Dairy Industry Covid-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Directory

This page has been developed from material provided by Dairy Australia to provide a comprehensive directory of all updates and relevant technical advice.

This directory of services does not seek to reproduce information available from responsible state and federal government agencies or other organisations, instead links to all relevant sources of information, acting as a single point of reference for dairy industry participants.

Taking care of yourself and others

Looking after yourself and others

The health and wellbeing of people in the dairy industry is our number one priority. Please follow advice from the Federal Government to keep the people around you safe and help prevent the spread of the virus. The Australian Department of Health updates their Health Alert page daily with the latest medical advice: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert.

If you are affected by coronavirus, you can find information and services to help you, including Centrelink payments and support, on the Services Australia website: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/affected-coronavirus-covid-19.

Information for employers

This information provided is a guide only and professional advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. 1. What happens if my staff are exposed to the virus on the farm (e.g. by other staff) – does this become a Workcover issue? Possibly: This MAY be a workers’ compensation issue but given the situation with COVID 19 there would need to be clear evidence that the virus was passed on in the workplace and not elsewhere in the community. Talk to your insurer if this issue arises. Read more about Workers’ Compensation and COVID-19 at Safe Work Australia. 2. Where can I get information on health and safety in the workplace? For information about health and safety in the workplace, including legal obligation of employers and employees, go to:

