Covid-19 Local Government Response Unit Update - Monday 14 February 2022

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Today’s update:

New Zealand to move to Phase Two of the Omicron management strategy

The Prime Minister this afternoon announced that from 11:59 Tuesday 15 February the country will shift to Phase Two of the Omicron management strategy.

This will mean that the critical services scheme will begin and Councils are encouraged to register as soon as possible

A reminder about the critical service worker contact exemption

The close contact exemption scheme is to assist in keeping critical supply chains running through the Omicron outbreak.

From today businesses and organisations can register online as a critical service, if they think that they will meet the criteria when New Zealand enters Phase 2 of the Omicron outbreak.

It is important that Councils complete the registration for critical workers and Rapid Antigen Tests allocation and distribution. The self-assessment tool/registration link is under the ‘Close Contact Exemption Scheme’ at the website here

During Phases Two and Three of the Omicron response, workers at registered critical services who are vaccinated and asymptomatic close contacts of a COVID-19 case will be able to continue to work, as long as they return a negative rapid antigen test prior to each day/shift they are at work during the isolation period and follow specific health protocols. They will only be allowed to go to work – not anywhere else.

This exemption to the close contact self-isolation requirements does not apply if the person is a confirmed case or if the person is displaying Covid symptoms.

We have included additional information on the close contact exemption scheme as well as guidance for critical workers in the attachments

Critical services include: 

Distribution and sale of basic food (e.g supermarkets, dairies, food banks)

Principal accommodation

Health and emergency services, including pharmacies, and services provided for deceased persons. It also includes animal health and welfare 

Lifeline utilities such as power and water supplies


Critical financial services, media and social welfare

Important things business need to know and consider when registering

If they are a sole trader and do not have an NZBN, they can simply add their business name

Address details are required for each location that they may have critical workers at (select a region, can add multiple locations

Businesses may need to select a sub category. They will need to know which category they fit into and the reason they fit into that category. Business can also upload supporting PDFs

Businesses need to include the total number of workers in the business (not just the ones who might be critical workers

The number of critical workers at each location that has been listed

There is a summary screen and they will have to digitally sign a declaration confirming their details. Followed a confirmation screen

They will receive an email advising that they are on the register. This will contain a unique ID. This email will be one of the documents that is required when a worker is collecting a RAT

To access the Close Contact Exemption Scheme:

Councils can use the self- assessment tool at  to see if they meet the criteria for being critical (more info on criteria below). 

Councils should nominate a person to start the applications process for their organisation and register through the Close Contact Exemption Scheme Registration Portal at

Once registered, the Council will be issued with a letter that, when New Zealand shifts to Phase Two of the Omicron response, will enable eligible workers to either use rapid antigen tests that the Council may hold (unlikely), or collect rapid antigen tests from a collection site (most likely).

Not all roles in Councils will be identified as critical and cannot be undertaken from home so Councils will need to work through a process to determine what roles qualify.

Councils will then be able to supply their critical workers with an authorisation letter for the worker to be able to collect their RATs if required.

Workers will get enough testing kits to cover the period they would have been isolating, and the places they can pick them up from will be put on the Healthpoint website.

There is more information on the Ministry Health website about Rapid Antigen Testing (RATs) Rapid antigen testing | Ministry of Health NZ

While the worker is in the workplace the following safety protocols must be complied with:

Daily symptom check and daily RAT testing is required before entering the workplace.

Strict use of a medical mask, donned  -  before entry to the workplace, changed as needed during the day and strictly complying with any infection prevention and control protocols at work.

When mask is removed (e.g., for eating and drinking) physical distancing must be maintained; eating alone in a well-ventilated space, outdoors where possible. 

Travel solo, to, from and around work or between jobs where possible.

Ensure good ventilation when in small spaces and masks must be worn by everyone present.

Continue regular workplace surveillance testing if this is already in place.

If symptoms develop at any stage, follow the public advice for close contacts with symptoms:

The worker must self-isolate at home, away from other household members, as per standard close contact advice, including testing if applicable:

Bubble of One

‘Bubble of one’ Allows workers to return to work if they can remain isolated while working. It is likely to be less relevant to Councils unless you have staff that work on their own in a defined space where no others are present.

To use ‘Bubble of One’:

All services and businesses can use the “Bubble of One’ for any worker (regardless of whether they are critical workers or not). They must however meet the following criteria:

  • Vaccinated
  • They are asymptomatic
  • Able to maintain an individual “Bubble of One” at work, indoors or outdoors (they cannot be customer facing and they cannot use public transport)
  • Workers must be working in an indoor or outdoor defined space under the order, where no others are present in that space.

What do workers need to do while at work?

Strict use of a medical mask, donned before entry to the workplace, changed as needed during the day and complying with any infection prevention and control protocols at work.

The worker must eat alone in a well-ventilated space, outdoors where possible

The worker should use a dedicated bathroom. If this is not possible no others should be present in the bathroom.

If symptoms develop at any stage, follow the public advice for close contacts with symptoms 

Continue regular workplace surveillance testing if this is already in place

What do workers do when not at work?

The worker must self-isolate at home as per standard close contact rules, including testing if applicable

Current requirements are available at   

Taituarā webinar

The webinar has been rescheduled for 3pm Wednesday 16 February.  Existing registrations have been carried to the new date and time.  Others can register at

Testing update

Phase One -

Phase One of the response to Omicron means continuing with the same testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine settings. PCR testing is the most effective way of testing during Phase One. As case numbers increase, testing, tracing, isolation, and quarantine settings will change.

The Ministry of Health has increased PCR testing capacity to 60,000 tests a day with a surge capacity of nearly 78,000 a day.

Phase Two –

Work is underway to determine how organisations running critical services including local authorities can access RATs in Phase Two.

Critical workers identified as close contacts will be able to use proof of a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to return to work during their required period of isolation if they are not symptomatic.