National Cabinet has today determined that mandatory isolation periods for Australians infected with COVID-19 will end from 14 October, but the country's chief medical officer has stressed the decision ‘does not in any way suggest that the pandemic is finished’.
Announced today by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, the removal of isolation mandates comes in conjunction with the conclusion of the pandemic leave disaster payment, with the exception for those in high-risk setting which ‘need to be given particular support’.
The decision, agreed to by all state and territory leaders and backed by medical advice from chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly, is the result of Australia currently having both low case numbers and little community transmission of the virus.
The CMO said it was a ‘context specific and time-in-specific set of recommendations’.
“We will almost certainly see future peaks of the virus into the future, as we’ve seen earlier this year,” the CMO said.
“However, at the moment, we have very low rates of both cases, hospitalisations, intensive care admissions, aged care outbreaks and various other measures that we’ve been following very closely.
“We also have high hybrid immunity from previous infection, as well as high vaccination rates, particularly and specifically in those highly vulnerable communities; older people, people in aged care, disabled people.”
The CMO added that the focus should now shift away from ‘COVID exceptionalism’, and instead more attention should be paid to respiratory disease generally.
“It’s time to move away from COVID exceptionalism, in my view, and we should be thinking about what we do to protect people from any respiratory disease,” Professor Kelly said.
“It does not mean that we have somehow magically changed the infectiousness of this virus, but in the context we are in at the moment in Australia, and this is an important epidemiological point, we can’t just look at isolation by itself.
He also said it was important that the option for a change to the isolation settings be kept in mind.
“That’s the work that National Cabinet has requested of us to do - keep that vigilance for new variants, for signs that we have strain on our healthcare system, and be prepared to make different decisions at that moment.
“But as for now, I believe that removing that isolation period at this time is a reasonable course of action from the public health point of view.”
The decision comes as the average daily number of cases nationally as of 27 September was 5,502, down 15.9 per cent compared to the previous week.
Meanwhile, the proportion of those who have received at least three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine sits at close to 72 per cent, while the rate of those who are eligible to receive four doses is at 40.9 per cent.
More than 90 per cent of the national population has received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
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