Source: Fair Work Australia 3. Can I ask for doctors’ certificates to state employees are fit if I think they could have been exposed through their personal activities? Yes. The Law: You have a right to give lawful and reasonable directions and employees have a duty to follow these directions. Given that the government has declared a pandemic such a direction would be regarded as reasonable. In addition, you have duties under Work Health and Safety laws to ensure a safe workplace. The Work Health and Safety laws also require employees to obey reasonable instructions. Employees also have duties under Work Health and Safety laws to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons in the workplace. In this circumstance you are obliged to pay the employee for the time taken to get the medical certificate and the time taken to get the clearance (2 to 5 days). Practically: with health systems stretched to the limit and limited testing kits available, the employee may not be easily able to get an appointment so you should only insist on such a test IF there is a likelihood of recent exposure. Follow the government guidelines on when testing is recommended. Information for employers is available from the Department of Health. 4. What are the legal obligations for permanent full time, permanent part-time and casual staff where employees choose not to come to work based on personal risk? Full time/part time If an employee chooses not to come to work, you do not have to pay them for the time spent away from work. Practically: Full time and part time employees could choose to access their accrued annual leave and may be able to access long service leave. State laws vary – check your relevant state government websites at The People in Dairy and refer to table at the bottom of this page. Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave. You could consider allowing employees to take annual leave in advance if they do not have sufficient accrued annual leave. Reminder – accurate record keeping will be important. Visit The People in Dairy to access leave templates you can use in your farm business. Casual employees If a casual employee chooses not to come to work, you do not have to pay them for the time spent away from work. Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as annual leave and personal leave (sick leave). Practically: The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work due to COVID19 – visit Services Australia for more information. 5. What are the legal obligations for permanent full time, permanent part-time and casual staff where employees are forced to self-isolate due to close contact? Full time/part time Because the self-isolation is imposed by government, you do not have to pay the employee if they are self-isolating due to close contact. Employees who are self-isolating due to close contact should be encouraged to report to their employer daily in case they begin to exhibit symptoms. Practically: Full time and part time employees can be permitted to access their accrued annual leave and may be able to access long service leave. State laws vary – check your relevant state government websites at The People in Dairy and refer to table at the bottom of this page. Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave. You could consider allowing employees to take annual leave in advance if they do not have sufficient accrued annual leave. Reminder– accurate record keeping will be important. Visit The People in Dairy to access leave templates you can use in your farm business. Casual employees Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave). Practically: The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information. 6. What are the legal obligations for permanent full time, permanent part-time and casual staff where employees are sick? Full time/part time If full time/part time employees contract COVID19 they would then be entitled to utilise their accrued personal leave (sick leave). You are entitled to ask for a medical certificate as evidence of the need for the leave. Practically: If employees exhaust their accrued personal leave, you could consider allowing them to take accrued annual leave or long service leave, or take annual leave in advance. State laws vary – check state government at The People in Dairy. Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave. Reminder– accurate record keeping will be important. Visit The People in Dairy to access leave templates you can use in your farm business. Casual employees Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave). Practically: The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information Remember – you cannot terminate an employee’s employment due to temporary absence for illness. Anti-discrimination laws also apply. 7. If an employee is well but I want them to stay away from work, do I have to pay them? Yes. You are legally entitled to direct employees to stay away from work if you believe that the employee may have been exposed to COVID19 or they are living with someone with COVID19, but they are not required by the government to self-isolate. However, because this requirement exceeds government requirements, if the employee is ready and willing to attend work, they are entitled to be paid as normal and cannot be required to use accrued leave entitlements. 8. If an employee is well but has to stay home to care for a child or relative who is sick and required to self-isolate, do I have to pay them? Full time/part time Employees who are required to care for a family member or a member of their household who is sick can use their accrued personal/carer’s leave. If this is exhausted, they can access a further 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion. Employees can also access 2 days’ paid compassionate leave per occasion if a family member or member of their household contracts a serious illness which poses a threat to their life. You are entitled to ask for a medical certificate as evidence of the need for the leave. Practically: If employees exhaust their accrued personal/carer’s leave, you could consider allowing them to take accrued annual leave or long service leave, or take annual leave in advance. State laws vary – check your relevant state government websites at The People in Dairy and refer to table at the bottom of this page. Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave. Reminder– accurate record keeping will be important. Visit The People in Dairy to access leave templates you can use in your farm business. Casual Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave). Casual employees who are required to provide care or support for a family member or a member of their household due to an unexpected emergency can access a 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion. COVID19 would be regarded as an unexpected emergency. Casual employees can also access 2 days’ unpaid compassionate leave per occasion if the family member or member of their household contracts a serious illness which poses a threat to their life. You are entitled to ask for a medical certificate as evidence of the need for the leave. Practically: The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information. 9. If an employee is well but has to stay home to care for a child who cannot attend school for example, due to school closure for a short time, such as for cleaning, do I have to pay them? Full time/part time Employees who are required to provide care or support for a family member or a member of their household due to an unexpected emergency can use their accrued personal/carer’s leave. If this is exhausted they can access a further 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion. COVID19 would be regarded as an unexpected emergency. Practically: if employees exhaust their accrued personal/carer’s leave you could consider allowing them to take accrued annual leave or long service leave, or take annual leave in advance. State laws vary – check state government at The People in Dairy. Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave. Reminder – accurate record keeping will be important. Visit The People in Dairy to access leave templates you can use in your farm business. Casual Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave). Casual employees who are required to provide care or support for a family member or a member of their household due to an unexpected emergency can access a 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion. COVID19 would be regarded as an unexpected emergency. Practically: The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information. NOTE: If widespread school closures are ordered by the government, the situation may be different but from a practical point of view you could still provide the entitlements listed above. 10. If a contractor is deemed an employee, what implications does this have on my business and their entitlements? If the contractor is, in reality, an employee, then they are entitled to the benefits listed above. Once the crisis passes this may be a good time to reassess these arrangements. Visit The People in Dairy for further information about contractors. 11. What entitlements do contractors have? Independent contractors are not employees and do not have paid leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act. Farmers may choose to engage an independent contractor when they have a specific job which needs to be done by a person with a particular skill, for instance, silage making or hay making. It is important to be able to distinguish between an independent contractor and an employee as the law imposes different rights and obligations on those who engage independent contractors and those who engage employees. At the same time, it is important to distinguish between a person who comes to work for you as an independent contractor and the various professionals and trades people who come to your property (e.g. electricians, vets and AI technicians). This section does not deal with these people as the arrangements under which they provide a service to you are usually clear cut and well understood. Visit The People in Dairy for further information about contractors. 12. How do I inform my staff of changes to their working arrangements (e.g. reduced hours, increased hours, change of roster, change of duties that may impact on their classification)? Roster changes/changes to hours: Clause 8A of the Pastoral Award 2010 requires you to consult with employees about roster changes. You must provide employees with information about the proposed changes and enter into discussions with employees seeking their views about the effect of the changes on them including their family and caring responsibilities. You must take their views into consideration when making a decision. Read about how to deal with changing employment conditions for your staff. Changes to classification/duties: You cannot change the terms of employment without the consent of the employee. If the position is no longer required, you must follow the requirements for redundancy. Visit The People in Dairy for more information. Remember – even if you do not have to pay redundancy pay because you are a small business, the requirements to consult (clause 8 of the Pastoral Award 2010) and the requirement to offer redeployment to available alternative employment still apply. 13. Scenario: A farmer’s child has just returned from overseas and must self-isolate for 14 days. He works on the farm, the Herd Manager and another staff member are both overseas so they are running on a light crew and want the son back as soon as they can to work. As part of the self-isolation, is the son allowed to work? The employer will have the same dilemma when the Herd Manager returns and the other employee, and so wants to ensure he is not at breach of the quarantine requirements by allowing them back to work. The Law The federal government has ordered that as of 15 March 2020, all people who arrive in Australia from overseas must place themselves in quarantine for a period of 14 days. There are criminal penalties for not complying. During the 14-day period returning travelers must stay at home and self-isolate. Staying home means you:

