5 August - Coronavirus Q&A

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


LATEST ADVICE AND INFORMATION


CONFIRMED OR SUSPECTED CASES

What do I do if I, or one of my staff have been exposed to suspected case.

For reports of exposure to suspected cases, please complete the COVID-19 reporting form. You can find out more on information on the managing and reporting cases on stayinformed.com.au or call 133 877 for general enquiries.

What if I or one of my staff is a confirmed case?

For the reporting of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19), call 1800 091 966 (24 hours) immediately.

SELF-ISOLATION

I have received a message from a venue/location that I attended advising me to self-isolate due to potential contact with a confirmed case. What should I do?

Any direction to self-isolate will come from NSW Health or a health care professional. Please refer to the latest advice in the NSW Health alert to determine the appropriate action. If you are still unsure, speak to your manager or call 133 877. You may be required to provide evidence of a direction to self-isolate.

My work colleague attended one of the COVID-19 case locations during the times and dates specified by NSW Health and then attended the workplace before the announcement to self-isolate was issued. I worked with them during that time, do I need to self-isolate?

At this stage, only individuals who directly attended these venues during the times and dates specified are required to either self-isolate immediately or self-isolate if they develop symptoms, depending on the venue they visited. If you didn’t directly attend the venue you do not need to self-isolate. If you have had close contact with someone who is then confirmed as a COVID-19 case, NSW Health will contact you regarding the need to get tested and self-isolate. You should not be making this decision yourself. If you are concerned, speak to your manager or call 133 877.

My housemate or immediate family member is being tested for Coronavirus. Do I need to stay away from work and self-isolate?

If your household member has developed symptoms after attending one of the COVID-19 case locations during the times and dates specified by NSW Health and has gone to get tested, you should not attend the workplace until the results become available.

In other circumstances, household contacts of people being tested for Coronavirus do not need to be in isolation unless specifically directed by NSW Health or a health professional. Someone who is suspected to have Coronavirus should stay in a different room from other people or be separated as much as possible. They should wear a surgical mask when in the same room as another person and when seeking medical care, and use a separate bathroom, if available. Avoid sharing household items.

If your household member tests positive in either circumstance, NSW Health will contact you and other individuals who are identified as having close contact with them. You should not be making this decision yourself. NSW Health will provide advice in writing of your requirement to isolate and this will provide the evidence you need to access special leave or perform alternative duties at home where necessary. If you are concerned, speak to your manager or call 133 877.

Will I be advised if one of my work colleagues tests positive?

The health, safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers and community is a priority and we are taking all the necessary measures advised by NSW Health to help prevent the spread of the virus. If a work colleague develops symptoms and is confirmed as a COVID-19 case, NSW Health will determine close contacts, if any, and these people will be directed to self-isolate. If the staff member attended the workplace while infectious, there may also be additional safety measures taken, including sanitisation of the work location. The response would be specific to the circumstances of the situation and managed on a case by case basis.

Where can I find a list of identified COVID-19 case locations?

On the NSW Health website you can find a list of COVID-19 case locations. If you have visited any of these locations during the dates and times specified you should take the action specified by NSW Health. You must also inform your manager for reporting purposes.

INCIDENTS OF COUGHING AND SPITTING

What do if I’ve been coughed or spat on?

The $5,000 fine for incidents of spitting and coughing on essentials workers is there to protect our frontline people. If you are the victim of an incident please advise your manager so they can report it through our normal incident reporting process, as well as reporting it to the COVID-19 Taskforce team using this reporting form. We have produced this short guide to support those affected and managers.

BORDER INFORMATION

What if I already have a permit?

All permits to enter Victoria obtained prior to midnight on Tuesday 21 July have expired and people have to reapply for a new permit if they are required to cross the border. The tighter restrictions mean you must now carry a copy of your permit and produce it when directed by enforcement officers. You can reapply for a permit on the Service NSW Website.

What does this mean for NSW residents?

All NSW residents are strongly urged not to travel to Victoria. If you are a NSW resident returning from Victoria under a ‘NSW Resident Permit’ you are required to isolate for 14 days when you arrive in NSW. From 12.01am on Friday 7 August, NSW residents returning from Victoria, must go into 14 days' mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense. Unless they live within the NSW border regions, they will only be allowed to return to NSW through Sydney Airport.

