Australia urged to adopt 'radical' change to Covid policy

·3-min read

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is pushing to have the Covid isolation period reduced, but one union boss is pushing for it to be scrapped altogether.

On Wednesday, Mr Perrottet is expected to ask Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to have the mandatory seven-day Covid isolation period reduced.

People who test positive for Covid need to isolate for seven days and Mr Perrottet wants to get that down to five days.

However, Secretary of the Health Services Union, Gerard Hayes, says it's time to move on from mandatory isolation.

Cars drive past a Covid-19 alert sign on Mona Vale road at Belrose on Sydney's northern beaches, Saturday, December 19, 2020
National Cabinet will be given advice on mandatory isolation on Wednesday, but one union boss thinks it should be scrapped altogether. Source: AAP

Australia moving away from mandatory isolation

Mr Hayes said Australia has lived with Covid-19 for a little over two years and that there has been a lot of compliance from the community.

He said if Covid was going to be eradicated, then the rules introduced throughout the pandemic, such as mandatory isolation, should stay. However, eradicating Covid is not going to happen.

"We really have to take a level of personal responsibility because I fear if we don't bring the community with us, noncompliance with any health directive will begin," Mr Hayes said on ABC radio on Tuesday morning.

Health care workers administer COVID-19 PCR tests at the St Vincent's Drive-through Clinic at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Friday, December 31, 2021.
There are concerns people won't get tested once federal government support payments cease in September. Source: AAP

He argues people will not get tested due to fear of mandatory isolation, particularly when federal government support payments cease at the end of September.

Mr Hayes said we're moving in the direction of no mandatory isolation, given Mr Perrottet's upcoming proposal.

Transparent response to prevent people making hard choices

ABC host Patricia Karvelas pressed Mr Hayes further and said it was surprising that the head of a health union was essentially being the "champion of no isolation" and putting forward the "radical" proposal".

Mr Hayes said the debate around isolation was "timely" and that he believes people aren't overly focused on what has been happening on the ground.

Communities need a roadmap, he says. Right now, Covid vaccinations are not the priority, as they were this time last year, and in turn Australia is drifting away from all the "lessons" learned in the last few years.

Karvelas pressed Mr Hayes on the potential consequences for the lack of mandatory isolation — such as people getting fired when at home with Covid, or issues in the workplace.

Mr Hayes said he is heading up this discussion now to manage the risk of that.

"We want transparent, inclusive approaches, so people don't have to make hard choices," he said.

The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews (R) and Premier of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet
State and territory leaders will meet on Wednesday to discuss mandatory isolation with the Prime Minister. Source: AAP

Will National Cabinet reduce the isolation time?

Mr Perrottet's opinion on the matter is well known, while Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the time is right for fresh advice on isolation measures.

"I can't tell you what that advice will say because it's not coming from pollies. It's coming from public health experts," Mr Andrews said on Tuesday.

"No one enjoys isolation, no one wants rules on any longer than they need to be."

Fresh health advice will be handed down to state and territory leaders regarding the matter tomorrow.

Mr Albanese has said there needs to be consistent measures in place nationally.

"Instead of the six states and two territories going different ways we're trying to get everyone on the same page, so that there's consistency in the regulations and the rules," he told Sydney radio 2SM on Tuesday.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil said any decision on isolation periods should be left to health experts.

"It's very important that governments at a federal and state level listen to the very best health advice, and they make decisions about isolation and other matters based on that health advice," she said.

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