So we are here in “Phase Two’ of the government’s plan to fight back against Omicron, and it’s time to familiarise yourself with what this will mean for how you run your farm.
Federated Farmers National board member and adverse events spokesperson Chris Lewis is keen to see all farmers and lifestyle block owners use this as a good time to put together a business continuity plan for the farm if you don’t already have one.
“Many farmers are putting themselves under Covid-19 restrictions ahead of harvest time,” Chris says.
“It’s about taking all the precautions you can ahead of harvesting, going into you own lockdown by staying away from people until the harvest’s over.
“Everyone should have a plan for how things work if key staff aren’t around.”
If you can’t do this, the government’s ‘close contact exemption scheme’ is intended to help businesses work through COVID-19 and not take out key staff in ‘Phase Two’ of the response. ‘
Phase Two’ is where we move out of the ‘stamping out’ approach of Phase One and move into the ‘slowing down’ approach – where we don’t require close contacts and cases to isolate for as long as they do now.
There is a whole lot of information on the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment website about how to register, and whether or not you even need to. If you decide you need to register, be warned, you’ll need a ‘RealMe’ login first.
“The good news is under ‘Phase Two’ of the spread of the infection in the community, people will not be expected to isolate for such a long time.
“So it follows that it will be ok to find ways to get people to either stay at work or back to work, faster. This is where we need to see the Rapid Antigen Test kits become widely available,” Chris says.
The close contact exemptions will be useful for a business with a number of staff who are required to work together in relatively close quarters inside and can’t create a ‘bubble of one’ for the ‘close contact’ worker.
The business can register to get the exemption and therefore qualify to receive free RAT kits. However, these kits will not be available until someone receives a text to say they are a close contact, there is additional paperwork required, and you will need to pick these up yourself and they may not be available locally.
“The Bubble of One” idea is that you keep yourself to yourself when you are a close contact or even have COVID, and by following the appropriate protocols (distancing, masks etc) you can continue to work if you are able. This only applies to ‘critical’ workers, like those in food production. It is not allowed for anyone working in a customer-facing role.
“We will be advocating for RATs to be distributed out to rural areas to minimise disruption to businesses if they are required. But don’t rely on this, get in now and register if you think you might need to be able to get people back to work with a test,” Chris says.
“My advice is don’t get stick in to the red tape if you don’t have to. Take a good look at how you might be able to operate with the ‘bubble of one’ idea and get your business continuity planning up to date by using the Feds’ COVID checklist.
“If you are able to implement this with the right processes and protocols in place, this may just be the best option for your farm, saving you on the red tape.”
The announcements of are changes are often confusing and Federated Farmers puts a lot of effort in to figuring out how these changes will practically work for farmers on farm.
“We encourage all our members to keep reading the information we send out and keep in touch with our 0800 call centre (0800 FARMING) if you need advice.
“We are farmers too, we know it’s frustrating, but we are working hard to represent the farmer grassroots thinking in Wellington to influence decisions.”