What does this mean for border zone residents?

Border zone residents who live on the Victorian side of the border will only be permitted to enter NSW for limited activities such as to go to work or attend an education institution if they can’t work or learn from home, or to obtain medical care, supplies or health services. Border zone residents who live on the NSW side of the border must not travel outside of the border zone into Victoria other than for limited activities.

Who should self-isolate with regard to the border?

Any NSW resident that has entered NSW on a NSW Resident Permit must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in NSW; any NSW Border Zone Resident who travels beyond the border zone into Victoria will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when they return; and any critical service worker who is entering NSW on a critical service worker permit must self-isolate while not performing those critical services.

Do I need a pass to enter Queensland?

The Queensland Government has advised that all visitors to the state now require a Border Declaration Pass. If you plan to visit Queensland or must travel over the border for work, you can get a pass by visiting the Queensland Government website.

Every NSW registered vehicle crossing the border will be intercepted by Queensland Police. People who, in the past two weeks. have been in one of the local government areas declared a COVID-19 hotspot by the Queensland Government, will be denied entry. Passengers arriving at the Coolangatta Airport will be treated in the same way. You can find a listing of these hotspots on the Queensland Government website.

FACE MASKS FOR OUR PEOPLE

Who are we making masks available for?

NSW Health strongly recommends that face masks are worn by all customer-facing people and people using public transport. In keeping with this advice, we are making masks available for our customer-facing and other operational staff who wish to wear them. This includes our people working on our public transport services, at interchanges, at heavy vehicle weighing stations, school crossing supervisors, concierge services and our people in operational roles such as traffic emergency patrols, boating safety officers and maintenance staff who wish to wear a mask.

I'm an office-based worker, can I get a mask?

Physical distancing can be maintained in our office locations and we're continuing to make our workplaces COVIDSafe for those of our people who need to use them. New measures such as guidance for physical distancing, new hygiene measures and capacity guidance in busy areas such as collaboration hubs or kitchens are being rolled out across our workplaces. Masks are not required in addition to these measures in the office. But please remember, those who can, should continue to work from home and where people wish to wear their own mask they can.

Do customers need to wear a mask on our services?

NSW Health now strongly recommends that customers wear face masks while using the NSW public transport network but it’s not compulsory. In line with NSW Health advice, people should practise physical distancing, ensure good hand hygiene, and not use public transport if unwell. The use of a face mask does not replace the need for these important measures.

How do I get a mask for work?

If you are in a customer-facing or other frontline role, please talk to your manager about available masks. If you are a manager, you can go to MyTransport or complete the Critical Supplies Request Form.

Where can I find more information about masks?

Please read our FAQs for more information.

PROTECTION AND PREVENTION

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 stop 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
  • wear a face mask when you are in a high risk public environment, including on public transport, at the supermarket and in places of worship.

In addition, wherever possible, please observe physical distancing.

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

In line with NSW Health advice (as of 17 April 2020), a close contact is defined as requiring:

  • face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed or probable case, for greater than 15 minutes cumulative over the course of a week, in the period extending from 48 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed or probable case, or
  • sharing of a closed space with a confirmed or probable case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours) in the period extending from 48 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed or probable case.

People who have been in close contact with any confirmed Coronavirus case must remain isolated at home for 14 days following exposure, unless advised otherwise by NSW Health. 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. NSW Health will provide advice in writing of your requirement to isolate and this will provide the evdience you need to access special leave.

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.

What is physical distancing and when do I need to practice physical distancing?

Physical distancing means reducing the number of close physical and social contacts we have with one another.

Combiningphysical distancing with good personal hygiene slows the spread of a pandemic. This helps protect the most vulnerable members of the community and reduces the impact of the pandemic on essential, life-saving health services.

While practising physical distancing, people can leave to seek medical care, buy food and supplies, exercise or go to work or education (if you can’t do so from home).