  • do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
  • ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
  • do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
  • do not need to wear a mask in your home, but do wear one if you have to go out (for example to seek medical attention)
  • should stay in touch by phone and online with your family and friends

For further information about staying at home and isolating, visit the Department of Health website. Practically: Family farms are both a home and workplace – but do not necessarily fit the criteria of public places. While at home, in self-isolation and/or quarantine, farmers should:

  • Observe the principles of self-isolation – avoiding close contact with other people – to avoid the risk of spreading the disease to other people.
  • Not be in the vicinity of persons other than the people they usually live with, assuming these people have not come into contact with COVID-19
  • Not be in the vicinity of older people (60 years +) who are considered at high risk of COVID-19
  • While in isolation, only essential farm visitors should be allowed (e.g. service providers, tanker operators) with no contact between farmer and any visitors
  • Disinfect all surfaces, such as those which may be touched by a tanker operator, and not be in the vicinity when they arrive.

14. What should an employer do if supplies of real or perceived necessities are not available (e.g. hand sanitiser, masks)? Safe Work Australia advises: under the model WHS laws, employers must do everything that is reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk of a worker contracting COVID-19 at the workplace, or where this is not reasonably practicable, they must minimise the risk of a worker contracting COVID-19 at the workplace. This means employers must provide a work environment that is without risk to health and safety, including access to facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper; and make sure these are kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order. If those supplies are not available, for the purposes of the model WHS laws, it would not be reasonably practicable for an employer to provide them. For example:

  • If there are no supplies of masks in Australia, an employer cannot be required, to provide a mask. In those circumstances, an employer should consider what alternative measures or approaches can be taken to eliminate or minimise risk.
  • If there are no supplies of hand sanitiser, a PCBU should consider providing access to soap rather than hand sanitiser.

Ultimately however, if an employer is unable to obtain necessary supplies to provide a work environment that is without risks, they should consider whether the risks posed to workers and others at the workplace are so great that workers should not be required to attend the workplace and perform work. This will need to be determined on a case by case basis. Read more at Safe Work Australia. Source: Safe Work Australia 15. Where can I find information and support regarding mental health? Taking care of yourself, your family, staff and your neighbours is always a priority and becomes even more important during unforeseen events like COVID-19. Read about how to manage risks to mental health in your business Some resources about caring for mental health during the current outbreak include :

Source: Safe Work Australia 16. Is financial assistance available for employers? The Australian Government has announced support for small businesses which you may be able to access regarding to employing staff, apprentices or trainees, boosting cash flow and assistance for regional communities and industrires, including agriculture, affected by COVID-19. Visit the Federal Business website for more information.

