Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged companies not to impose rules requiring employees to return a negative rapid antigen test every day before going to work.
While the prime minister acknowledged people’s frustrations over the summer period over escalating Omicron cases and rapid testing shortages, he said daily tests for workers were only needed in essential sectors such as health, aged care and meat processing.
“There is no need for workers to be tested daily with rapid antigen tests, that is not the medical advice,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“Attempting to impose that would not only frustrate supplies, but put even more of a burden on our employers.”
As Covid-19 deaths continue to rise across the country during the Omicron outbreak, Mr Morrison said the variant should be respected but not feared.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) has said employers don’t need to have a daily rapid employee antigen test
The government is also considering taking a US approach and shortening the isolation period from seven days to five after a positive Covid-19 test result.
“All these things are always actively considered and have been for a while,” said Mr Morrison.
“The most recent information we have is that after five days there are still 30 percent (of cases) infectious, so that’s a calibrated decision to make.”
The National Cabinet will meet on Thursday, where a joint approach to safely reopen schools is on the agenda.
The prime minister said it is still uncertain whether all states and territories would agree to the same reopening approach.
Meanwhile, NSW will have students undergo rapid tests several times a week as part of its security measures.
“There is a very strong case with surveillance testing for teachers, just like we do with health professionals,” Mr Morrison said.
“Each state will make its own appeal to that… and if they do, the Commonwealth will support them in doing so, including arrangements for students.”
Occupational health spokesman Mark Butler said the government had failed to secure enough rapid antigen testing to guarantee access.
“The prime minister is now trying to rewrite history and pretend that the emergence of this new variant was something completely new,” he said.
“It was a job he had to do if we wanted to get to the next stage of the pandemic and it’s a job he failed.”
As shortages of rapid antigen testing persist across the country, 52 million kits will be flown from Asia and the US to Australia this month through a contingency cargo delivery program.
Tests are scarce, but another 52 million are flown to Australia from Asia and the United States (file image)
Health Minister Greg Hunt said rapid tests remain scarce worldwide.
“These kits – destined for supermarkets, pharmacies and medical services across the country – will help Australians juggle the demands of jobs and families with requirements to isolate and undergo rapid testing,” he said.
Several jurisdictions also moved on Wednesday to reduce the time before people could receive their third Covid-19 dose.
The interval between doses has been reduced to three months in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT.
Wednesday was another deadly day for Australia during the pandemic, with 67 fatalities.
Of these, 32 were in NSW, 18 in Victoria, 11 in Queensland and six in SA.
The country registered the deadliest day of the pandemic on Tuesday with 77 deaths.
More than 32,000 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in NSW on Wednesday, while Victoria and Queensland had 20,769 and 19,932 cases, respectively.
South Australia had 3,482 cases, Tasmania recorded 1,185 new infections and the ACT had 1,467.