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Quarantine workers testing

The NT Chief Health Officer has introduced new Directions outlining testing regimes for quarantine workers to increase our defence against COVID-19 in the Northern Territory and across Australia.

The CHO Directions for Quarantine Workers (No. 62021) is in line with a new national approach.

The protection of quarantine workers is essential in decreasing the risk of transmission to the community.

Quarantine workers must comply with the testing regime approved by the CHO.

A quarantine worker is defined as a person whose employment involves having contact with a person who must quarantine. This includes (but is not limited to) a person who:

  • Works at a quarantine facility or other approved place of quarantine, such as on a farm where people are quarantining.
  • Works at commercial visitor accommodation used for quarantine.
  • Transports a person who must quarantine to or from their place of quarantine.
  • Screens or processes a person who must quarantine at an airport or border of the Territory.
  • Undertakes physical compliance checks of a person in quarantine.

A quarantine worker’s employer is required to ensure:

  • Workers understand their obligations under the CHO Directions for Quarantine Workers (No. 6/2021), and advise of the testing regime appropriate to their work.
  • Any worker who has not been tested according to their testing regime, does not go to work.
  • Accurate record keeping of worker’s testing regime as evidence of the organisation’s compliance.

The quarantine worker is required to:

  • Understand their obligations under the CHO Directions for Quarantine Workers (No. 6/2021), and comply with the testing regime appropriate to their work.
  • Maintain an accurate record of their testing regime as evidence of compliance.
  • Report a positive COVID-19 test result to their employer and follow the directions of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

The testing regime for quarantine workers varies according to the level of contact with the person in quarantine and the nature of work undertaken in the quarantine facility.

There are three testing regimes quarantine workers may undertake.

  • Regime 1: Daily testing on every work day
  • Regime 2: Testing three times in a replication cycle (14 days)
  • Regime 3: Every seven days, or the next working day

A swab for the test will be collected by a quarantine worker or a health professional.  The most common specimen collection method is a deep nasal and throat swab. Testing may also be performed on a sputum or saliva sample/swab.

If a quarantine worker fails to comply with the COVID-19 testing regime, they will be directed into mandatory, supervised quarantine and will remain in quarantine for 14 days from the time of non-compliance.

If a quarantine worker develops COVID-19 symptoms they must seek medical advice, get an immediate test and self-isolate until a negative result is received.

The testing regime for quarantine workers varies depends on the risk and level of contact a worker might have with a person in quarantine and the nature of the work undertaken in the quarantine facility.

There are three testing regimes quarantine workers may undertake.

Type of test: PCR test (deep nasal and throat swab or sputum/saliva swab).

Regime 1 – tested every work day

Workers whose employment involves daily/regular contact with a person required to quarantine (under any CHO Direction) or their immediate environment. This includes part time workers who work regularly. For example it may include clinical staff, cleaning staff and security staff working at a quarantine facility.

Class of worker

  • Authorised Officers working full time conducting compliance checks and involved in quarantine arrangements.
  • Workers screening travellers from international destinations on a regular basis.
  • Airport workers handling baggage or otherwise involved in processing travellers from international destinations.
  • Clinician (i.e. nurses, doctors, welfare staff) working full time in a quarantine facility.
  • Clinician working in other quarantine arrangements i.e. Australian Defence Force, Golden Glow.
  • Security Officers working in quarantine facilities i.e. Police, ADF, private contractors.
  • Support services in quarantine facilities i.e. hotel staff, cleaners, reception, catering /room service, maintenance
  • Visiting Clinician having daily contact with quarantine facility.
  • Welfare staff working in NT airports and quarantine facilities.

Regime requirements

Workers are required to undertake a PCR test every day they are at work.
This can be at the facility, a testing clinic or self-swabbing.
This is either a throat/deep nasal swab OR a saliva test (if the worker is asymptomatic).
If a person’s employment ceases or they are on leave for 7 days or more they are required to complete regime 2 (intermittent testing on day 3, day 7 and day 12) for one cycle (14 days) from their last day of work.

Regime 2 – intermittent test cycle

Workers are required to undertake a PCR test on day 3, day 7 and day 12 after the last date they had contact or provided the service.

Workers whose work means they have irregular contact with people in quarantine or enter a quarantine facility to provide occasional services.

For example a bus driver that transports international passengers to quarantine, a COVID taxi driver that transports a person in their 14 days of quarantine or a casual worker that may do a shift once every two weeks.

Class of worker

  • Ambulance entering quarantine facility.
  • Australian Border Force staff.
  • Authorised Officers who normally screen domestic flights, and screen persons from a single international flight. Note: Authorised Officers who normally screen domestic flights, and screen persons from a single international flight need to follow regime 2 for one cycle then resume regime 3.
  • Clinician working occasionally (casually) in a quarantine facility.
  • Any worker employed in a quarantine facility who is on leave for more than 7 days.
  • Official Visitor to quarantine facility i.e. audit team, politician, health official.
  • Visiting Clinician 1-2 visits i.e. Medical Specialist.
  • Workers transporting people to quarantine arrangements or from a quarantine arrangement within their 14 day quarantine period i.e. Bus drivers, COVID taxi drivers.

Regime requirements

Workers are required to undertake a PCR test on day 3, day 7 and day 12 after the last date they had contact or provided the service.

If that person is still employed in quarantine work they can have their swab on the work day closest to their swab day.

For example they may be swabbed on day 4, day 9 and day 14 if they are working on those days. A throat/deep nasal swab is the preferred method for these workers.

Regime 3 – every 7 days

Class of worker

  • Airport staff not in direct contact with a person requiring quarantine i.e. cleaners, managers, administration staff, Airport ground crew.
  • Authorised Officers screening travellers from domestic destinations at airports and NT borders. Note: One cycle of Regime 2 is required if Authorised Officer processes passengers from an international destination.
  • Authorised Officers working part time conducting compliance checks i.e. Police who have other duties.
  • Security working at NT airports.
  • Workers providing services to quarantine facilities that do not require direct contact with staff or guests i.e. deliveries – mail, office supplies, waste management (collection).

Regime requirements

Workers whose employment involves indirect contact with a person required to quarantine under any CHO Direction, or their immediate environment. For example compliance officers and drivers who regularly deliver goods to a quarantine facility.

Workers are required to undertake a swab for a PCR test every 7 days or their next work day.

For example if they are on a day off on day 7 and working on day 8 they can have their swab on day 8. A throat/deep nasal swab is the preferred method for these workers.

Note: Authorised Officers, who normally screen domestic flights, and screen persons from a single international flight, are required to complete one cycle of regime 2 testing and then continue on regime 3.

Frequently Asked Questions