The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Kealy calls for rapid testing

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ember for Lowan Emma Kealy has called on Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley to open the door for rapid COVID-19 testing of workers who fail to be vaccinated by a mandated deadline.

Ms Kealy said rapid testing represente­d a way to fill essential jobs that a vaccinated workforce was unable to meet in her electorate.

She said in industries where there were no alternativ­e workers available, and particular­ly in areas in Lowan where there are no localised cases of COVID-19 and high rates of vaccinatio­n, the government had to consider alternativ­es to mandatory vaccinatio­n.

Ms Kealy raised the issue as an adjournmen­t matter in State Parliament yesterday, saying it was particular­ly relevant to community services such as childcare and education as well as business.

“I ask the minister to permit rapid testing for workers who are not vaccinated to ensure the ‘unintended consequenc­es’ of a reduced workforce does not inadverten­tly yet significan­tly cut access to essential services and businesses in our wider community,” she said.

Ms Kealy said rapid testing was essential because a replacemen­t workforce was unavailabl­e to replace unvaccinat­ed staff unable to attend work.

“In these businesses and community services, because there isn’t an abundance of workers available, we simply can’t backfill those roles in the short term,” she said.

“There is already a critical shortage of childcare workers, teachers and trained workers in key roles across Lowan – our employment issue isn’t a matter of unemployme­nt, but around filling vacant jobs.

“In my electorate, I have been contacted by parents in Horsham and Hamilton who have been told that childcare will not be available from the mandated vaccinatio­n date – simply because some workers will not be vaccinated by the deadline and these roles cannot be filled.

“We’re also weeks away from harvest, yet unvaccinat­ed workers will not be able to perform essential support.

“Given the majority of this work involves no contact with other people, sitting in a truck or header by yourself, and due to the chronic lack of farmhands and harvest workers, this could be devastatin­g for our agricultur­al sector.”

Ms Kealy encouraged people to get vaccinated, or make an appointmen­t to speak to their health profession­al to discuss vaccinatio­n.

“While I can see that mandating vaccinatio­n will push up lagging vaccinatio­n rates in areas of Melbourne, our region has done an exceptiona­l job of getting vaccinated,” she said.

“It is clear that mandating vaccinatio­n is having unintended consequenc­es for our services and businesses by reducing the available workforce. An inability to fill these vacancies in the immediate future will result in a significan­t impact on the wider community where there simply isn’t a fully trained workforce waiting in the wings for a job.”

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