Australia’s COVID quarantine changes a game on Omicron, says AMA president

Australia is betting that its hospital systems can cope with a massive Omicron outbreak after several states agreed to significantly reduce COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

It is the condemnatory assessment by the country’s doctors of the changes that almost all jurisdictions adopted in the National Cabinet on Thursday.

Under the changes to take effect in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and ACT on Friday morning, isolation periods for COVID-positive cases and close contacts will be cut.

The definition of “close contact” has been streamlined to include only household or intimate contacts who spent more than four hours with a positive case.

And the country will rely more on rapid antigen tests, rather than more reliable PCR tests, to indicate infection status.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will hold a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders at the Canberra Parliament House on Thursday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will hold a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders at the Canberra Parliament House on Thursday. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAP

The Australian Medical Association said it was “very concerned” about the changes, which the organization claims are based on a not yet established beliefs about the Omicron tribe.

“It appears that the National Cabinet is prepared to bet that a massive Omicron outbreak will not cause a large number of hospitalizations,” said AMA President Omar Khorshid.

“While the initial data are encouraging, we expect hospital admissions to increase in the coming weeks, simply because of the very large number of cases, which will be far greater than the positive tests indicate, due to today’s decision.”

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