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COVID-19 testing for quarantine facility workers

COVID-19 Testing for Quarantine Facility Workers Direction (No. 3)

Operational protocol for COVID-19 testing of quarantine facility workers v.3

What's changed from 11 January 2021

  • All quarantine facility workers must have a saliva test at each shift and a throat and deep nasal swab test every seven days.
  • The definition of a quarantine facility worker has changed to be anyone who provides a service or does work of any kind that requires them to be physically present at government arranged accommodation.

Overview

To protect the health of Queenslanders, if you are physically present at government arranged quarantine accommodation to provide services or do work of any kind, or you transport people between airports and quarantine accommodation by bus, you must be tested for COVID-19 in the following ways:

  • have a saliva collection test every shift
  • a throat and deep nasal swab test on a rolling 7 day testing cycle.

You must not go back to work at a quarantine facility until you have been tested. A worker who does not agree to be tested, may be fined if they knowingly continue to work while untested.

Queensland Health will roll out access to COVID-19 testing at each facility. You do not need to isolate while waiting for a test result.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms or an Emergency Officer tells you to isolate, you must:

  • get medical attention immediately
  • be tested for COVID-19
  • isolate until you receive a negative test result and have no symptoms.

You can get medical attention by calling:

  • your usual doctor, who will advise you of next steps
  • 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
  • Triple zero (000) in the case of an emergency.

Quarantine facility workers are any Queensland Government agency, Australian Defence Force or hotel operator employees, volunteers or contractors who perform quarantine services. Quarantine services include:

Quarantine service

Type of activities

Health services or personal care services

  • Any activity that requires you to be physically present at an identified facility.

Security services

  • Monitoring compliance of people quarantining under requirements.
  • Marshalling groups of quarantined people in common areas.
  • Accompanying people between different areas within a facility.
  • Face to face contact with people who are quarantining.
  • Any other activity that involves you being physically present at an identified facility.

Other– all front and back of house hotel services and cleaning services

Any service or function that requires you to be physically present at the identified facility including cleaning, laundry, maintenance, kitchen and food services, guest services, front of house, management or administration.

For example:

  • Cleaning a room where someone is quarantining.
  • Cleaning a room where someone has quarantined.
  • Handling rubbish or linen from a room where someone is quarantining.
  • Handling items that have someone who is quarantining has touched, such as luggage.
  • Providing reception check in and check-out services Any maintenance work such as repairing or maintaining lighting or air-conditioning.
  • Gardening or landscaping.
  • Preparing meals in the hotel kitchen.
  • Working as a hotel manager, finance or administration worker where the work is physically located at the identified facility.

Anyone who is present at an identified facility only to transport food or goods to or from the facility does not have to be tested.

For example, delivering:

  • food or alcohol for the hotel kitchen.
  • takeaway meals for guests where the meals are left outside.
  • clean linen to the hotel.

Passenger transport services

  • Coach or Bus drivers transporting quarantined persons, including internationally arriving crew and passengers, to or from government arranged accommodation.
  • Passenger transport services do not include private vehicles such as taxi, ride-share, limousine or town car services.

Anyone who works at government arranged accommodation who doesn’t fall into one of the above categories does not have to get tested. For example, a back of house administrative worker, cook or gardener who doesn't have contact with people who are quarantining. If you wish to get tested, the hotel operator or other entity that employs you should help with this.

When asked by an Emergency Officer, hotel operators must supply records of the following:

  • a weekly record of the names of quarantine facility workers who have provided quarantine services
  • informing workers that they must be tested for COVID-19 before they start duties
  • permitting access so hotel staff can be tested
  • notice given by quarantine facility workers when undertaking a test
  • support for all workers to get tested.

Testing of facility workers in quarantine environments will increase the safety of the staff, their families and the community.

Questions and answers

What are surveillance testing requirements?

Surveillance testing is regular COVID-19 testing required for some high-risk workplaces, such as people who provide services or do work of any kind that requires them to be physically present at government arranged accommodation. Anyone who transports international arriving crew or passengers to or from government arranged accommodation must also undergo surveillance testing.

Read more about surveillance testing obligations for:

According to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) there are benefits in testing asymptomatic people who work in environments that have a high risk of COVID-19 transmission. This includes people who provide quarantine services at government arranged accommodation and close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Large-scale testing of asymptomatic people in areas that are not high risk is not supported.

How often do I have to get tested?

You must be tested for COVID-19 with a throat and deep nasal swab and screened for COVID-19 with a saliva collection test within seven days of starting work at government arranged quarantine accommodation. If the hotel where you work becomes a government arranged quarantine hotel you must be tested within seven days of the premises becoming a government arranged quarantine accommodation provider.

You must continue to be tested for COVID-19. You must:

  • have a saliva collection test each shift you work either before, during or after the shift
  • be tested for COVID-19 with a throat and deep nasal swab on a rolling 7 day testing cycle.

