31 March - Coronavirus Q&A

8 days ago

The below Transport Q&As have been prepared in line with advice that has been released by the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer.


1. What can I do to protect myself and others?

The most important action we can take right now as leaders and as a community is to help contain the spread of infection. According to the health experts, including our own Dr Armand Casolin, the simplest, most effective step is to actively promote and practise good hygiene by:

  • washing hands thoroughly with soap and water – for at least 20 seconds,
  • using alcohol based hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available
  • cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

2. I have been in close contact with a confirmed case of Coronavirus but am not showing symptoms. Can I attend for work?

A close contact is defined as:

  • requiring greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting, or
  • in the same closed space for at least two hours with a person that was infectious.

People who have been in close contact with any confirmed Coronavirus case must remain isolated at home for 14 days following exposure. You should discuss with your manager about working from home if you are not showing any symptoms. If you cannot perform work from home, Special Leave will be granted for a period of up to 20 days.

Please note, NSW Health will contact individuals who are identified as having close contact with a confirmed case. You should not be making this decision yourself.

3. I am aware that my team member has not complied with requirements to be absent from the workplace due to illness or for the purposes of self-isolation and attends work.

Leaders must direct employees who are obviously unwell or those required to self-isolate to go home and seek appropriate medical advice.

4. What is social distancing and when do I need to practice social distancing?

Social distancing means we reduce the number of close physical and social contacts we have with one another to prevent the spread of the virus.

While practising social distancing, people can travel to work (including on public transport). For non-essential activities outside the workplace or attendance at schools, universities and childcare social distancing can include:

  • avoiding crowds and mass gatherings where it is difficult to keep the appropriate distance away from others
  • avoiding small gatherings in enclosed spaces, for example family celebrations
  • attempting to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and other people where possible, for example when out and about in public place
  • avoiding shaking hands, hugging, or kissing other people
  • avoiding visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment

5. Do I need to wear a face mask?

Face masks are not recommended for the general public unless you are unwell and masks should be saved for people to use when they are sick. Information about the use of masks is located on the NSW Health website.


6. Can I work from home?

Based on advice from the NSW Government we are transitioning into working from home arrangements for those in roles where this is possible. This transition is not a directive, but an option to help us provide essential services to NSW. You can read more about working from home here. Your leader will take an active role in driving this planning.

If you are working from home whilst also providing care to a family member, it is expected that you can balance caring responsibilities with your ability to undertake productive work. Other leave provisions can apply if you are required to undertake caring responsibilities.


7. What is the defintion of 'at risk' people?

The government now defines a person ‘at risk’ as someone who meets one of the following conditions:

  • a chronic medical condition, such as severe lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease, neurological conditions and diabetes
  • an impaired immune system (such as people who have cancer or HIV, or who take high dose corticosteroids)
  • aged 70 or above
  • over 60 years of age if they have existing health conditions or comorbidities, or
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged over 50 with pre-existing health conditions.

8. What are the working arrangements to protect ‘at risk’ people?

Employees who are considered at a higher risk of infection will be transitioned to working from home arrangements, where this is possible in their role. Your leader will take an active role in planning this transition. We strongly encourage you to consider the option to stay at home now and we will support you to do so.

If it is not possible to work from home, and no alternate duties are available for you, you will be able to access paid special leave.

You should provide evidentiary documentation within a reasonable timeframe (i.e. within 7 days). Options for evidentiary requirements to support a request for special leave due to chronic medical condition may include:

  • Medical certificate (either hard copy or emailed from the doctor)
  • Evidence of a phone consultation with your doctor
  • Note and/or certificate from a pharmacist
  • Other medical record or report that details the condition


9. I have returned from overseas travel and am not showing symptoms, what should I do?

From 16 March onwards, if you have returned to Australia from overseas from any country, you must self-isolate for 14 days from the day you arrive back in Australia as a precaution and monitor yourself for symptoms.

As of 11:59pm on Saturday 28 March, all travellers arriving in Australia will be required to undertake their mandatory 14 day self-isolation at designated facilities (for example, a hotel). Special leave (up to 20 days) will be granted for these purposes. Further details can be found on NSW Health website.

