IT WAS very much a case of good news and very bad news in Thursday’s COVID-19 update by the Premier Daniel Andrews.
While gyms and pools can reopen in regional Victoria, with limits, the hammer came down hard on the construction sector, and it’s not just ‘outside’ builders who will be impacted.
Locally, one of the main construction companies and projects like to be setback is Richmond-based construction firm Kane Constructions Pty Ltd, working on the $100 million Wonthaggi Hospital project for Bass Coast Health.
But other firms, like the Wonthaggi-based TS Constructions will also be stymied if, as seems likely, specialist trades are not allowed to come out of Melbourne, where some of these service specialists are exclusively located.
“Like most builders, we’re just hitting the refresh button on the computer at the moment looking for some detail,” said co-director of TS Construction Tony O’Connell.
“We know everyone is supposed to have at least one COVID shot by next Thursday (September 23) but as for the rest of the arrangements, we’re still to find out the implications.”
While TS Constructions employs mostly local tradesmen, they do call in specialist trades from Melboure.
Presently they have major works on the Performing Arts Centre at Newhaven College and at Armitage House Aged Care in Wonthaggi, but they also rely on specialist supplies and trades at the Cape Eco Village.
“We have a firm come down there to install our roller doors, so what happens with product as well, we don’t know yet.”
At Bass Coast Health, CEO Jan Child said she had been in contact with officials from Kanes.
“We’re not worried about the vaccination requirement. The construction team has been very good with that.
“But as for how these changes will affect them, we’re yet to find out,” Ms Child said.
Mr Andrews said that while he welcomed changes in metro and regional areas that would allow people more freedoms, he said public health officials have become increasingly concerned about COVID-19 transmission and exposure in construction settings, with evidence that it is emerging as a ‘vector’ of the virus into regional areas.
Mr Andrews said the worrying outbreak in Ballarat started that way.
He said changes will be made to limit further spread in this industry, allowing people to keep working safely.
“In order to continue working, construction workers state-wide will need to show evidence to their employer that they have had a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 11:59pm Thursday, September 23,” Mr Andrews said.
Limited medical exemptions and proof-of-booking exceptions will apply, in line with previous requirements for residential aged care workers.
“In light of the cases seeding from Melbourne into regional Victoria, construction workers will now not be able to cross the metropolitan-regional boundary for work. Tea rooms will need to close, and food or drink will not be able to be consumed indoors at work.
“Worker shift bubbles must be in practice and all sites will require a COVIDSafe Marshal on site.”