National Cabinet has agreed to reduce isolation periods for COVID-positive cases from seven to five days following a positive test, while also doing away with the mandatory wearing of masks on domestic flights.
The new rules will come into effect on 9 September, with the condition that the reduced isolation times will only apply to people with no symptoms at the five-day mark.
It was a decision that also came with a caveat that seven-day isolation would remain for workers in high risk setting including aged care, disability care, and those providing care in the home.
Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment (PLDP) eligibility will be adjusted as well to reflect the changed isolation periods, effective on the same date.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the changes as a proportionate response at this point in the pandemic.
The National Cabinet met in Sydney yesterday to discuss these matters ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit, and heard from Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd with an update on the pandemic and strategies for combating potential COVID-19 waves.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) cautioned the reduced isolation periods would mean extra vigilance is now required from governments and the community to prevent infection from COVID-19, and called for the release of medical and health advice that guided the decision.
AMA President, Professor Steve Robson said the health advice needed to be made public as the decision would mean many people re-entering the community after five days’ isolation would potentially still be infectious and pass the virus on.
“Throughout this pandemic the AMA has continuously said governments must base their decision-making on the health and medical advice and we need to see that advice and whether it supports today’s decision. If it doesn’t, the politicians need to explain themselves,” Professor Robson said.
"As many as 30 per cent of people are likely to still be infectious on days six and seven - even longer. When isolation rules change we need clear plans for protecting the vulnerable and careful monitoring, and if case numbers climb then the isolation rules should be re-evaluated."
He said it was now increasingly important that people take protective measures including getting tested if they develop COVID symptoms and remain in isolation while awaiting the results.
"Additionally, everyone should be taking up the vaccine booster shots they’re eligible for and wear a mask wherever possible indoors when around other people," Robson said.
"We also need to keep appropriate distances from people in indoor settings and continue hand sanitising and good hygiene practices.
"The move from seven to five days isolation will mean it is more important than ever for governments to ensure plans are in place to monitor and respond to outbreaks to protect Australians in vulnerable settings – such as those in aged care facilities."
Robson urged all governments to take immediate and ongoing action to address the logjam in public hospitals, which are suffering under extreme demand and staff shortages, further exacerbated by the number of COVID positive cases presenting.
"Governments should also continue public health messaging on the importance of community vigilance around COVID testing and isolation requirements, community spread and vaccine uptake," he said.
There were 12,061 known new COVID-19 cases reported for Australia yesterday, making the country the ninth-highest in the world for new infections. There were 75 people who passed away due to the virus in Australia yesterday, which gives our country the sixth-highest daily COVID-19 death rate globally at present.
There are currently more than 107,000 active cases of the virus in Australia.
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