Tas holds back on some worker exemptions

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  • Peter Gutwein
    Australian politician, 46th Premier of Tasmania

Tasmania is adopting a more staged approach to easing coronavirus isolation requirements for essential workers than the directive outlined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

National cabinet on Thursday agreed to relax rules for more industries to deal with supply shortages, particularly at supermarkets.

Under the expanded rules, eligible employees will be allowed to return to work after being deemed a close contact, provided they receive a negative result from a rapid antigen test.

"Some states are choosing to categorise a very large number of sectors in this approach," Liberal Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters.

"We recognise ... the need to take a glide-path approach that will allow us to step through this in a safer and more responsible way."

Tasmania is towing the national cabinet line in allowing exemptions for workers in areas including emergency services, power, and freight and logistics relating to supplies of essential goods.

"Workers in these categories ... will be allowed to continue to work if identified as close contacts, as long as they have no symptoms and produce a negative RAT," Mr Gutwein said.

The island state is not following the national cabinet position in applying the rule to teachers, childcare staff and other industries including media.

Mr Gutwein said businesses would need to apply for exemptions and prove absenteeism is having a "critical impact" on services.

Tasmania recorded 1100 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the state's lowest daily figure since January 6.

With 1895 people released from isolation in the past day, the state's recorded active cases fell from 8764 to 7969.

Ten people are in hospital receiving treatment specifically for COVID-19, while another 13 people with the virus are in hospital for unrelated medical conditions.

"What we are experiencing now is not living with COVID, what we are experiencing now is transitioning to live with COVID," Mr Gutwein said.

"Things will get better and they will become much more normal.

"We will get to a point where we are no longer responding to a pandemic and we will deal with the virus in the same way we deal with the flu or other common respiratory diseases."

The state government is changing the way RATs are distributed to symptomatic close contacts.

From Friday, people will have to register with public health to collect a rapid test from distribution centres rather than simply turn up. Tests will be couriered to homes in remote areas.

Mr Gutwein was adamant the start of the school year on February 9 would not be pushed back.

Tasmania's education department has said more than 8000 windows will be repaired at schools across the state ahead of term one to improve ventilation.

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