When COVID-19 restrictions are eased in New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT, it is inevitable that case numbers will rise.
A rise in case numbers will mean that more small businesses will have to deal with being declared an exposure site and follow potentially onerous and confusing test, trace, isolation, and quarantine (TTIQ) requirements from their state government health authority.
COSBOA has prepared a framework that outlines a series of recommendations, variables, and unanswered questions that governments should consider in order to make the TTIQ process as painless as possible for small business owners and their staff, and to minimise its economic and social impacts.
The framework is divided into:
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- a Preparation Plan (how can small businesses mitigate the risks and impacts of exposure? What can government give small businesses to help them prepare? What should be included in a revised 2021 COVID Plan?);
- a Notification Plan (how and when should businesses be notified by the Government that they are an exposure site? Who is responsible for notifying contractors and other third-parties?);
- a Response to Exposure Plan (what needs to be considered when applying TTIQ rules to small businesses? What support will be available for small businesses required to close?);
- and a Reopening Plan (what needs to be considered when businesses reopen after being an exposure site?).
Getting notified that there was a positive COVID case in your business is never an easy situation to deal with. Following the test, trace, isolation, and quarantine system requirements can have a lot of economic and social consequences for a small business, from being forced to close to the public, to paying for deep cleaning, to having a large percentage of your staff members unable to work for 14 days.
If too many small businesses and their staff are under isolation and quarantine orders, it affects the entire supply chain, as we have seen throughout this protracted period of lockdowns on the eastern seaboard.
This is why COSBOA is urging governments not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to TTIQ. We need to consider all of the variables and have tiered responses that consider both the contagion risk of the exposure event and the economic and social impacts of forcing the business to close and its employees to isolate.
The UK ended up modifying the TTIQ requirements so that vaccinated employees are now only required to isolate until they receive a negative test result rather than isolate for a full 14 days. COSBOA believes that we should learn from the UK and take that approach from the get-go.
We also need to consider how to best help small businesses mitigate the risk of transmission, such as providing them resources and information on infection control.
As we will be relying on vaccination as one of the key ways to mitigate risk from COVID-19, COSBOA would also like governments to respond to small businesses’ questions and concerns about monitoring the vaccination status of customers and staff.
We urge all state governments to plan ahead and in a nationally consistent way.
We’re not just targeting the states currently in lockdown here.
All state governments need to prepare their TTIQ systems and how they’re going to apply them to small business owners. They need to communicate with each other, learn from each other, and be as nationally consistent as possible to avoid disrupting the supply chain. That includes places like Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.
To read COSBOA’s framework, click here.
This is an edited version of an article that was first published on the COSBOA website.