Managing Covid in 2022

By January 19, 2022Covid-19

The information contained in this article is accurate up to 19/01/2022.

It may be a new year, but the Covid pandemic is still very much ongoing with the virus again expected to be a dominant issue for bodies corporate as the country starts to open up and the Omicron variant infects ever higher numbers.

Managing Covid in 2022 will be different than previous years as the majority of the population are vaccinated we are unlikely to see major lockdowns (hopefully) again. Nevertheless, strata communities will need continue to remain proactive with responding to developments and work together to create ongoing Covid-safe protocols that work best for their situations.

Living in a strata community means we not only need to take responsibility for our own health and safety but to also be mindful of others who share the complex that can include older residents, small children, people with auto immune issues along with residents with poor English skills.

Bodies corporate and their committees also have a statutory obligation to act ‘reasonably’. This means your actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic need to balance the rights of individuals with the needs of other owners and occupiers and the broader community.

This article is a general guide for QLD strata communities on current Covid restrictions and responsibilities, isolation guidelines, as well as general tips for helping to mitigate against the covid threat in your community.

Current Health Directives

Below are the current health directives in place for Queensland. As always, you should follow the guidelines set by Queensland Health – Coronavirus (COVID-19) | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government.

They are updated regularly and at any time could require you to change the way you operate as a community in order to keep everyone safe.

Mask Mandates

There is currently a mask mandate in QLD issued on 2 January 2022

From 1am AEST Sunday 2 January masks must be worn indoors everywhere in Queensland, except in your own home or accommodation, and where it is unsafe, such as while doing strenuous exercise.

This includes:

  • all indoor workplaces
  • public transport and rideshare
  • supermarkets and retail shops
  • hospitality venues including pubs, clubs and cafes
  • cinemas and theatres
  • indoor stadium, sports arena or sports centre
  • gyms and sport activities
  • vulnerable settings like hospitals and aged care
  • schools, childcare and other education facilities
  • airports and on planes

Children under 12 years and people affected by a medical condition or disability do not lawfully have to wear a face mask. See exceptions from wearing face masks.

Due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the community, your complex should highly encourage masks in all indoor common areas. This includes lifts, garbage areas, carparks, lobbies, stairwells, corridors and any indoor areas that residents may pass through.

Indoor areas pose the greatest risk for COVID-19 transmission which is why it is critical that every person who enters the building including residents, contractors, staff, delivery drivers and riders wear a mask and practice COVID safe behaviours in these shared areas.

Isolation Guidelines

To reduce pressure on hotels and hospitals, Queensland Health has broadened its Home Quarantine rules to allow people who live in apartments to isolate in their residences under certain circumstances, for example:

  • Having had close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19
  • Travelling to a restricted border zone for an essential purpose while unvaccinated
  • Having been to an interstate exposure venue

You are a close contact if you are a household member or a household-like contact of a person who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • household member is a person who ordinarily resides at the same premises or place of accommodation as the diagnosed person, and who are residing at the premises or place of accommodation at the time the diagnosed person receives their positive COVID-19 test result. You do not have to be related to the diagnosed person to be considered a household member.
  • household-like contact is a person who has spent more than four hours with the diagnosed person in a house or other place of accommodation, care facility or similar.
    Note: a person is not a household-like contact if they are in a separate part of the house, accommodation or care facility that has a separate point of entry and no shared common areas, and if they do not have contact or interaction for more than four hours.

If you have found out or been told you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, you must follow the quarantine and testing requirements for close contacts.

Recommended Protocols When Isolating

Body Corporate Committees should agree on a small number of protocols should someone receive a direction to isolate. These protocols should be designed to minimize transmission of the virus while not being too onerous or invasive.

