Covid-positive Aussies could soon spend just five days in isolation
Covid-positive Australians could soon spend just five days in mandatory isolation, as the government attempts to strike a balance between health and economic risks in the pandemic’s third year.
The Prime Minister said with an estimated 30 per cent of positive cases still infectious after their fifth day, it would not be a decision made lightly.
Under changes introduced at the start of the year, those who test positive in most states only need to spend seven days in isolation.
But authorities are considering following other countries in reducing that even further.
The United Kingdom government is considering scrapping isolation completely, while the United States and Europe have reduced quarantine time to five days.
Scott Morrison said if the chief medical officer decided that isolation could be slashed to just five days, he would proceed with the plan.
Feel like giving the politicians a rating this Federal election?
Our Pollie Rater lets you do just that.Rate the politicians
“All of these things are always under active consideration and that has been for some time,” the Prime Minister said.
“The most recent information that we have is that post-five days, you’ve still got about 30 per cent (of people) that are remaining infectious. And so that is a calibrated decision you’ve got to make.
“We’re going to take medical advice on that, and I know the chief medical officer has many sleepless nights over this one because we ask him about it regularly, and he is constantly talking to his colleagues overseas – Israel, the UK and many other places – to understand what the experience there is.
“And so if he’s in a position to tell me that we can make a change like that, then of course that would be something that we proceed with. But at the moment that is not the advice.
“Until we have such advice, then I think it is prudent – because as I say, we’re living with the virus with balanced, sensible rules and restrictions … We are respecting the virus, we are not fearing it.”
Chief medical officer Paul Kelly said earlier that scrapping Covid isolation times was an issue “we need to really start thinking about”.
“Now is the time to think about what we do into the future. Covid’s going to be with us for many years,” Professor Kelly said.
“These are difficult balancing questions. So the more you go down that path of shorter isolation periods, the higher the risk of having transmission in the community.
“Different countries have taken different approaches to this. Some are at seven, some are at 10, some are still at 14.
“Both the CDC in Atlanta and the European equivalent in Stockholm admit there is no evidence behind that decision. It’s a decision of balance.
“It’s a decision about workforces and a trade-off with increased transmission in the community. We continue to look at that.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said any decision made regarding isolation rules would keep the economy, as well as health, at the fore.
“It’s important that we keep monitoring our settings, and it’s never set and forget. This pandemic changes,” he said.
“I can’t tell you whether the Omicron variant is the last variant or whether there will be another one. We just don’t know – no one has a crystal ball.
“The government will do everything possible to help support the Australian community on both the health and economic front.”
The Morrison government is under increasing pressure from unions to better protect people at work.
Asymptomatic close contacts in some critical industries including food and grocery, warehousing and transport sectors can return to work without any time in isolation.
More industries could soon follow.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said it wasn’t fair that essential workers were being expected to put themselves in harm’s way to keep the country going without more protection.
“The union movement will do everything we can to keep people safe and act to slow the spread of this latest wave of the Covid pandemic,” she said.
Originally published as Covid-positive Aussies could soon spend just five days in isolation
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails