Families will be forced to isolate for 14 days at home if only one member receives COVID-19 in Queensland

With Queensland slowly moving towards its vaccination targets, those given two doses will still have to be quarantined for two weeks if they receive COVID-19.

So will their family, which means partners and their children, or roommates or grandparents if they live in the same home and are considered at risk.

But what about “close contacts” – like a teacher or a doctor who comes in contact with someone who gets the dangerous Delta variant?

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the “opening” will only work if the state continues to test, track, isolate and quarantine.

Ms D’Ath said orders to stay at home for the fully vaccinated will remain in force as Queensland battles the worst-case scenario with 1,200 cases a day when the borders reopen on December 17.

“All the advice, the Doherty modeling, as well as the QIMR modeling that we have received, says that all lifting of restrictions must work on the basis we are still testing,” Ms D’Ath said.

“So we certainly expect 70 per cent and 80 per cent [of Queenslanders over 16 that have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine] … Will remain in quarantine for 14 days, based on advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, until that advice is amended.

“If the advice is that you can then put a shorter time in quarantine, or you do not have to quarantine as many if they are close contacts, then we take that advice.

A woman holds up a needle next to a vial.
Restrictions and barriers in areas with low vaccination rates remain an option, but only as a last resort.(AP: Frank Augstein / Pool)

Be patient as the rules keep changing

Mrs D’Ath said some jurisdictions had said quarantines and shutdowns could vary for people who had been vaccinated.

“People who are fully vaccinated may still be able to go to work if they are in close contact,” she said.

“Where, if you’re unvaccinated, you’ll be quarantined – so we’ll work through all that stuff.

“Of course, if you are positive, or if a child is ill with COVID and has quarantine at home, and their parent is a teacher or doctor, it is of course up to the parents to decide who quarantines that child.

“But if they have been close contacts, we will take that advice by that time.

“But it may very well be different if one is fully vaccinated, compared to unvaccinated.”

At one of her last press conferences as Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Jeanette Young said double-dose COVID-19 patients would most likely be able to stay home and recover by being guided through a “virtual ward” instead of to be forced to go to the hospital.

Restrictions and barriers in areas with low vaccination rates remain an option, but only as a last resort.

Clear as mud, but nobody’s to blame

Virologist Kirsty Short of the University of Queensland said there were no clear answers that fully vaccinated infectious people were forced to stay home.

“Because we also know if you are vaccinated and you and a contact person are vaccinated, the risk of transmission is much lower, but it is still not zero,” said Dr. Short.

“It may be that a close contact should not be quarantined, but they should take a daily rapid antigen self-test.

“It’s a scenario I could see happen if they tested positive with the test, they would have to be quarantined.

“But again, I think we need more data on how to determine what the actual risk is for the fully vaccinated.”

COVID-19 vaccinations set up in blue containers.
There is still no clear answer as to whether fully vaccinated infectious individuals are forced to stay at home.(AAP: Albert Perez)

New territory with boosters on the way

Dr. Short said the advice changed every day in terms of data.

“You are looking at the situation with boosters for every member of the population and it will change how the vaccine works and the effectiveness of it,” she said.

“It increases the effectiveness of the vaccine against serious illness, but it also increases your protection against getting the disease.

“But what we do not know is how long it will last.

“Is it a temporary thing, or will that protection against transmission continue?

“Because it’s going to affect how COVID goes through society?”

She said that as January approached, more people would be ready for booster shots.

“There’s a lot we do not know, and it depends on how many people get the boosters,” she said.

Dr.  Kirsty Short
As vaccination and booster rates rise, Dr. Short that she could see a seven-day isolation limit.(Delivered: University of Queensland)

COVID-19 or a bad flu – just do not come in

Dr. Short said she believed there would be a fundamental change in culture when the borders reopened.

“Before the pandemic, if you were sick, you would be a trooper and get to work and just work your way through it,” she said.

“While it’s a lot now that you’re sick, you stay home so you do not infect others – even if it’s just a cold.”

She said no one would want anyone to go to their workplace and spread it around.

“I think there will be a bit of a change of attitude to what is socially acceptable when one is ill,” she said.

“Maybe it will be easier for you to work from home – not necessarily in isolation – but limit what you do for two weeks.

As vaccination and booster rates rise, Dr. Short that she could see a seven-day isolation limit.

But she maintained in the “new norm” where we “live” with COVID-19 that staff would most likely have to negotiate with their workplace to get in when they were feeling better, or continue working from home.

Nurses' hands fill injection of COVID-19 vaccine from a vial.
As January approaches, more will join in on booster shots.(AAP: Albert Perez)

Confusing for business

The Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIQ) said with Queensland just weeks from the reopening of businesses that there were no clear rules on how to deal with double-vaccinated staff who became ill.

CCIQ spokeswoman Amanda Rohan said that while the industry would always follow health advice, hearing “new information so late in the game without details of what it means for business” does not support long-term recovery efforts.

“New information and updates that directly or indirectly affect corporate and consumer confidence need to be backed up with clear guidelines and guidelines through the state roadmap,” she said.

“It will be too late for these companies to be informed of any new rules, obligations or requirements.

“They need these details now, to give them time to invest in staff and assets and prepare to get started again.”

A person gets a vaccination in the right arm by a nurse.
Small businesses across Queensland need time, resources and support to help them when the border reopens.(AAP: Albert Perez)

‘Ping pong pandemic politics’

Queensland opposition leader David Crisafulli has criticized the state government for constantly changing the roadmap for recovery.

“Queenslanders are getting tired of it – I want the state government to start motivating and not dictating,” he said.

“You can not keep moving guidelines all the time, no one is doing well.

“My first priority is to bring home the thousands of Queenslanders stuck across the border.”

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