Suggested protocols are as follows:

  • After receiving a Direction to isolate it is highly advised that person should inform the Committee, Body Corporate Manager and Building Manager (if there is one) so a record of people isolating can be established and they can be assisted with their isolation. This list should be as private as possible.
  • If possible, escorts should be arranged to take persons safely from the front entrance or carpark to their apartments where they must isolate for the designated period. Any lifts, door handles etc. that have been used should then be wiped down to avoid transmission of the virus.
  • A system should be organised for food delivery to the person in isolation. Every building is different so whether a neighbour is recruited to drop off food to their apartment or the delivery provider themselves, ensure there is a system in place so that the person is isolation does not have to leave their apartment to pick up food deliveries. Make sure that all items are taken inside once the provider has left.
  • For the person in isolation it is advised that they should double bag their rubbish and place it outside the front door of their lot. A system should be organised where someone else will remove the rubbish and dispose of it securely.
  • If the person in isolation shares their residence with others they must use a designated area to avoid transmitting the virus. For example, the main bedroom, en-suite and the balcony. Meals must be taken separately and utensils, crockery etcetera would ideally be disposable.
  • The person in isolation must remain in their apartment until the period of quarantine (as per the Direction) is completed.

Quarantine Requirements

If you are directed to quarantine, you will be issued with a quarantine direction under the Public Health Act 2005.

This is a legal notice and requires you to stay at the address stated on your quarantine direction for 14 days, or the date otherwise specified on the direction.

Further details can be found in: Home quarantine for close contacts and other groups – coronavirus (COVID-19) at https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/protect-yourself-others/quarantine/home-quarantine

Please note – home quarantine in apartments is not allowed for travellers returning /arriving from overseas.

Visitors and Tradespersons

Committees are encouraged to request that any tradespeople or other visitors check in via a QR code at the front entrance or wherever most appropriate for your complex to minimise transmission of Covid.

 

What to do if you test positive to Covid-19

How to check if someone is COVID-positive

Queenslanders can go to a testing clinic for a PCR test or conduct a rapid antigen test at home – if they can access one.

Rapid antigen tests should be used by people who have coronavirus symptoms, discover they are a close contact, or need a negative test to leave home quarantine.

The RAT kits provide a result within 15 to 30 minutes, while the waiting time for PCR tests has blown out from 72 hours to about a week.

If RAT kits are unavailable, PCR tests can be taken, the Queensland Health website says.

Some Queensland Health facilities are handing out RAT kits due to the high volume of tests they need to conduct, however pharmacies and retail stores have sold out of the at-home tests.

“RAT kits are currently in low supply due to the sudden high demand but are expected to become more readily available in the next few weeks,” the Queensland Health website says.

What to do if you have a positive test

If a Queenslander tests positive to a rapid test, they need to isolate and report their result to Queensland Health at www.qld.gov.au/rat-positive. For PCR tests, the clinic will report any positive result and order the patient to isolate.

It is highly advised to inform your Committee, Body Corporate Manager and Building Manager (if you have one) of your positive test so they can take extra steps to protect the rest of the complex and assist you with your isolation requirements.

Those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms should rest at home, while anyone who develops severe symptoms should call Triple-0.

COVID-positive people must immediately isolate for seven days from the date they have their test and tell their household, social, work or education contacts to get tested if they have symptoms.

Household contacts must also isolate then get tested on day six of their quarantine, along with the infected person or people.

Deliveries of food and medication must be non-contact and left outside the house.

Home-care workers and other providers of essential services, such as nurses, are exempt from restrictions to enter your home.

Those who can’t get family or friends to help, can contact the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349.

You can read more on isolating as a confirmed case here, as well as tips on how to manage at home and when to go to hospital here.

Those in isolation are free to leave their home once they have had no COVID-19 symptoms (or only a very mild cough) for the past 48 hours before day seven, and have not received a further direction to isolate under the Public Health Act.

Those with a fever and acute respiratory symptoms on day seven need to stay in isolation until day 10.

Quarantine can also end if a positive result is found to be caused by a long-standing infection and the person is no longer infectious.

Covid Breakouts in Your Complex

What happens when there is a Covid breakout in your complex?

Should a confirmed COVID-19 case be linked to your complex QLD Health will contact the individual to inform them and order them into isolation.

It is highly recommended that any positive cases whether residents or visitors, inform the committee and/or body corporate manager so they can take extra steps to protect the rest of the complex and assist you with solation requirements.

The committee should prepare for possible scenarios stemming from a breakout of positive cases.

