Updated 24 Feb 2022

Phase 2 means critical businesses and organisations can keep their critical workers working if they become a close contact of someone with COVID-19, by using the Close Contact Exemption Scheme(external link) (CCES).

The Scheme will allow vaccinated asymptomatic critical workers who are close contacts to be able to go to work and help businesses keep operating if they get high numbers of absenteeism. (The Scheme will only clear workers to go to work and return back to their place of isolation – not to go anywhere else like the supermarket, petrol station, or a relative/friend’s place.)

Under the Scheme, critical workers will be able to report self-administered RATs in My Covid Record(external link) and can return to work with a negative test result.

As this is a new scheme, there have been some minor issues to be resolved as it has rolled out on day one – most of these are now clarified in the updated Ministry of Health (MoH) Guidance [PDF 3.2 MB].

Close Contacts

The Scheme is available for use by workers who have been identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19. To access the Scheme, a worker will need to have confirmation of their Close Contact status as evidence. This will either be by an alert on the NZ COVID Tracer app or by a text message (if a worker does not have their own phone, they can have the text message sent to a family member/friend/colleague’s phone).

As positive case numbers increase during this Omicron outbreak, MoH contact tracing efforts will be targeted towards high-risk exposures. Confirmed cases will have a responsibility to inform their employer and other contacts.

In most instances, workplaces will be able to undertake their own contact tracing activities if a case was there during their infectious period. There may be situations in which contact tracing is expected to be entirely managed by the case and their employer, and public health authorities may not be in touch.

Page 5 of the updated Guidance [PDF 3.2 MB] shows how workers can self-identify as a Close Contact and receive the text message required to access the Scheme.

The MoH website has a definition that workers and businesses can use to self-identify as Close Contacts:

Household Close Contacts

All household members who live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (a case) are household Close Contacts.

All other close contacts

You are considered a close contact if you have:

  • Been close (within 1.5 metres) to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes and they were not wearing a mask or was not wearing it properly,

OR

  • Had direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva from the person with COVID-19 (eg, kissing, shared a cigarette, vape or drink bottle, or if the person coughed or sneezed directly on you)

OR

  • Spent time in an indoor space for more than 1 hour with the person with COVID-19 AND at least one of the following:
    • the person with COVID-19 was singing, shouting, smoking, vaping, exercising, or dancing
    • the person with COVID-19 was not wearing a mask or wasn’t wearing it properly
    • the indoor space was poorly ventilated (i.e., there were no windows or doors open)
    • the indoor space was smaller than 100m2 (about three double garages)

A reminder for businesses is to consider their HSWA obligations when deciding to use this Scheme to return close contacts to the workplace. There is a possibility that a worker may receive a negative RAT test result when they are a positive case (and potentially infectious). While the Scheme does not distinguish between household and other close contacts, the general rule-of-thumb is that a household close contact will catch Omicron and become a positive case.

MoT recommends use of the CCES Scheme should be a last resort for businesses, and other options (such as working in a bubble of one) should be considered first. However, this remains a matter between the employer and employee.

Information about close contacts(external link)

Guidance for workplaces that have a case of COVID-19(external link)

Access to RATs

Pages 6-8 of the Guidance [PDF 3.2 MB] describe how workers can access RAT tests to use this Scheme, via one of three models – please read these pages for the full details.

Model One: Centralised distribution accessed through employer. Advice from the MoH is that model one is designed for organisations that are either at the frontline of managing the COVID-19 response and working with COVID-19 cases, or providers who are working with high density vulnerable populations. There is no application process to access this model.

Model Two: Decentralised distribution accessed through Collection Sites. This is the model most likely to be used by the transport sector.

This model requires workers to complete an online order form to generate an Order Number that is required at the collection site (a phone number is also available).

Here is the link(external link) to the rapid antigen test order form.

Model Three: Decentralised distribution accessed through employer. This model is available when there are 15 or more close contacts at a single worksite/location. Businesses can order RATs(external link) from their DHB (ordering information is below the RATs order button).

Businesses with their own supply of RATs can use them for the CCES.

Questions about the Scheme or other COVID-19 matters can be emailed to: COVIDsupport@transport.govt.nz