic light framework is available here.