This could possibly include:

  • That some or all residents of the complex go into isolation
  • Residents get tested for Covid-19
  • Rounds of Deep Cleaning are undertaken

Closing/Restricting Common Property

Before COVID, body corporate committees did not have any powers to restrict occupiers from using common property facilities.

Emergency legislation introduced last year to help body corporate communities manage the challenges of the pandemic gave committees the ability to close facilities if it is reasonably necessary to ensure compliance with a public health direction.

The important thing to remember is that restrictions can only be placed to the extent reasonably necessary to comply with public health directions.

As there is no current health directive for gyms etc. to be closed you will be unable to restrict access to common property facilities on those grounds.

There is however currently a mask mandate for gyms and most other indoor places. Additionally, persons who are in quarantine/isolation can be restricted from common property.

Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Residents

Under QLD legislation it is made clear that a body corporate cannot discriminate between different types of occupiers.

In the main, this usually relates to not discriminating between lot owners and renters but is equally applicable to people who are vaccinated and those who aren’t.

Read more on this topic here.

Body Corporate Meetings

When possible, body corporate meetings should be held virtually on platforms like Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams. Many people are now quite used to conducting meetings in this manner which poses zero risk to any attendees.

If a meeting must be held it is suggested that the following protocols should apply:

  • Ensure the meeting venue is property ventilated and able to accommodate social distancing of 1.5 metres between each person
  • If you wish to conduct a meeting at your complex, arrange a QR code check-in for your building (see guide below).
  • Wear face masks (which is currently a legal requirement)
  • Set up a hand sanitizing station and wash your hands regularly.
  • Attendees should be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (see previous section ‘Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Residents’)
  • If you are unwell or have any Covid symptoms whatsoever, do not attend the meeting.

Please note that due to the ongoing Omicron wave, Stratacare is not currently conducting in-person meetings.

Requirements for Short-term Rentals

The new covid-19 restrictions that will take effect from 17 December 2021 provide that, in relation to short term rentals or short term accommodation:

  1. only persons that have been permitted under the booking are allowed to stay overnight in the short term accommodation;
  2. anyone attending the short term accommodation must check in once at the beginning of their stay (but not every time they enter the accommodation);
  3. must operate in accordance with the COVID safe checklist;
  4. restricted areas, such as cafes, dining rooms, pubs, nightclubs or restaurants within a scheme are unable to be accessed by unvaccinated persons (but unvaccinated persons are permitted elsewhere in the venue); and
  5. an occupancy density applies of one person per 2 square meters for indoor areas accessible by visitors and guests.

A copy of the health directive can be found here: Public Health and Social Measures linked to vaccination status Direction. Restrictions on short term accommodation are specifically covered off in “Schedule 1B – Unvaccinated persons may enter – other requirements apply to venue“.

The scope of these restrictions seemingly apply to the operator of the short term accommodation or the restricted area, such that bodies corporate (at the moment):

  • will have little or no obligations in relation to these restrictions; and
  • are not required to (and still cannot) impose their own restrictions on unvaccinated persons.
  • Common property pools are not caught by these restrictions as the restrictions only apply to indoor pools that are open to the public.

There may be ancillary obligations in relation to implementing the COVID safe checklist that the committee ought to at least be aware of.

Contributed by Todd Garsden, Mahoneys

Retail and Mixed-use Properties

If your complex is mixed-use and contains retail or hospitality venues they will have to follow the current business restrictions for coronavirus (COVID-19) in Queensland for their business type and industry.

These can be found here – https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/covid-19-restrictions/current

Work Health and Safety Legislation

If the scheme has a letting agent who conducts a business onsite, the body corporate and the letting agent will have obligations under the Work Health and Safety legislation.

This means that the committee and letting agent must ensure they are exercising due diligence (and documenting any decisions) to protect persons on the common property.

Contributed by Todd Garsden, Mahoneys

Extension on Covid-19 Measures for Bodies Corporate – 30 April 2022

The QLD Government has announced the COVID-19 emergency arrangements for bodies corporate will be extended to 30 April 2022.

Temporary measures to enable a body corporate to respond to the challenges caused by COVID-19 were put in place during the pandemic.

These changes were set to expire on 30 September 2021 but will now remain in place until 30 April 2022 in recognition of the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on community titles schemes in Queensland.

