Victorian authorities have made a major change to isolation rules for some workers as Omicron continues to place extreme pressure on vital industries.

Essential workers in Victoria will be given an exemption from close contact home isolation requirements as the Covid-19 outbreak places intense strain on vital systems.

Workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities, transport and freight will join workers in the food production sector as being eligible for the exemption.

Employees with the exemption will be able to return to work if their workplace is in critical need and has exhausted all other options.

“They will be exempt if they are playing a critical role,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday.

“These sectors need to continue, regardless of the fact that we are in a global pandemic.”

The exemption will apply to attend work only and workers must return a negative rapid antigen test prior to attending work each day.

The exemption order is identical to that granted by Victoria’s public health team for key food and beverage workers, and is designed to protect the state’s essential workforce during the continuing Omicron wave.

The exemption also currently applies to hospital workers, disability workers, residential aged care facility workers, and ambulance workers, but the use of an N95 mask at the workplace is a requirement, not a preference.

The changes will come into place on January 18.

“You cannot go to the pub afterwards or go visit other people, it is about being able to get back to work to perform a critical function.

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