You must continue this surveillance testing until you stop working at the premises or it no longer provides government arranged quarantine accommodation.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms or have been directed to isolate by an Emergency Officer, you must :

  • seek medical attention immediately
  • get tested for COVID-19
  • isolate until you receive a negative test result and have no symptoms.

You can get medical attention by calling:

  • your usual doctor, who will advise you of next steps
  • 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
  • Triple zero (000) in the case of an emergency

Do I have to wait to be tested if I develop symptoms?

No. If you experience symptoms, no matter how mild, between your regular tests you must get ested immediately and isolate. You cannot attend your workplace until you receive a negative result and no longer have symptoms.

Who has to be tested?

#quarantine-services

Quarantine facility workers are anyone who is a Queensland Government agency, Australian Defence Force or hotel operator employee, volunteer or contractor who provides a service or does work of any kind that requires them to be physically present at government arranged accommodation. Quarantine facility workers also include bus drivers or support workers that transport international arriving crew or passengers to or from government arranged quarantine accommodation.

Quarantine service

Type of activities

Health services or personal care services

  • Any activity that requires you to be physically present at an identified facility.

Security services

  • Monitoring compliance of people quarantining under requirements.
  • Marshalling groups of quarantined people in common areas.
  • Accompanying people between different areas within a facility.
  • Face to face contact with people who are quarantining.
  • Any other activity that involves you being physically present at an identified facility.

Other– all front and back of house hotel services and cleaning services

Any service or function that requires you to be physically present at the identified facility including cleaning, laundry, maintenance, kitchen and food services, guest services, front of house, management or administration.

For example:

  • Cleaning a room where someone is quarantining.
  • Cleaning a room where someone has quarantined.
  • Handling rubbish or linen from a room where someone is quarantining.
  • Handling items that have someone who is quarantining has touched, such as luggage.
  • Providing reception check in and check-out services Any maintenance work such as repairing or maintaining lighting or air-conditioning.
  • Gardening or landscaping.
  • Preparing meals in the hotel kitchen.
  • Working as a hotel manager, finance or administration worker where the work is physically located at the identified facility.

Anyone who is present at an identified facility only to transport food or goods to or from the facility does not have to be tested.

For example, delivering:

  • food or alcohol for the hotel kitchen.
  • takeaway meals for guests where the meals are left outside.
  • clean linen to the hotel.

Passenger transport services

  • Coach or Bus drivers transporting quarantined persons, including internationally arriving crew and passengers, to or from government arranged accommodation.
  • Passenger transport services do not include private vehicles such as taxi, ride-share, limousine or town car services.

Anyone who works at government arranged accommodation who doesn’t fall into one of the above categories does not have to get tested. For example, a back of house administrative worker, cook or gardener who doesn't have contact with people who are quarantining. If you wish to get tested, the hotel operator or other entity that employs you should help with this.

I’m not an employee of a government arranged quarantine accommodation, do I still have to get tested?

Anyone who provides a service or does work of any kind at government arranged quarantine accommodation must be tested even if you are employed by an external company. For example, if you are a cleaner who is a contractor to a hotel, you are still required to follow the quarantine testing rules.

Do I have to get tested every 7 days if I have not provided quarantine services in the last 14 days?

People providing quarantine services at government arranged quarantine accommodation do not have to get a throat and deep nasal COVID-19 test if they have not provided quarantine services in the last 14 days.

What is an identified facility?

An identified facility is any government arranged accommodation where people are completing quarantine. For example, a hotel where people arriving from overseas have been directed to quarantine, is an identified facility.

This does not include a home residence. For example, a farm where seasonal workers have been directed to quarantine or a home where someone has been directed to quarantine, is not an identified facility.

I thought you could only be tested if you had symptoms?

According to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) there are benefits in testing asymptomatic people who work in environments that have a high risk of COVID-19 transmission. This includes people who provide a service or do work of any kind at government arranged quarantine accommodation and close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Large-scale testing of asymptomatic people in areas that are not high risk is not supported.

Why is our quarantine worker testing protocol different to other states?

Other states and territories have different considerations and are at different stages of their COVID-19 response. It was agreed at National Cabinet that the states and territories are responsible for implementing their own restrictions.

Do I have to pay for the test?

Staff working at government arranged accommodation do not have to pay for either the saliva collection test or throat and deep nasal swab test.

Where can I get tested?

Your employer will inform you of the time, date and location of testing at your workplace.

What should I do if I miss my routine test?

If you were unable to have a saliva test for a shift because testing wasn’t available before, during or after your shift, you should let your employer know and you must get a saliva test at your next shift.

If you are unable to attend testing times for your throat and deep nasal swab that are available onsite, you can visit  a fever clinic.

When you’re are attending a Queensland Health COVID-19 testing facility, you should identify yourself as a quarantine facility worker. This will allow you to be tested, even if asymptomatic, and you will be prioritised for testing.

You must not go back to work at government arranged accommodation until you have completed your 7 day throat and deep nasal swab test.

How will I receive my results? How long will it take?

Results are usually available within a couple of days after the test was taken.