State

State Department

Contact number

Victoria

Business Victoria

13 22 15

New South Wales

NSW Industrial Relations

131 628

Queensland

Department of Justice and Attorney General

(07) 3225 2299

Northern Territory

Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment

(08) 8999 5511

Western Australia

WageLine

1300 655 266

South Australia

SafeWork SA

1300 365 255

Tasmania

WorkSafe Tasmania

(03) 6173 0206

Australian Capital Territory

Worksafe ACT

(02) 6207 3000

Information for employees

This information provided is a guide only and professional advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

1. Where can I get information on health and safety in the workplace?

For information about health and safety in the workplace, including legal obligation of employers and employees, go to:

Source: Fair Work Australia

2. Can my employer ask for a doctors’ certificates to state employee fitness if they think I could have been exposed through my personal activities? 

Yes.

The Law: Employers have a right to give lawful and reasonable directions and employees have a duty to follow these directions. Given that the government has declared a pandemic such a direction would be regarded as reasonable.

In addition, employers have duties under Work Health and Safety laws to ensure a safe workplace.

The Work Health and Safety laws also require employees to obey reasonable instructions.

Employees also have duties under Work Health and Safety laws to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons in the workplace.

In this circumstance the employer is obliged to pay the employee for the time taken to get the medical certificate and the time taken to get the clearance (2 to 5 days).

With health systems stretched to the limit and limited testing kits available, you, as an employee, may not be easily able to get an appointment, so your employer should only insist on such a test IF there is a likelihood of recent exposure. Follow the government guidelines on when testing is recommended.

3. What are the legal obligations for permanent full time, permanent part-time and casual staff where employees choose not to come to work based on personal risk?

Full time/part time

If an employee chooses not to come to work, an employer does not have to pay them for the time spent away from work.

Full time and part time employees could choose to access their accrued annual leave and may be able to access long service leave. State laws vary – check your relevant state government websites at The People in Dairy and refer to table at the bottom of this page. 

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave.

Employers may consider allowing employees to take annual leave in advance if they do not have sufficient accrued annual leave.

Casual employees

If a casual employee chooses not to come to work, an employer does not have to pay them for the time spent away from work.

Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as annual leave and personal leave (sick leave).

 The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work due to COVID19 – visit Services Australia for more information.

4. What are the legal obligations for permanent full time, permanent part-time and casual staff where employees are forced to self-isolate due to close contact?

Full time/part time

Because the self-isolation is imposed by government, an employer does not have to pay the employee if they are self-isolating due to close contact.

Employees who are self-isolating due to close contact should report to their employer daily in case they begin to exhibit symptoms.

 Full time and part time employees can be permitted to access their accrued annual leave and may be able to access long service leave. State laws vary – check your relevant state government websites at The People in Dairy and refer to table at the bottom of this page.

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave.

Employers could allow employees to take annual leave in advance if they do not have sufficient accrued annual leave.

Casual employees

Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave).

 The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information.

5. What are the legal obligations for permanent full time, permanent part-time and casual staff where employees are sick?

Full time/part time

If full time/part time employees contract COVID19 they would then be entitled to utilise their accrued personal leave (sick leave).

An employer is entitled to ask for a medical certificate as evidence of the need for the leave.

If employees exhaust their accrued personal leave, employers could allow them to take accrued annual leave or long service leave, or take annual leave in advance. State laws vary – check state government at The People in Dairy .

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave.

Casual employees

Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave).

The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information

Remember – An employer cannot terminate an employee’s employment due to temporary absence for illness. Anti-discrimination laws also apply.

