Frontline workers in Sydney’s COVID-19 hotspots will no longer have the option to undergo rapid antigen testing instead of getting vaccinated after the NSW government made a late change to rules that were due to come into effect on Monday.
But the fast approaching deadline for authorised workers in the 12 local government areas (LGA) of concern to get the jab has been pushed back from Monday to Friday, September 6, after unions and peak bodies pleaded with the government to ease the timeframe.
“In line with the amended public health order, if an authorised worker is not vaccinated or does not have a medical contraindication form, they will not be able to work outside their LGA,” NSW Health said in a statement on Friday evening.
“Rapid antigen testing will no longer be an alternative to vaccination.”
It was also announced that care workers aged 16 years and over who live in one of the hotspot LGAs must also have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend work, including those who work in early education or who provide disability support services.
The late-night change in rules came after pressure from industry and unions who said some workers had struggled to book in for their jabs within the timeframe.
Sydney hospitals were also urgently trying to book vaccinations for remaining staff who are leaving hotspots over the weekend and there were concerns that locking workers out will further burden the stretched system.
Bernie Smith, NSW branch secretary of Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association – a union for shopfront, fast-food and warehouse workers – said straw polls suggested up to about 60 per cent of the workforce had at least one dose, but many who booked appointments weeks ago were not due to receive their first jab until next month.