If the result is positive, you will receive a call from a public health doctor or nurse who will tell you what to do next.

If the result of your throat and deep nasal swab is negative, you will be contacted by public health clinical support staff, this may be by phone or by SMS.

You will not be notified of the results of your saliva test, unless it is positive.

Can I still go to work while waiting for my test results?

If you are not experiencing any symptoms you can keep working while you wait for your test results. You do not have to isolate at home.

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, you must isolate until you have received a negative test and have no symptoms.

What happens if I test positive?

If your test is positive, it is important that you isolate from others. If your clinical condition is such that you require hospital care, you will be transferred for isolation in hospital and further care.

If you live with others, they must quarantine.

Find out more on what happens if you test positive to COVID-19.

If I have to quarantine while I wait for my results, will I still be paid?

You should speak to your employer as they will be able to advise on their human resource policies regarding payment when quarantining.

Will the people I live with have to quarantine/get tested too?

No. People you live with will only have to get tested if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

Does the amount of contact I have had with people who are quarantining (or things they have touched) matter?

No. Quarantine facility workers who provide a service or do work of any kind that requires them to be physically present at government arranged accommodation, and bus drivers who transport quarantined people, must comply with shift and 7 day testing requirements.

Can I visit a hospital, residential aged care facility or disability accommodation service if I am waiting for the result of my test?

If you are still waiting for your routine test results and you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms you can visit a hospital, residential aged care facility or disability accommodation service. You must follow all instructions outlined in the Aged Care Direction, Disability Accommodation Services Direction and Hospital Visitors Direction.

Why is mandatory testing important now?

While we have seen a decrease in the number of community acquired COVID-19 cases in Australia, globally the number of COVID-19 cases has increased. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of returning travellers testing positive to COVID-19 in government arranged quarantine.

Testing of staff who are at a higher risk of coming into contact with someone with COVID-19 will increase the safety of staff, their families and the community.

This measure is a recommendation of the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) and delivers another layer of protection on top of the excellent infection control measures Queensland has already.

Who do I speak to if I have more questions?

Please speak to your employer who can direct you to further resources and discuss the requirements of surveillance testing.

How will I be notified of testing requirements?

Your employer will use their own communications methods to notify you of testing requirements.

What happens if I refuse to be tested? Will I be fired if I refuse to have a test?

You cannot return to work at government arranged accommodation if you don’t get tested every 7 days with a throat and deep nasal swab and if you don’t have a saliva test as soon as available at your next shift. If you do return to work without getting tested, you may be given an on-the-spot fine of $1,334, a court-imposed penalty of up to $13,345 or 6 months' imprisonment.

If you do not wish to be tested, you should speak to your employer about alternate work arrangements.

Questions about saliva testing

When did saliva testing start?

You will be required to have a saliva test every shift either at the start, during or after your shift from 11 January 2021 or as soon as saliva swabbing has been set up at the hotel where you work.

This is to comply with the national standard for anyone who works at government arranged quarantine accommodation to be tested daily.

What is saliva testing and how does the saliva test work?

Saliva testing is a test that uses the saliva from your mouth to test for COVID-19.

The test is painless and simple. It may be collected by a healthcare worker or you may be asked to collect it yourself under supervision from a healthcare worker.

Saliva testing is only able to detect the presence of COVID-19 in the saliva, a positive test may mean you either have COVID-19 or it may show evidence of a previous COVID-19 infection. The test is not able to detect other respiratory viruses, or drug substances, or whether you are pregnant.

The test can be conducted daily without any side effects.

Does the saliva test detect anything other than COVID-19 (alcohol, other medications, recreational drugs, pregnancy)?

No. Saliva testing only tests for COVID-19. The test is not able to detect other respiratory viruses, or drug substances.

How accurate is saliva testing?

The throat and deep nasal swab remain the best test for anyone with symptoms because it is more accurate. At this time, the saliva test is only used as a screening test for some people without symptoms who will need frequent testing (people who are asymptomatic).

If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, you should not go to work and get a COVID swab test from a fever clinic or through your local doctor.

If I have a saliva test and develop symptoms later in the day or the next day, what should I do?

If you experience symptoms, no matter how mild, between your regular tests you must get tested immediately and isolate. You cannot attend your workplace until you receive a negative result and no longer have symptoms.

Does saliva testing hurt?

No. The saliva testing is painless, not invasive and takes about one minute.

What are the risks with frequent saliva testing? Will my mouth get sore? Are the chemicals safe to have every day?

There are no risks associated with frequent testing.

What happens if I test positive from a saliva test?

If you test positive to COVID-19 from a saliva test, you will have to isolate immediately.

You will have to have a throat and deep nasal swab test to confirm the result of the saliva test. The throat and deep nasal swab remain the best test for anyone with symptoms because it is more accurate. At this time, the saliva test is only used as a screening test for some people without symptoms who need frequent testing (people who are asymptomatic).

A Queensland Health representative will contact you and will tell you what to do if this happens.