6. If I (the employee) is well but my employer wants me to stay away from work, does my employer need to pay me?

Yes. Employers are legally entitled to direct employees to stay away from work if they believe that the employee may have been exposed to COVID19 or they are living with someone with COVID19, but they are not required by the government to self-isolate.

However, because this requirement exceeds government requirements, if the employee is ready and willing to attend work, they are entitled to be paid as normal and cannot be required to use accrued leave entitlements.

7. If I (the employee) am well but I have to stay home to care for a child or relative who is sick and required to self-isolate, does my employer need to pay me?

Full time/part time

Employees who are required to care for a family member or a member of their household who is sick can use their accrued personal/carer’s leave. If this is exhausted, they can access a further 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion.

Employees can also access 2 days’ paid compassionate leave per occasion if a family member or member of their household contracts a serious illness which poses a threat to their life.

You are entitled to ask for a medical certificate as evidence of the need for the leave.

If employees exhaust their accrued personal/carer’s leave, you could consider allowing them to take accrued annual leave or long service leave, or take annual leave in advance. State laws vary – check your relevant state government websites at The People in Dairy and refer to table at the bottom of this page.

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave.

Casual

Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave).

Casual employees who are required to provide care or support for a family member or a member of their household due to an unexpected emergency can access a 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion. COVID19 would be regarded as an unexpected emergency.

Casual employees can also access 2 days’ unpaid compassionate leave per occasion if the family member or member of their household contracts a serious illness which poses a threat to their life.

You are entitled to ask for a medical certificate as evidence of the need for the leave.

The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information.

8. If I (the employee) am well but I have to stay home to care for a child who cannot attend school for example, due to school closure for a short time, such as for cleaning, does my employer have to pay me?

Full time/part time

Employees who are required to provide care or support for a family member or a member of their household due to an unexpected emergency can use their accrued personal/carer’s leave. If this is exhausted they can access a further 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion. COVID19 would be regarded as an unexpected emergency.

If employees exhaust their accrued personal/carer’s leave you could consider allowing them to take accrued annual leave or long service leave, or take annual leave in advance. State laws vary – check state government at The People in Dairy .

Employers cannot unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by an employee to take paid annual leave. COVID19 would be regarded as a reasonable reason to access annual leave.

Reminder – accurate record keeping will be important. Visit The People in Dairy to access leave templates you can use in your farm business.

Casual

Casual employees are paid a loading to compensate them for entitlements such as personal leave (sick leave).

Casual employees who are required to provide care or support for a family member or a member of their household due to an unexpected emergency can access a 2 days’ unpaid personal/carer’s leave per occasion. COVID19 would be regarded as an unexpected emergency.

The government has indicated that it will allow easy access to government benefits for casual employees who cannot attend work – visit Services Australia for more information.

NOTE: If widespread school closures are ordered by the government, the situation may be different but from a practical point of view you could still provide the entitlements listed above.

9. As an employee, how should I be informed of changes to my working arrangements (e.g. reduced hours, increased hours, change of roster, change of duties that may impact on their classification)?

Roster changes/changes to hours: Clause 8A of the Pastoral Award 2010 requires an employer to consult with employees about roster changes.

Employers must provide employees with information about the proposed changes and enter into discussions with employees seeking their views about the effect of the changes on them including their family and caring responsibilities.

Employers must take employees’ views into consideration when making a decision.

Changes to classification/duties: An employer cannot change the terms of employment without the consent of the employee.
If the position is no longer required, an employer must follow the requirements for redundancy. Visit The People in Dairy for more information.

10. Scenario: You have just returned from overseas and must self-isolate for 14 days. As part of the self-isolation, are you allowed to work on farm?

