Dear Business Owner
The COVID-19 vaccine is our best defence against the virus and the key to protecting our vulnerable populations, our workers and our health system from being overwhelmed.
As we work to implement the NT’s Roadmap toward COVID-Safe Freedoms, it is critical that we provide our community, our businesses and our industry with certainty as we start to open up.
Today, the Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced a new CHO Direction that makes the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for certain workers.
For those who the CHO Direction applies, in order to continue working in the same role, they must have:
· Their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 12 November 2021 · Two doses (fully vaccinated) by 24 December 2021.
The CHO Direction will apply to the following: 1. A worker who, during the course of work, is likely to come into contact with a vulnerable person 2. A worker who is at risk of infection by COVID-19 because the worker, during the course of their work, is likely to come into contact with a person or thing that poses a risk of infection 3. A worker whose workplaces poses a high risk of infection by COVID-19 4. A worker who performs work that is necessary for the operation of maintenance of essential infrastructure or essential logistics in the Territory.
A person is considered to be vulnerable to infection by COVID-19 if: 1. The person is under 12 years of age 2. The person cannot be vaccinated due to a contraindication to all approved COVID-19 vaccines 3. The person is an Aboriginal person 4. The person is at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 for medical reasons, such as being on immune suppressive therapy after an organ transplant or having chronic kidney, heart, liver or lung disease.
Importantly, the CHO Direction provides that from 25 December 2021, if a worker has not complied with the requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19, they must not attend their normal workplace.
Under the CHO Direction, the employer or workplace operator must keep a register of each worker’s vaccination status and record of the steps the employer has taken to verify the worker’s vaccinations status. The employer must also record that they have sighted evidence of vaccination (for example, the worker has provided and the employer has sighted the worker’s Australian Government issued COVID-19 vaccination certificate). These records will need to be provided to an authorised officer upon request.
There are options available to an employer or workplace operator to make alternative arrangements for a worker who is not vaccinated against COVID-19. This includes directing the worker to complete duties in another location or in a manner which complies with the CHO Direction. Once the worker has been vaccinated, they can return to their normal duties.
Not every person is able to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The CHO Direction includes an exemption in the event that a person cannot receive a vaccine due to a proven contraindication to all available COVID-19 vaccines.
The CHO Direction does not provide an exemption for someone who is able to get the vaccine, but chooses not to get the vaccine.
Under the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011, failing to comply with a CHO Direction is an offence and incurs penalties.
In the event a worker refuses to get the vaccine or refuses to disclose their vaccination status, that worker cannot enter the workplace, which may affect their employment. I encourage all business owners, employers and workplace operators to familiarise themselves with Work Health and Safety rules and regulations, and with the information and advice from FairWork Australia.
Implementing mandatory vaccination for certain workers is about providing our businesses and industries with protection and certainty. We cannot afford for people working in key industries to be struck down with COVID-19.
Vaccine appointments are available at NT Vaccination Centres, GP Clinics, Respiratory Clinics, Pharmacies and Aboriginal Health Clinics. You can book online or call the COVID-19 Hotline on 1800 490 484.
NT Health mobile vaccination teams also are available to provide information sessions on the COVID-19 vaccine for businesses and staff. They can also establish a pop-up vaccination clinic in the workplace to vaccinate eligible staff. For more information please contact the NT Health vaccination team at COVID.MobileVaccination@nt.gov.au
For more information and Frequently Asked Questions about the mandatory vaccine visit https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au
The Delta strain of COVID-19 is much more infectious and will make its way to the NT. Our businesses are open, our restaurants are open, our parks are open and we want to keep it that way.
I would like to thank all of you in our business community for the work you have done to protect the health of Territorians and keep the NT COVID safe.
Dr Hugh Heggie PSM
NT Chief Health Officer and Executive Director Public Health and Clinical Excellence Department of Health – Office of the Chief Health Officer
Northern Territory Government