Major change to Australian Covid isolation rules flagged

Australians infected with Covid may have their time in isolation slashed as the country continues to battle its Omicron surge.

The government previously announced that those who test positive will only need to spend seven days in isolation, however state and territory rules vary, with South Australia maintaining a 10-day isolation period for Covid infections.

NSW, Victoria and Queensland allow residents who have received a positive test to leave isolation after seven days if they are no longer suffering any symptoms. The Northern Territory and Western Australia still abide by the original 14-day rule.

On Tuesday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the current rules are under review and may change again in the future as the pandemic evolves.

Members of the public are seen in Darling Harbour on Saturday during the current Covid outbreak. Source: AAP
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the current Covid isolation rules are under review and may change again in the future as the pandemic evolves. Source: AAP

"The isolation requirements that we have at present. The chief medical officers continue to work through these issues," he said.

"I do note that a number of other countries around the world have actually reduced the isolation requirements even for those who have tested positive, from seven or 10 days down to five days.

"It’s important that we keep monitoring our settings, and it’s never set and forget. This pandemic changes.

"We’re in a new phase now compared to the Delta phase, and that was a new phase compared to the previous one. So too, the responses are different."

New isolation periods having an impact, PM says

The prime minister on Wednesday said everything is under consideration, but said measures announced last week in reducing isolation periods for workers are having an impact.

"I mean, a lot of that is yet to be seen, I understand, on the shelves, but where the challenges were, I mentioned particularly the poultry sector and the trucking industry and others, some of those peak pressures we're seeing, we're seeing some relief," Scott Morrison said in Canberra.

"It's not where we want it to be, but the trajectory is right."

Mr Morrison said the government will tread carefully in considering further reductions in self-isolation periods.

"The most recent information that we have is that post-five days you still got 30 per cent that are remaining infectious. And so that is a calibrated decision you've got to make."

Countries reduce Covid isolation

On Monday, the UK’s health secretary announced it was slashing the number of self-isolation days from seven to five.

The move comes just weeks after health officials in the US also cut isolation restrictions from 10 to five days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.

The country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with Covid-19 are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The decision also was driven by a recent surge in Covid cases, propelled by the Omicron variant.

Early research suggests Omicron may cause milder illnesses than earlier versions of the coronavirus.

But the sheer number of people becoming infected — and therefore having to isolate or quarantine — threatens to crush the ability of hospitals, airlines and other businesses to stay open.

Suspending both isolation and quarantine after five days is not without risk, experts have warned.

When people get infected, the risk of spread drops substantially after five days, but it does not disappear for everyone, said Dr Aaron Glatt, a New York physician who is a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"If you decrease it to five days, you're still going to have a small but significant number of people who are contagious," he said.

Members of the public and health workers at a pop up Covid testing clinic at Bondi Beach. Source: AAP
On Monday, the UK’s health secretary announced it was slashing the number of self-isolation days from seven to five. Source: AAP

Omicron-related deaths 'are yet to peak'

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has warned that deaths and hospitalisations linked to the Omicron variant will not reach their peak for several weeks.

On Wednesday, NSW recorded 32 Covid deaths, following 36 on Tuesday — the state’s deadliest day of the pandemic.

Australia had its highest one-day death toll from the pandemic on Tuesday, with 77 fatalities reported.

"We expect death and hospitalisations to continue to rise over the next couple of weeks as we are about to peak in terms of case loads, particularly in the eastern states," Professor Kelly told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

"We know from international experience that Omicron rises quickly, it plateaus and then falls quickly, and I fully expect that this will be the experience here in Australia."

A paramedic moving equipment outside St. Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne, Tuesday, January 11, 2022. Source: AAP
On Wednesday, NSW recorded 32 Covid deaths. Source: AAP

with wires

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