The Law

The federal government has ordered that as of 15 March 2020, all people who arrive in Australia from overseas must place themselves in quarantine for a period of 14 days. There are criminal penalties for not complying. During the 14-day period returning travelers must stay at home and self-isolate. Staying home means you:

  • do not go to public places such as work, school, shopping centres, childcare or university
  • ask someone to get food and other necessities for you and leave them at your front door
  • do not let visitors in — only people who usually live with you should be in your home
  • do not need to wear a mask in your home, but do wear one if you have to go out (for example to seek medical attention)
    should stay in touch by phone and online with your family and friends

For further information about staying at home and isolating, visit the Department of Health website.

Family farms are both a home and workplace – but do not necessarily fit the criteria of public places. While at home, in self-isolation and/or quarantine, farmers should:

  • Observe the principles of self-isolation – avoiding close contact with other people – to avoid the risk of spreading the disease to other people.
  • Not be in the vicinity of persons other than the people they usually live with, assuming these people have not come into contact with COVID-19
  • Not be in the vicinity of older people (60 years +) who are considered at high risk of COVID-19
  • While in isolation, only essential farm visitors should be allowed (e.g. service providers, tanker operators) with no contact between farmer and any visitors
  • Disinfect all surfaces, such as those which may be touched by a tanker operator, and not be in the vicinity when they arrive.

Managing changing workforce conditions

Managing changing workplace conditions

Taking care of yourself, your family, staff, neighbours and running your farm business depends on being in a healthy and balanced place. Fatigue and stress can make it difficult to make smart decisions or to treat people as well as you would normally mean to. Managing people can be challenging as situations can change quickly and this can impact on both employee requirements and expectations.

If you employ people, the current situation may impact on their future employment within your farm business. It’s important to keep the lines of the communication open so your staff feel informed and supported.

Think about your current set up. Visit the People in Dairy website for information on:

FAQs

You can also download the below FAQs –  Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions document.

What impact has Covid-19 had on Regional Development Programs?

In line with the recommendations of government and health professionals, Dairy Australia has reduced face-to-face events, workshops and meetings. However, we are here to support you. We will continue to provide information and resources for farm businesses, staff and the wider industry. We are currently developing industry-specific information in response to Covid-19. Please continue to reach out to our regional teams for information and resources.

Will Covid-19 affect milk pick-ups?

Dairy Australia is working with processors, tanker operators, haulage companies and farmer representatives to develop protocols to ensure milk pick-ups can continue without major interruption. These will be published for wide reference once finalised and endorsed by food regulators.

Will milk supply chains be protected from interruption?

The Australian dairy industry calls on State and Federal governments, as well as local councils to formally acknowledge the collection and processing of dairy products as an essential service offered to communities across the country.

This means guaranteeing a continuity for all milk collection operations across Australia and ensuring supply chains are kept open to manage product flows – in turn enabling the dairy industry to keep retail stores stocked and households and food-service facilities (e.g. child care, schools) provided for.

As COVID-19 plans are drafted to restrict and delay the spread, we urge the State and Federal governments, as well as local councils to remember the crucial importance of functioning dairy supply lines across Australia and take into account:

  1. Smooth and continuous supply of dairy products across Australia is vital in all stages of COVID-19 management plans and across the country.
  2. Dairy is not a virus transmission vector: Food Standards Australia New Zealand issued a statement in March 2020 that transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence this is occurring to date. The Victorian Government has further cited this information. 
  3. Raw milk is highly perishable and requires processing withing 48 hours. Therefore, milk collection needs to be maintained without any disruptions.
  4. There has been a significant increase in demand for dairy products in recent weeks. Therefore, it’s ever more crucial supply chains are kept open to manage product flow to ensure the industry can keep shelves and fridges stocked.

Am I going to be able to buy everything I needs for my business?

There is a chance local service providers or wholesalers may have interruptions to their normal operations which could make it difficult to get your usual business inputs or services.

Consider what goods (e.g. chemicals) you rely on to keep your business going in the coming three to four months and reach out to your suppliers to understand their plans to maintain business continuity.

If you encounter a major disruption, contact your processor for help in making alternative arrangements.

What do I do if I have a staff member returning/arriving from overseas?