For those activities outside the workplace or attendance at schools, universities and childcare - physical distancing includes:

  • only being in public spaces with members of your household or one other person (two-person rule);
  • not shaking hands, hugging or kissing as a greeting;
  • keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and other people, where possible;
  • avoiding visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged care facilities or hospitals, infants, or people with mpromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment;
  • using debit and credit cards instead of cash and make use of online and self-serve transactions (for example Opal cards on public transport); and
  • taking public transport in off-peak periods if you can.

For more information about physical distancing, see the advice from the NSW Government here.


WORK FROM HOME IF YOU CAN

Can I work from home?

Based on advice from the NSW Government we are strongly encouraging everyone who can to work from home. This is not a directive, but an option to help us provide essential services to NSW. You can read more about working from home here. Talk to your leader about how you can make this work.

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.


PEOPLE AT RISK

What is the definition of 'at risk' people?

During this uncertain time it is our priority to support our people. We know that this situation has the potential to create anxiety for employees with existing health conditions and concerns about their level of risk. Having discussions with your manager about your individual situation will enable us to support you in the best way possible.

A sensitive common sense approach should be adopted, including assessing the risk for employees with pre-existing severe medical conditions, who have significant concerns for their wellbeing. Irrespective of age, employees with an impaired immune system (such as people who have cancer or HIV, or who take high dose corticosteroids) should be considered at risk, and work from home, alternate duties or leave arrangements should be explored.

Additionally, the government definitions of those considered ‘at risk’ includes:

  • people aged 70 years and over
  • people aged 65 years and over with chronic medical conditions
  • people with a compromised immune system
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions

You can find more information on medical conditions here, which is in line with the Australian Government advice.

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

We remain fully supportive of all employees at this time and while the above advice is recommendent, affected staff can choose to remain in the workplace if they wish. If you choose this option, no evidentiary documentation is needed.

10. What are the arrangements for employees who care for vulnerable people?

Employees can access Special Leave if they are unable to work from home and are required to care for a member of their family who is at risk and cannot attend their usual caring or educational facility.


Employees should discuss their particular circumstances with their leader. Employees should provide evidence of the family members at risk status. This does not apply where an employee is providing support to at risk people, such as shopping for elderly parents.


11. What precautions should I take if I am living with a vulnerable person?

There are some sensible tips from NSW Health in their Home Isolation guidance that can also be applied when living with someone ‘at risk’ to help prevent the spread of the virus.


This includes practical advice on separating yourself from others in the house and practicing good hand hygiene, such as:

  • not sharing a room with people who are at risk of severe disease;
  • using a separate bathroom, if available;
  • avoiding shared or communal areas; and
  • washing hands before entering an area used by other people, after using the bathroom and after coughing or sneezing.


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.


TRAVEL

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 with travel documents accepted as evidence. Further details can be found on NSW Health website.

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.


CONCERNED OR FEELING UNWELL

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.

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.

17. What should I do if I feel unwell and live in one of the areas considered to be a hotspot for Coronavirus?

The NSW Government is increasing testing in areas where there is a small number of community transmission cases but the source hasn’t been identified. The advice is to get tested if you live, work or have been active in any of the areas considered a hotspot, and you are experiencing symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath. You can view the list of hotspots on the NSW Health website along with information on what to do if you are feeling unwell.

What’s the latest advice for pregnant women?

It is understandable that pregnant women may be feeling anxious or worried about their health and the health of their unborn baby during this time.

The Australian Government does not list pregnant women as an ‘at risk’ group for Coronavirus. The current medical advice is that there is no suggestion that pregnant women are more susceptible to Coronavirus, become more severely unwell or that it harms the foetus. If contracted, it is expected that most pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms. However, pregnant women are potentially at increased risk of complications from any respiratory disease due to the physiological changes that occur in pregnancy.

We need to be sensitive to their situation and the fact that they may be understandably anxious and support working from home options or reallocation to lower risk duties wherever possible.

With the return to school for face to face learning, what is the rate of testing for the virus in children?

The rate of testing in children is less than in adults but, nevertheless, still high with over 10,000 children tested in April, prior to the relaxation of testing criteria. Children are testing positive much less compared to adults.


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