COVID tests scrapped for contacts in school, work

Close contacts had to be isolated for seven days with a rapid antigen test on day six to complete the isolation. Morrison said that if people were not in close contact or had symptoms, “there’s no reason you’re in it. [PCR testing] line. You should go home, go to the beach, go and do what you want, read a book in the park. ”

The President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr. Omar Khorshid, said a narrowing of the definition of close contact would accelerate the Omicron outbreak and many more cases would remain undetected.

“The change will help maintain test capacity and should limit the number of fired health workers, but it will come at the expense of speeding up the outbreak,” he said Thursday.

The biggest difference under the new arrangements in Victoria will be that tens of thousands of workplace and school contacts will not be required to get a test and isolate themselves before receiving a result, which helps alleviate staff shortages and other disruptions.

Under the new arrangements, it will still be open to the Victorian government to warn social or workplace contacts that they have been exposed and to recommend a quick test if they develop symptoms. However, they will not be asked to stand in line for a PCR test at one of the state’s busy test sites.

The other significant change from the National Cabinet is a shift to relying on rapid antigen tests that preserve the more accurate PCR tests for those with symptoms or close contacts.

While countries like the UK and Singapore offer free home tests, the National Cabinet decided that free tests would be limited to those who had some contact with COVID-19 or had symptoms. Other Australians would have to pay for them at pharmacies or supermarkets.

Sir. Morrison said: “We have taken the careful time to ensure we understand the best we can and we have examined the impact on our hospital system to ensure we recalibrate properly so that Australia can continue to live with this. . virus. ” He referred to the “Omicron Pandemic” as a game-changer.

“So you are only a close contact if you are effectively living with someone or have been in a residence where you have been sitting with someone for more than four hours with someone who has actually been given COVID,” he said. “Not someone who was in contact with someone who has had COVID.”

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, made up of Heads of Health Protection and the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer, made recommendations to the National Cabinet on testing and isolation requirements.

However, it is unclear whether the final changes reflected the recommendations of the group of health managers.

A health source with direct knowledge of the committee’s work said its recommendations were capable of being blocked or amended by committee chairman Professor Kelly.

Sir. Morrison, who stressed that hospital admissions were stable amid a growing number of cases, said the new rules would take place from midnight on Thursday in Victoria, NSW, ACT, South Australia and Queensland and in Tasmania from midnight on Saturday.

Victorian authorities are in a hurry to make the necessary changes to enforce the new protocols and will have to change public health orders, which may mean the changes do not happen before midnight. For example, the authorities decide how to provide COVID-positive people with a quick test to cope on day six of their isolation.

People who are close contacts in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and ACT will be required to isolate themselves for seven days. Those without symptoms should test themselves with a rapid antigen test on day six, and if they test negative, they may leave isolation on day seven. If it is positive, they should take a PCR test. Symptomatically close contacts should have a PCR test.

Tasmania will adopt the new definition from midnight on Saturday, and the Northern Territory and Western Australia are expected to follow suit. South Australia will meet a 10-day isolation requirement.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly at Parliament House Thursday.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly at Parliament House Thursday. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Professor Kelly said that international evidence was being built that Omicron was a less serious variant. “It’s a different virus, very different from previous versions of the virus we’ve seen over the last two years,” he told reporters Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said that while the number of cases grew, there was strong evidence from Australia, South Africa and the UK that the Omicron variant was less severe than the Delta strain of coronavirus.

Hospitalization rates remained low, he said, so the biggest challenge now was the number of people in isolation as close contacts.

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