'Terrifying': Premier's admission that Covid rule had 'zero utility' goes viral

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As NSW pushes for broader changes to isolation rules, a clip of premier Dominic Perrottet has resurfaced confirming the frustrating reality many Australians have felt about the Covid rules that govern our lives.

Described as "terrifying" by one outspoken doctor and former MP, it belies the trade-offs and at times baffling contradictions inherent in the rules intended to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at an event hosted by economic think tank CEDA, Mr Perrottet admitted some Covid rules were simply about supporting public confidence rather than actually effecting meaningful change.

"The most ironic one, I thought, was that we ended up bringing back QR codes when we weren't even tracking and tracing," he told the audience during a Q&A.

"There was no science behind it at all, it had zero utility but there was a massive campaign and when there's a massive campaigns that gets run, what it does is it depletes [public] confidence."

Man wearing a mask amid debate about Covid rules in NSW.
The quotes about Covid QR codes and RATs from the premier earlier this year have been rehashed online. Source: Getty

The premier also cited the delivery of free RATs to schools as students returned this year as motivated by a desire to combat media reports which he said were trying to "instil fear in the community" and to placate the education department.

"Health completely disagreed with this approach, by the way," he said.

The comments are not new and where made weeks ago, with the full interview later being posted online by CEDA on March 4.

But the candid remarks have been circulated on social media this week, including by former AMA president and former deputy lord mayor of Sydney Kerryn Phelps who on Wednesday labelled it "terrifying".

Dominic Perrottet's office has been contacted for comment.

It comes as debate continues about Covid isolation rules in Australia with worker disruptions causing difficulties during the school holidays, with calls growing louder to scrap restrictions for close contacts.

Push to make further changes to isolation rules

The BA.2 Omicron sub-variant has become dominant in Australia with NSW averaging nearly 17,000 official Covid infections a day in the past week.

The steady wave of a cases has caused disruptions in some sectors including exacerbating long queues and delays at Sydney airport.

NSW is reportedly pushing to drop isolation requirements for more industries and urging Victoria to join.

Queues of people are seen at Sydney Domestic Airport on Thursday. Source: AAP
Queues of people are seen at Sydney Domestic Airport on Thursday. Source: AAP

The chief health officers from all seven states and territories sit on the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, chaired by chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly, which is reviewing close contact isolation rules around the country.

The AHPPC said last month it supports phased changes to remove the routine quarantine requirements for all close contacts of positive cases, who have to isolate for seven days even if they test negative.

The committee said the appropriate time to implement changes would not be until after the anticipated peak of the Covid-19 BA.2 sub-variant of concern.

While it would prefer to have a consensus on changes, NSW will at least attempt to make any changes in line with Victoria if the other committee members don't agree, a spokeswoman for NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told AAP on Wednesday.

Any changes would be made with health safeguards as a major focus, the spokeswoman said.

Some relaxation of the rules has already come in for select industries, such as air transport workers. Retailers and hospitality operators are calling for their industries to be next.

Close contacts don't have to get tested in other countries

Compared to our Western peers, Australia is still taking a rather strict approach to Covid.

In Denmark, residents can leave isolation just four days after testing positive provided they have no symptoms and 'close contacts' are no longer recommended to even get tested.

In the US, authorities recommend people isolate for five days after testing positive while in late February, the UK announced people who test positive for Covid will no longer legally have to self-isolate. The guidance is to still stay home, but there is no mandate. A similar approach has long been taken in Sweden.

with AAP

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