The NSW and Victorian Governments have announced close contacts of Covid-19 will no longer have to isolate for seven days.

The removal of the requirements was welcomed by both the National Retail Association (NRA) and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), stating it will provide relief to businesses burdened by staff shortages.

Paul Zahra, CEO of the ARA, said the isolation rules are well past their use by date given Australia is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.

“Staff shortages due to Covid isolations have been an enormous frustration for small businesses in particular, with 48 per cent of ARA members saying the situation had gotten worse in the past month. Some have had to alter their trading hours, or close some locations altogether, because they haven’t been able get people to fill shifts at the last minute.”

In NSW, those deemed a close contact must perform a daily RAT, wear a face mask while indoors, and are being urged to work from home where possible.

In Victoria, close contacts must produce at least five negative RAT results over the seven days, wear a mask while indoors, and avoid sensitive settings.

Dominique Lamb, CEO of the NRA, said the isolation rules had been devastating for the retail and hospitality workforce as employees are forced into isolation regardless of a negative test result.

“Isolation rules have been critical in reducing the severity of infection rates, but as vaccination rates peak, close contacts who are vaccinated should be able to continue to work, or we will continually have large numbers of people out of the workforce.

“Small businesses are losing massive chunks of revenue as their employees are unable to work. This is causing our economy to fall behind other developed countries that are prospering from an active workforce.”

Lamb said over the past two years the industry has mitigated the risks as much as possible, often at times to the detriment of the retail and hospitality workforce.

“Other industries are exempt from close contact isolation rules to ensure essential services can continue. This needs to be extended to the rest of the workforce to allow people who cannot work from home to return to work following a negative test result.”

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