In a press conference on Thursday morning, Premier Daniel Andrews announced changes to home-isolation requirements for more Victorian essential workers who are deemed close contacts. The changes will come into effect from 11.59pm on Tuesday January 18.

It comes in addition to a recently announced exemption for the food sector, and means workers in emergency services, education, critical utilities, custodial facilities and all transport and freight will be exempt from home isolation if they are a close contact but asymptomatic.

“If they’re playing a critical role, they will be exempt from having to do home iso,” Andrews said. But Covid-safety measures will be in place: “They will need to take a RAT test for five days, and if that is negative then they can proceed to do that critical work that we need them to do.

“All of those sectors – they need to continue regardless of the fact that we are in a global pandemic and we have this variant of concern,” he said.

The exemption doesn’t apply to all workers, though. A worker considered a close contact may only return to the workplace if it is essential for continuity of operations and if other options have been exhausted.

“Exempting them from the home-isolation requirement is a common-sense way that we can keep those services, those important parts of our economy … as close to normal as possible,” Andrews said.

It comes as Victoria recorded 37,169 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state’s total number of active cases to 221,726.