*This webpage is now outdated. New Zealand is under Omicron Phase 3. For Phase 3 information, click here.
B+LNZ will provide further updates and clarification to this webpage as required.
For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453.
In Phase 2, rapid antigen testing (RATs) will be used more widely and the isolation time for COVID-19 cases is now 10 days, and seven days for contacts of COVID-19 cases.
Under Phase 2 and the future Phase 3, there are several options for farmers and their workers.
1) Registering for the close contact exemption scheme
Workers in registered critical services, including food producers, can continue to work if they have been a close contact as long as:
- they are vaccinated and do not have symptoms
- they return a negative RAT test prior to each day/shift that they are at work during their isolation period – they should not go anywhere else other than to work
- they follow specific health protocols.
Farmers have told us the process to register is quick and easy.
Farmers/workers participating in the scheme will be able to collect free RAT kits from a collection site. Businesses can self-assess to check if they meet the criteria for being critical.
This letter is for employers to give to workers who are close contacts, to help them access RAT kits.
B+LNZ, alongside other primary sector groups, is advocating for improvements to the accessibility of RATs in rural communities.
2) ‘Bubble of one’ guidelines
Under the ‘bubble of one’ guidelines, farmers/workers can continue to work alone but must be vaccinated, not have symptoms and must meet requirements for distancing from anyone else in the workplace. Businesses which intend to operate as a ‘bubble of one’ do not need to register.
Multiple ‘bubbles of one’ can also be operated within one business as long as all the requirements can be met. So for instance a farmer, contractor, fencer or mechanic could all operate as multiple ‘bubbles of one’ on the same farm property as long as they meet all necessary requirements.
‘Bubble of one’ requirements also include:
- using a medical mask at all times and complying with infection prevention and control protocols
- working in an indoor or outdoor space with no others present in that space
- travelling solo to, from and around work or between jobs and not using public transport
- eating alone in a well-ventilated space
- using a dedicated bathroom. If this is not possible others should not be present in the bathroom while the worker is using it
- if symptoms develop, follow advice for symptomatic close contacts on the Ministry of Health website
- at home the worker must self-isolate under the standard requirements for close contacts.
For further details, please visit: www.business.govt.nz/covid-19/close-contact-exemption-scheme/
Other measures to protect the supply chain
As with other phases or settings in the COVID-19 response, it remains essential that farmers focus on keeping our supply chain as free of Omicron as possible.
It would be very easy for an asymptomatic farmer to unknowingly pass the virus on to a truck driver or stock agent, who could then unknowingly pass it on to others in saleyards, processing plants and other locations – potentially leading to disruptions.
B+LNZ reminds farmers to:
- follow the guidance on our COVID-19 webpage, particularly on protocols and planning ahead – complete the On-Farm Checklist (PDF, 656 KB) and have a plan ready in case they or a staff member becomes infected or a close contact
- use the NZ COVID Tracer app – Omicron can be passed on before symptoms develop, so the app may be the only way you know you’ve been exposed and while being designated a close contact would be inconvenient, the new Phase 2 rules outlined above are aimed at keeping this manageable.
- B+LNZ's COVID-19 webpage
- MPI’s COVID-19 Protection Framework guidance for the primary sector
- Information if you test positive for COVID-19 (Unite against COVID-19 website)
- Financial support packages that farmers may be able to access (help for businesses to pay employees who’ve been advised to self-isolate and can’t work at home): Work and Income’s Leave Support Scheme and the Short-Term Absence Payment.