Australia vaccinates ‘thousands’ of construction workers
By Leila Steed17 August 2021
Thousands of construction industry workers are believed to have received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, at a mass vaccination event in Sydney, Australia, which was expected to attract around 8,000 people.
Health staff and volunteers at two Sydney venues – the Sydney Olympic Park and the South Western Sydney Vaccination centre – delivered doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines as part of a ‘Super Sunday’ drive to immunise both students and construction sector personnel.
The New South Wales (NSW) Government, which recently announced that it would prioritise the distribution of vaccines to all eligible authorised workers for another week – providing they live in one of the Local Government Areas (LGAs) or suburbs of concern – is aiming to facilitate the opening up of construction sites across the Greater Sydney area.
Construction sites in places including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour have been unoccupied ever since a strict ‘stay at home’ order was issued nine weeks ago, following a sharp rise in the number of cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Last week the NSW Government announced that building sites in the region would reopen at 50% capacity with, “enhanced Covid safe measures”.
NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, said, “Construction has helped maintain our strong economy throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, but many of our projects and workers are located within the eight affected local government areas.
“For the industry to remain viable, we need to restart those projects and get construction workers where they are most needed. But we also need to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission to keep our communities safe, and these measures will help us achieve that balance.”
The enhanced safety requirements mean it is now mandatory for all persons on sites in LGAs to have had either both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine or one dose within the previous 21 days.
Individuals who have had one dose of a vaccine within the preceding 21 days, and who have also been tested for Covid within the preceding three days, may also be permitted to return to work.
The Australian Constructors Association (ACA), which has been in talks about the opening up of the industry with the country’s government, unions and other industry associations, welcomed the decision to open up work sites.
ACA’s CEO Jon Davies said, “The trust placed in the construction industry to operate in a Covid safe manner is a responsibility we are not taking lightly – with nothing left to chance. Already considered one of the strictest operating environments, construction sites are conducting rapid antigen testing to further add to the existing comprehensive Covid protocols.”
While the ACA is working with Australia’s Department of Health to make vaccinations available to construction sector workers on site, there are now fears that the return to work could be hampered by a new and sudden increase in Coronavirus cases.
Over the weekend the region saw 466 new infections and official figures released by the NSW Government revealed a further 478 new Covid infections, the highest daily number recorded for the region.
The rising number of infections recorded over the past several days has also led the Australian authorities to introduce tougher penalties of up to AUS$5,000 for breaching Covid restrictions and to deploy 500 additional Australian Defence Force personnel to enforce lockdown rules.