What is an essential worker? NSW COVID-19 restrictions and Greater Sydney lockdown rules confusing residents
It’s a critical question that the NSW Government has so far baulked at, but is at the heart of Greater Sydney’s key confusion: What is an essential worker in NSW?
Only essential workers are able to leave their homes as part of Sydney’s extended lockdown, while non-essential workers are permitted to only leave the house for one of four reasons.
Watch Gladys Berejiklian announce an extension to Sydney’s lockdown in the video player above
These restrictions are in place for Greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour, and include:
- Shopping for food or other essential goods and services (one person only);
- Medical care or compassionate needs (only one visitor can enter another residence to fulfil carers’ responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons);
- Exercise limited to two people (unless members of the same household);
- Essential work, or education, where you cannot work or study from home.
Despite having a clear order for non-essential workers to stay at home, the NSW Government has often dodged a definition, instead urging residents to use their “common sense” to determine who can and can’t leave home.
“It is so, so difficult to have a precise rule for every single thing,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday.
“That’s why we rely on common sense (and why) we rely on people to respect the intent of the health orders as well as the letter of the health orders.”
What is an essential worker?
Front and centre of the discussion is how a Sydney painter left lockdown to work on a hospital construction site in Goulburn, 200km southwest of Sydney, before being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Goulburn Mayor Bob Kirk fears the loose definition of “essential work” is putting regional towns at risk.
“The COVID disease doesn’t ask people if they have a travel exemption or not, it just attaches to whoever it can,” he told AAP on Tuesday.
“But I understand he is a painter … I don’t know how that qualifies as essential right now.”
“I know there are more than a few painters around this place that could step up if needed.”
Definition of essential worker in NSW left to the employer
Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday rebuffed suggestions the government should define “essential work” to provide clarity, saying creating a definition was challenging and people would always find loopholes.
Bosses and their workers know whether each worker is essential, he said.
“So it will be left to the worker and to the employer,” he said.
“But my message – to the employers particularly – is if you don’t need to have someone come from an area that is suspect and obviously has major COVID concerns presently, then perhaps it might be an idea to make arrangements for a worker from another area.”
Residents of the Fairfield LGA have now been told they should only go to work “if really essential”, they should have a COVID-19 test every three days, and that they should carry proof of those tests with them at all times.
Is there a definition of an essential worker?
During its own lockdowns, the Victorian Government published a list of workplaces that were permitted to stay open and a list of authorised workers who were permitted to leave home.
As for NSW, residents shouldn’t hold their breath if they’re hanging out for a definition.
– with AAP