10. What arrangements apply for international and domestic travel required for my role?

The Australian Government has advised that from midday on 25 March, all Australians are restricted from travelling overseas. In addition, Tasmania, Northern Terrorities, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia have announced border closures. See specific State and Terrority government websites for further information.

The NSW Treasury Managed Fund (TMF) can assist with obtaining a credit or refund to our budgets where flights have been cancelled.


11. I have returned from overseas travel and I am now showing symptoms, what should I do?

You should not attend work and should seek medical advice. Refer to the health advice which is located on the NSW Health website or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222. You should apply for sick leave to cover your absence.

12. I came into contact with an individual who was ill and I am concerned they may have had Coronavirus, what should I do?

Coronavirus is not currently circulating widely in the community in NSW so where contact occurs with an individual who is unwell, they are unlikely to have a confirmed case of Coronavirus.

If you discover the close contact occurred with an individual who was subsequently confirmed as having Coronavirus please refer to question 2 above.


13. I cannot go to work because I am caring for a child who is unable to attend school because of school closures, what should I do?

You should discuss this with your leader. Some employees may be able to work from home but if this is not possible up to 20 days paid special leave will be provided. If the period of care exceeds 20 days you should apply for leave using your existing leave entitlements. We are also working on some tools to support employees who are now working from home, especially if they are also now home schooling children.

14. What if I can’t work from home, my child’s school is open but I don’t want to send them to school?

You are not entitled to special leave if your child’s school is open and you choose not to send your child to school. Under these circumstance, you are able to utilise other accrued leave entitlement at the discretion of your manager.

15. I cannot go to work because I am caring for a sick family member, what should I do?

You should discuss this with your manager. Some employees may be able to work from home where you can balance caring responsibilities with your ability to undertake productive work. If this is not possible, 20 days paid special leave will be provided, as per the Department of Premier and Cabinet Circular. If the period of care exceeds 20 days you should apply for leave using your existing leave entitlements.

16. What if I feel unsafe and don’t want to come back to work, but cannot work from home?

We understand these are very uncertain times that can cause fear and anxiety. Employees who feel like this are able to utilise accrued leave entitlements to enable them to stay at home.


17. What support is available to aid wellbeing at this challenging time?

During this time it’s important you look after yourselves and check in on your colleagues. There is a range of support and tools available – see what options are available to you.


18. What more is Transport doing?

We’re working closely with NSW Health and other government agencies, as well as external operators state-wide to ensure the safety of our customers and help prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

We have set up a dedicated Coronavirus Taskforce working across the Transport cluster to respond to the situation.

Some of the action we've taken to date includes:

  • We've increased cleaning across trains, buses, ferries, light rail and the metro, particularly in high-traffic areas including Central, Town Hall and Wynyard.
  • Public health messaging is now live at stations and across our network to continue to encourage people to wash their hands, cover their nose when sneezing and avoid touching their face. And as usual, we are encouraging customers not to travel if they feel ill.
  • We’re also asking our customers to plan ahead and travel outside peak hour where possible to reduce the possibility of person-to-person virus transmission.
  • We’ve introduced social distancing measures where possible – for example on buses, a clear 1.5m clear area to protect bus drivers, and on trains limiting the number of crew members in the cab to 1+1.
  • To help protect the health of drivers, tickets are no longer sold on board buses across the Opal network. For services that don’t offer contactless payment, we are advising all frontline staff to wash their hands with soap and water and use hand sanitiser to limit the spread of viruses.
  • Our staff are now checking Opal card payments without handling cards.
  • We’ve activated automated pedestrian crossings at traffic signals within the Sydney CBD 24 hours a day to help limit the spread of coronavirus. It means you do not have to push the button at signalised crossings to safely cross the road in this area.
  • To ensure the safety of our customers and staff travelling on our network across long distances, NSW TrainLink regional rail and coach customers are now booked in a way to maximise social-distancing where possible.
  • We are continuing to work with the freight industry to ensure movement of essential goods across roads, ports and rail.