Household members of someone who has tested positive for COVID will no longer have to isolate for seven days in New South Wales and Victoria.
This is according to health authorities in both states, who have made the decision to end the rules. The changes will come into effect this weekend.
The seven-day isolation rule for household contacts is one of the few remaining COVID health measures and one that has recently been criticised by businesses for disruption to the workforce.
The rule states that anyone who lives in a house where someone has tested positive for COVID-19 will automatically have to isolate for seven days in addition to the infected person. The infectious person will still have to remain in isolation, however, with the new rules, household contacts will not have to isolate at all. They will however likely be told to monitor for symptoms and get tested.
While the household contact isolation rule was quite an effective way to stop the spread during the initial outbreaks of the disease, government health authorities are saying that it is no longer necessary.
Federal government officials at the last national cabinet meeting discussed a national winter COVID and flu plan, with the idea that additional restrictions would be pulled back once the country was over the latest wave of the disease.
What Are the New Close Contact Rules for NSW?
From 6pm on Friday, April 22, close contacts — those who either live with a household member who has COVID or have spent extensive time with someone who later tested positive — will not have to isolate, as long as they do not have symptoms.
However, they will still need to:
- Avoid aged care, hospitals, disability, and correctional facilities.
- Wear a facemask in indoor settings outside of the home.
- Take a rapid antigen test daily if planning to come into close contact with people outside their home.
- Avoid contact with elderly or immunocompromised people.
- Notify their employers.
Close contacts will have to follow these rules for seven days after their initial contact with the positive person.
NSW Health is keen to stress that this does not change the rules for those who test positive for COVID – positive cases will still need to isolate for seven days.
What Are the New Household Contact Rules for Victoria?
From 11:59pm on Friday, April 22, close contacts will also no longer need to isolate, provided that they wear a mask indoors and avoid sensitive settings.
The rules are virtually the same for Victoria as they are for NSW, however VIC only requires the use of five RATs over the course of the seven days post-contact.
What About the Rest of the Country?
In NSW, where cases have dropped from 20,000 to 14,000 per day, authorities are confident that the state has now passed that latest wave, with a similar story in Victoria. However, this is not the case for the rest of the country, which is still operating with caution.
Both Victoria and NSW have said that they will work together to coordinate their health measures in order to limit disruption between the two. South Australia has also said that it will seek to follow a strategy of “national consistency,” but that repealing COVID restrictions in their state would be premature given the rising case numbers.
Western Australia is also seeking to repeal its remaining COVID restrictions soon, but they have said it will be over a timetable of months, not weeks. This comes as Premier Mark McGowan has been forced to isolate as a house member tested positive.
The most recent surge in cases was thought to be driven by the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron. With increased transmissibility and a raft of new infections, greater immunity is now thought to be in the community, therefore limiting the spread of the disease.
However, with winter on the horizon and case numbers also expected to rise during that time, it’s not yet certain that we are out of the woods entirely. We’ve seen COVID measures brought down before a large surge and having to be reinstated, often too late. Here’s hoping that won’t be the case this time.