Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)
Rapid Antigen Tests are set to become a key part of avoiding COVID-19 outbreaks in shearing sheds as Omicron variant cases surge across the country. Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said the association expected to receive just under 4000 tests this week, which would then be distributed to members. The rapid testing will allow members to progress on the basis that if there is a case it’s limited to one or two people being tested in isolation before they join the team that day and they go home if they’re positive and it allows the rest of the team to work on.
Everyone is acutely aware that any loss of productivity now is really additionally devastating to not only contractors and workers, but also farmers and animal welfare issues. The Shearing Contractors Association of Australia is expected to receive further tests on January 12. Mr Letchford said while last year they had focused on encouraging as many woolshed workers to get vaccinated as possible, the association had now moved past that point.
There is now a big push to train new shearers and team members to help meet the demand. The shearing industry’s efforts to source tests come as the Rural Doctors Association of Australia pushes for rural and regional areas to be given greater access to free or affordable RAT kits. RDAA president Megan Belot said the increased use of RATs relies on people being able to access testing kits through state testing hubs if they are close contacts, and on being able to access follow-up PCR tests should their RAT indicate they have COVID.