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Packaging businesses in locked down states of NSW, Victoria and SA are deemed to be providing an essential service, so are free to carry on manufacturing under the latest lockdowns without interruption. There are, however, several caveats.

The essential services lists in the three states have some areas that are black and white, and some open to interpretation.

Staff who reside in the three local government areas (LGAs) in Sydney that are in hard lockdown are exempt from the stay-in-their-area directive, and are free to leave their LGA and go to work in a packaging company in any other local government area, providing it is producing food and beverage packaging, or packaging that is necessary for other essential services, such as medical care or personal care.

For packaging companies and staff working with non food and beverage items or items not covered on the list, more restrictions are in place. The packaging businesses in the three NSW LGAs now in hard lockdown – Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown – can continue to operate, but if they are producing packaging for items not on the list, for instance for children's toys, they must not have any staff from any of the other two locked down areas working for them.

So for instance, a packaging business that is not packaging food or beverage or any items ofrm the categories on the list, and is located in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, can have staff working on site who reside in the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA, but they must not have any staff who reside in Fairfield or Liverpool LGAs.

Non-food and drink or essential items packaging businesses elsewhere in Sydney who have staff residing in one of the three areas are not allowed to have them come to work in the factory.

Packaging businesses in the three locked down areas can also have staff who reside elsewhere in metro Sydney coming into their workplace, those staff are able to come into the factory, and then leave to go back home outside the LGA at the end of their work.

It is a more simple situation in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria, where packaging staff are able to travel to work in their place of employment, wherever that is. Packaging businesses are allowed to be open, under the manufacturing category.

However, the freedoms only apply to production staff who cannot do their job from home. All admin, sales and other staff who can work from home must do so. NSW now has a $10,000 fine for any business that compels staff to come to work who could work from home.

Packaging equipment supply companies are being advised by Australian Packaging & Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) that they are able to carry out site visits to clients for service and support, as packaging is part of the essential services category. APPMA says “When travelling or visiting any client at their workplace, it is important to contact them in advance to determine their COVID Safe Plan, what you will be required to do before or upon your arrival, and whether or not they are allowing visitors to their premises.”

Essential services is the banner under which packaging printers are operating in lockdown. In NSW state premier Gladys Berejiklian has effectively told businesses to decide for themselves if they are essential services, and if they are they can stay open. She closed down most retail and all construction on Saturday.

In Victoria, there is a government list of essential services, which does not include printers or packaging companies, however, it does include the broad term manufacturers who are producing goods or services necessary to support essential services, and print and packaging businesses are taking this to mean they can continue to operate. The Victorian lockdown was due to end today (Tuesday) but will be extended. Print production staff residing anywhere in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria are free to travel to work at print sites anywhere in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria.

Queensland is currently not in lockdown, although there are a few restrictions, with WA, SA and Tasmania in similar situations. Borders between most states are closed.

In the east coast states there are five main caveats for business continuing to manufacture in lockdown. They include allowing staff who can work from home to do just that. So, admin and sales staff should work from home where possible and not be coming into the workplace.

In addition all staff at work need to wear masks at all times. Social distancing needs to be maintained, which includes the 1.5m rule, and there needs to be a maximum one person for every 4sqm inside.

A Covid-safe plan also needs to be implemented, communicated and understood by staff, and any visitors need to be registered through the QR code before entry, and they must also wear masks.

Government support to the tune of $600 a week is available for full-time staff whose hours have been reduced by 20 hours or more to claim, with $375 available for part-time staff. Print businesses can claim 40 per cent of their payroll, up to $10,000 a week, if they can show turnover is 30 per cent down on the same period two years ago, provided they maintain their staff levels. Industry strongly supported the new funding.

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