The threat of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has dampened the hopes of the hospitality industry, leaving many businesses in the sector short-staffed staff and, therefore, unable to make the most of what should be a busy and profitable period for them.
The industry has been plagued with cancelled reservations and staff unable to work due to being close contacts of positive Omicron variant cases.
“It is not just cancelled reservations that are the issue; we are struggling to find employees who aren’t considered close contacts and forced into isolation,” Don Hodge of Hodge Hotels who has a suite of hospitality venues, including Warners at the Bay and the Belmont Hotel in Newcastle, said.
“We have just implemented a new technology system called Rapid Test & Track to help us manage a rapid antigen testing regime to ensure that we are keeping both staff and patrons safe with minimal disruptions and without having to close venues due to staff being forced into isolation,” Hodge added.
Approved by the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA), rapid antigen testing results are given within 20 minutes are highly accurate and cost-effective. Medical director at RTT Scott Wilkinson noted that the benefits of rapid antigen testing are clear.
“Rapid tests become statistically more accurate as the number of COVID cases rises in the community, and therefore their regular use, usually two-three times a week, approaches the accuracy of PCR testing, at a fraction of the cost and waiting times of PCR,” Wilkinson said. “As the number of community-acquired COVID-19 cases rise, the benefits of rapid antigen tests become even clearer. To avoid spread, families, workers and employers will need to identify positive COVID cases as early as possible and rapid testing allows this.”
Alan Higgins, CEO of Rapid Test & Track, is working with hospitality venues throughout NSW and VIC to deliver his technology solution that manages the rapid antigen testing process.
“Our technology solution has been designed to manage the rapid antigen testing process for employers,” Higgins said. “Essentially, employees are asked to complete and submit their test results within the secure system, under the guidance of a telehealth professional. Rapid antigen tests are highly accurate when they are completed correctly. The business owner or person responsible for allocating shifts can access results and know the vaccination status of all employees.
“In the last week, we have received a large influx of hospitality venues implementing the rapid test and track system; it is essential for keeping the doors open and minimising risk,” Higgins added.
Tim McDonald, Principal at McCabes Lawyers, also reminded that employers have a responsibility to ensure that they are taking all reasonable steps to keep employees and customers safe and that rapid antigen testing performed under supervised conditions could be key in avoiding legal issues.
“Employers have a legal responsibility to take all necessary and reasonable steps to keep employees and patrons safe,” McDonald said. “Following the government guidelines as well as using rapid antigen testing is a way to minimise the risk of spreading COVID in the workplace, and also minimising the risk of any legal action against the employer if the worse was to happen.”