The measures include:

  • a body corporate will be unable to charge penalty interest on overdue levies over this period
  • a body corporate may extend due dates for payment of levies
  • a body corporate may adjust its sinking fund budget for its current financial year subject to certain conditions
  • if all owners provide consent in writing, committees may approve expenditure above the spending limit
  • increased borrowing limits apply
  • committees may modify the way committee and general meetings are held if they believe a public health directive would be breached,
  • committees may decide to allow voters to attend a committee meeting or general meeting remotely,
  • committees may arrange for voters to vote electronically for motions and committee elections,
  • a body corporate may satisfy its obligation to allow an interested person to inspect body corporate records by providing a copy or electronic access, provided relevant fees are paid
  • committees may make decisions about restricting access to common property if reasonably necessary to comply with health directives

The usual obligation of a body corporate to commence debt recovery proceedings against owners who owe a body corporate debt is also suspended until 2 months after 30 April 2021, or an earlier date as decided by the Government. A body corporate may still choose to commence debt recovery proceeding prior to this, should it be considered reasonable.

You can read more about the COVID-19 amendments on the BCCM webpage: COVID-19 in bodies corporate.

Registering your body corporate facilities on QLD COVID check-in app

It is recommended bodies corporate use the Queensland check-in app, which we are all familiar with as it is mandatory for many venues. This system is also available for free to other sites, including bodies corporate.

This system allows residents to check in to facilities with the data stored in the Qld government’s database. The on-site manager should register your body corporate online, to generate QR code signage: Check-In Qld app registration form | Queensland Government (covid19.qld.gov.au). If your building has shared facilities but does not have a building manager, the committee can register online, or you can ask your body corporate manager to assist you.

Below is a guide on filling in this Qld Covid check-in app registration form for a body corporate shared facility:

  • ABN or ACN –Your body corporate has its own ABN, registered to the building name. if you don’t know the ABN, you can skip this field.
  • Registered business name – This is the name of your body corporate (e.g. Building Name CTS 12345).
  • Display name – This is what people check in to. Customise this depending on the area you are registering (e.g. Building Name – Swimming pool/BBQ area). If your building has separate areas, they can be registered separately.
  • Contact name – Building manager or committee member, this information is not made public and is only used for contact tracing at your venue
  • Phone number – Building manager or committee member’s contact number.
  • Email – Building manager or committee member’s email address, this will be used for a confirmation email.
  • Is this a mobile business – No
  • Venue address – Enter the address of your building or body corporate
  • Mailing address – Enter the mailing address for your body corporate. The website will post you out some useful information so make sure this is received by the person responsible for the site.
  • Review & confirm details

Communication of Policies and Procedures

Once any policy is in place it needs to be communicated clearly within your strata community.

The committee should ensure that it communicates with owners about any changes to the day-to-day arrangements of the scheme, including those facilities that the committee is asking occupiers refrain from using. This can be done through signage, notices under the doors of lots and through email.

The committee could also look to confirm if any occupiers are in quarantine by asking them to notify the committee so the committee can communicate and ensure essential supplies can be provided.

General Covid Management Tips

There are a number of additional ways that committees can support COVID safe behaviours and help reduce the risk of COVID-19 impacting their community. This includes:

  • Displaying posters to remind people to wear a mask in common areas and at building and car park entrances
  • Reminding staff, contractors and delivery providers to stay at home if unwell, even with mild symptoms
  • Supporting 1.5m physical distancing
  • Having hand sanitiser available at key locations/common areas such as building entrances and outside lifts
  • Cleaning frequently used indoor hard surfaces with detergent followed by disinfectant, several times per day
  • Increasing natural ventilation where possible and increase mechanical ventilation where possible by optimising air conditioning or other system settings (such as by maximising the intake of outside air and reducing or avoiding recirculation of air).

Resources and Useful Links

COVID-19 Preparedness Checklist

COVID-19 posters, signage and fact sheets

Covid-19 Measures for Bodies Corporate

While Stratacare will endeavour to provide the most-up-to-date information and advice that is available, please note that your best source of information on Covid-19 is always the Government and relevant Health Authorities.

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