The Victorian government has enforced a two-week snap lockdown on construction following what they say is a lack of adherence to covid regulations and continued concern about rising case numbers and transmission risk.
The lockdown applies for two weeks from September 21 until October 5.
The government says they have seen multiple outbreaks linked to construction, blaming the fact that construction workers may work across multiple sites and travel long distances to work, as well as concerns about the sector’s compliance with public health measures and directions.
They say the shutdown has been activated to reduce movement, minimise transmission and allow for the entire industry to appropriately adapt to the Chief Health Officer Directions, including increasing vaccination rates.
All construction projects in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire will be closed, with a strictly limited exemption for workers to attend the sites to respond to an emergency or perform urgent and essential work to protect health and safety. An amnesty will be put in place so that a limited number of workers can attend construction sites in order to shut them down safely.
All government construction projects in metropolitan Melbourne and relevant LGAs will be closed, with no new work to be completed – other than work required to make the site safe and secure.
All sites will be required to demonstrate compliance with Chief Health Officer Directions prior to reopening – including the requirement for workers to show evidence to their employer of having had one dose of the covid-19 vaccine before they return to site on October 5.
From 11.59pm 23 September, all construction workers require at least their first dose of the vaccine. This means that before workers return to site, they must comply with this new requirement.
The Victorian Government will work with stakeholders over coming days to determine the best way for the industry to show full compliance with the Directions.
The Government will continue to work with the industry to get as many workers vaccinated as possible – with the priority blitz continuing until Sunday 26 September, including walk-up appointments (without a booking) available at key sites. For more information about priority vaccine access, visit https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine.
A covid-19 disaster payment is available to help workers unable to earn income due to public health orders.
Minister for Industrial Relations Tim Pallas says the government has been clear they won’t hesitate to take action if the rules aren’t being followed.
“We have seen widespread non-compliance across the industry and that’s why we’re taking necessary steps to protect every single Victorian,” he said.
“We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on site and on our streets, and now we’re acting decisively and without hesitation.”
The Minister for Health Martin Foley says that the health and safety of every Victorian is their number one priority.
“That goes for construction workers, too – who can get priority access for a vaccine appointment.”
Meanwhile, crowds of people dressed in high vis blockaded Melbourne streets, with some engaging in violent disruption. The members of the crowd were understood to be a mix of construction workers, anti-vaxxers and right-wing political agitators. More than 60 people were arrested with the police expecting further arrests to be made.
The police labelled the protestors cowardly, and many people including the health and construction unions vehemently criticised the protests.