The Australian Government has imposed a universal precautionary self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals, effective as at 11:59pm Sunday 15 March 2020.

This means that all people – whether they be citizens, residents or visitors – will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Australia. Enhanced screening for arrivals will remain in place to identify anyone arriving sick or with symptoms of COVID-19.

What is Covid-19/Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Initial human infections of the novel type of coronaviruses were acquired from exposure to animals at a live animal market in Wuhan.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has been named Covid-19 by the World Health Organization.

Common symptoms of the disease include a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Severe cases can cause pneumonia, and even death.

More resources are available from the Department of Health.

How does Coronavirus spread?

Covid-19 is spread from someone with confirmed coronavirus to other close contacts with that person through contaminated droplets spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

The time between when a person is exposed to the virus and when symptoms first appear is typically 5 to 6 days, although may range from 2 to 14 days. For this reason, people who might have been in contact with a confirmed case are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

It is important to note that no public health authority has advised of any concern that this illness can be transmitted or has been known to be transmitted via food or drink.

What do I do if I suspect I have Coronavirus?

If you develop symptoms while travelling or within 14 days of returning to Australia, see a doctor for urgent assessment. Call the doctor’s clinic or hospital before you arrive and advise them of your travel history.

Guidelines from the Department of Health recommend Australian doctors consider testing people with a clinically compatible illness who have travelled to certain countries in the 14 days before onset of symptoms.

How can I best protect myself against the virus?

  1. Practice coughing and sneezing hygiene – always cover your mouth and nose when sneezing
  2. Wash your hands regularly – always before eating – count to 20 seconds and wash hands all over – 20-seconds is much longer than one thinks
  3. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes – that’s how most people get the virus – not by breathing it – the virus appears not to infect in airborne aerosol fashion very well
  4. When in public, including on public transportation, practice common sense separation and distancing
  5. Take up the opportunity to get the flu vaccine. Sick people are more susceptible, so even if the seasonal flu vaccine is only 30 – 40% effective, it’s worth getting.

Should I use a face mask?

Suitably accredited facemasks are in drastically short supply internationally and authorities are asking that everyone support efforts to prioritise access for health care workers and those working in care settings.

From a practical perspective, if you’re not trained and they’re not properly fitted (no facial hair) and you have clean hands when you put them on and take them off, they are ineffective.

If you are required to self-isolate following travel or due to illness in your family, you should stay home — in your room, your apartment, or your house. Do not go to work, classes, athletic events, or other social gatherings for 14 days after returning from travel or potential exposure. In addition to the standard hygiene practices listed above, you should:

  • Limit contact with other people as much as possible. This includes isolating yourself as much as possible from anyone living in your residence.
  • Avoid sharing household items. Do not share drinking glasses, towels, eating utensils, bedding, or any other items until you are no longer asked to self-quarantine.
  • Keep your surroundings clean.

How do I make an informed decision about whether to travel?

The following sources of information are a good starting point to informed decisions about personal travel:

  • Department of Home Affairs immigration restrictions (including returning citizens)
  • Department of Health daily alerts
  • Smartraveler.gov.au Coronavirus travel advice
  • World Health Organisation Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) technical guidance

You should also investigate what coverage you have under your travel insurance as this is often limited in the case of epidemics or pandemics and could leave you vulnerable to medical costs in event you contract the virus overseas.

Do I need to worry about shortages of household goods?

No, the Australian Government has plans in place to ensure access to critical supplies in the event of emergencies.

If you take any medications, consider securing an extra week to four weeks of supplies in case of the need to self-isolate.

Unlike other emergencies, there’s no reason that a pandemic will take out your electricity, gas, or water, so you should be able to cook as usual.

When will a vaccine be available?

Despite hype from heads of state and media, academic institutions feverishly working on a Covid-19 vaccine have clearly stated that clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy will mean even if an approach is identified quickly, it will be a further 12-18 months before it becomes available on the market.

Questions about Covid-19

Got more questions? Email us at @AusDairyFarmers

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