SYDNEY — The government of Australia’s New South Wales has steered clear of defining “essential work” during the ongoing Covid-19 in Sydney. It has been left to the people’s “common sense” and the best judgment of employers to decide what makes an essential worker.
“It is so, so difficult to have a precise rule for every single thing,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on July 13.
“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.”
One of the 89 new cases reported on July 13 in the southeastern state was a Sydney painter who left lockdown to work on a hospital construction site in Goulburn, 200km (124.2 miles) southwest of Sydney.
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 said.
“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.”
The multicultural suburb of Fairfield in Sydney’s southwest remains a focal point of restrictions, with a new public health order aimed at shaking out unknown cases.
From July 14, people leaving or entering the Fairfield local government area for essential work will need to carry proof they’ve had a Covid-19 test in the past three days.
“Don’t go outside the Fairfield local government area, even if you consider your work is essential, rethink that,” state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
“But if it really is essential, you must have a test every three days.”
Those leaving Greater Sydney will need to carry evidence they’ve taken a test in the past seven days.
Hazzard 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.”
Under the restrictions, essential workers can take their children to school.
Schools trying to work out which parents were essential workers should look at what New South Wales did (the) last time it was in lockdown, Premier Berejiklian said.
“There are very vulnerable children, children in very special circumstances which (sic) require that attendance,” she said.
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Krishna Kakani)