COVID-19 Need to know
The current coronavirus pandemic is an evolving situation – this page will be updated regularly as new information comes to light.
If you have questions that are not covered here please contact the APAL office on 03 9329 3511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Last updated: 6/5/2020
What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus was unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Click here for APAL’s grower’s checklist.
Click here for the National Farmer’s Federation (NFF) COVID-19 guide.
It is highly recommended any employer looking for advice reads use these two resources to inform decision making during this time.
Click here for the World Health Organisation’s summary of COVID-19. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19
Click here for APAL’s Growers checklist for COVID-19.
Click here for a visual representation of social distancing and transport options for workers.
While preventing the spread of coronavirus is everyone’s responsibility, as key members of the food supply chain our industry has a critical role to play in preventing the transmission of the virus as much as possible. It is critical to treat basic hygiene practices such as physical distancing, handwashing, coughing into elbows and cleaning with the utmost importance.
Queensland Government introduces Health Management Plan
All Queensland employers using seasonal workers are now, as of Tuesday May 5, required to register a Health Management Plan, new standards for the state’s agriculture sector, designed to keep the spread of Coronavirus in check.
You can download a template of the plan here. The template includes a checklist that may be used in conjunction with the Health Plan Template as a self-assessment checklist to identify ways to reduce transmission of COVID1-19 within a workplace and assist business continuity.
You can also find FAQs regarding the plan here.
- Handwashing is essential after coughing, sneezing, eating, toilet use, before handling fresh produce and after smoking. The preferred method is wash hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, or alternatively use hand sanitiser
- Maintaining a social distance of at least 1.5 metres, sneeze and cough into elbows rather than hands.
- It is critical to communicate to staff the need for high levels of personal hygiene on and off the farm.
- If you or a member of your family becomes ill, quarantine yourself for 14 days
Click here for the Australian Government’s COVID-19 information page
Click here for a printable poster summarizing basic prevention strategies
Click here for a detailed, step by step how to wash your hands properly poster
What to do as an employer
- Posting the materials and resource which the Federal government is distributing: find them here
- Provide individual pickers with their own equipment including designated picking trolleys or packing benches
- Implement set teams of workers and keep them apart at all times including breaks, transportation and living environments. If possible, provide separate toilet facilities or set times for using facilities followed by disinfection.
- Cancelling face to face meetings and implementing a ‘no visitor’ policy is necessary. If it is possible, base accommodation and housing around teams so that if an infected case is identified it is easier to isolate the impacts
A member of my workforce may have COVID-19. What do I do?
- If medical attention is required, assist the worker in accessing it, and remind them of the need to self-isolate until a test result is received.
As much as we all have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19, we also have a responsibility to be transparent with infections to prevent further infections.
If a member of your workforce displays symptoms of COVID-19, the following steps must be taken:
- Identify the source and quarantine all (whole team) that have been near the source for 14 days
- Immediately disinfect all equipment that the entire team was using including any shared facilities such as lunchrooms & toilets
- Obtain as many details about the original source person as possible to provide to health authorities with traceability including housing arrangements, travel, shopping, networks and Church
- Inform APAL via email@example.com and the employee’s labour hire company (if applicable)
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through food handling?
Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has said that transmission through food is unlikely and so far there is no evidence that people have become infected via food or drink.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a statement saying that food is not a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.
Obligations as a workplace
It is important for all businesses to review current and possible risks within the workplace, putting in place contingency plansand addressing them via a policy. This protects you and your workers.
Click here for the Fair Work Ombudsman’s information about your potential legal obligations as an employer.
Will COVID-19 impact the availability of seasonal workers?
Government and industry are watching this closely. The National Harvest Labour Information Service (NHLIS) has advised that sufficient seasonal workers are currently available and growers should be alert and not alarmed.
For information on workplace entitlements, obligations, health and safety laws and more, please visit the Fair Work Ombudsman’s information page.
The fresh produce industry is considered an essential service, and therefore workers travelling between states for the purpose of transporting fruit is exempt from travel restrictions.
The Queensland Government announced has recently tightened restrictions into the state – even fresh produce transporters will require a pass. Click here to apply for an entry pass.
I’m a small business that has been negatively impacted by the virus. What can I do?
Fruit Growers Victoria (FGV) has put together a very comprehensive COVID-19 Business Support Packages bulletin (information current as of 27 March 2020).
The Government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses, that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000 aimed at Boosting Cash Flow for Business– details here.
The Federal Government has announced a second stimulus package to assist your business to pause and restart once the crisis has passed – click here for more information
The Government has also announced stage three of its $130 billion stimulus package, with the JobKeeper payment central to this plan.
Businesses with an annual turnover under $1bn, that have had their turnover impacted by 30 per cent or more from the coronavirus pandemic, will be able to access a subsidy from the Government to continue paying their employees. Affected employers will be paid a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per registered eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum period of six months. Employers must ensure eligible employees receive at least $1,500 per fortnight (before tax). More information on the package is available here.
The Federal Government is currently reviewing the regulatory settings which will help the economy as it enters the recovery phase of COVID-19. The advice they are seeking from industry falls broadly into three categories:
- regulations made to deal with the pandemic that should be revisited – either to retain as is, strengthen or wind back when the economy moves to a recovery phase;
- live regulatory issues that business are facing that remain unresolved; or,
- new regulatory policy settings that could speed up economic recovery
If any members have any feedback please contact Jeremy Griffith (APAL Head of Government Relations) for relaying on to the National Farmers Federation (NFF) Horticulture Council.
Who can I contact for more information?
There is a National Coronavirus Helpline – call 1800 020 080 for information. This hotline is available 24/7.
Links to information State by State