To: CCF Victoria staff, members and stakeholders.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update – From the CEO desk.
All of you will by now have heard the State Government’s announcement that has seen the re-introduction of COVID-19 statewide restrictions coming into force at midnight last night.
This follows the positive result of a hotel quarantine worker at the Grand Hyatt hotel, which is being used to quarantine Australian Open tennis entourages. As a result, there are now 8 ‘tier 1’ exposure sites where anyone who has visited one of those sites during the specified period, are required to get tested and isolate for 14 days. The location of those sites and times are listed on the Department of Health (DOH) website at https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/important-alert-about-new-hotel-quarantine-case-covid-19
The new DOH restrictions require us to wear a face mask in ‘public indoor spaces’ and if you have visitors in your home, it is strongly recommended that masks are worn during the visit. Building and Construction sites are not considered to be public indoor spaces, so the existing regulations and our Industry COVID-19 Guidelines (version 9) remain appropriate – wear a face mask in hoists/lifts and when you cannot physically distance more than 1.5 metres.
I have received a number of enquiries from contractors whether the vaccine roll out will be mandatory for construction workers.
The Industry Working Group of employer associations, major contractors and unions was fortunate to been given a rundown of the COVID vaccine rollout planning yesterday from the Department of Health lead, Professor Ben Cowie. I raised this issue at the forum and as per Federal Government guidelines, the vaccine is not being mandated for our industry, nor for the broader community. It is highly recommended.
Key out-takes from the presentation given by Professor Cowie yesterday that provides further insights into the vaccine roll out, can be summarised as follows:
- The rollout is being managed by the Federal government in relation to vaccine approvals, vaccine orders from suppliers and programming of implementation. Victorian health authorities are planning to build capacity rapidly up to 50,000 vaccines per week, scalable to many more depending on supply.
- The first available vaccine is the Pfizer vaccine from US/Germany (TGA approved), 10 million doses ordered and to be distributed to the highest priority group, which includes health care, hotel quarantine and airport arrival workers.
- The Pfizer vaccine will only be distributed to these groups at 3 metro and 6 regional hospitals, as it needs to be kept in an extremely low and regulated temperature.
- The next vaccine likely to be approved is the Astra Zenenca vaccine which will be manufactured by CSL in Melbourne- 53 million doses have been ordered. This can be administered by recognized health care centres and general practitioners.
- The next possible vaccine is the Novovax vaccine – there not much detail on this one yet.
- Timing of distribution is subject to arrival of the Pfizer order from OS and timing of TGA approval and manufacturing of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Best guess in late Feb commencing for Pfizer/High Priority and late March or early April for the Astra Zeneca vaccine for the rest of the community.
- Whilst the efficacy of the vaccines differs, both provide strong protection from the symptoms of the virus and worst effects including death if contracted.
- At this stage, the health authorities are unable to say that the vaccines will prevent transmission of the virus.
- As per my comment above, the policy position of the authorities is that it will not be mandatory to have the vaccine, but is strongly recommended for all age groups
- Both vaccines are 2 jabs taken 3 weeks apart.
- It is not recommended that the community have FLU injections in conjunction, or between, the two COVID-19 vaccinations.
Our industry medical providers – Incolink/APC – are seeking to be involved in the vaccine rollout for the building and construction industry. This is supported by the Vic Dept of Health, the Industry Working Group, and the Industry COVID-19 Taskforce but this is dependent on co-funding from State Government and / or other industry sources. I will keep you abreast of developments in this regard.
State of Emergency
The Victorian government is seeking to extend the Coronavirus State of Emergency for another 9 months from its current expiry of March 15 2021 to December 15 2021. This will give the Chief Health Officer the necessary powers to make Directions in relation to for example, 14 day hotel quarantine and wearing face masks.
Return to Work
The return to offices at 75% (both public and private sector office based workplaces), scheduled to operate from Monday 8th February, has now been postponed.
Until my next update …. keep well – keep safe.