News Coronavirus COVID rules explained: When should I get tested? And how long should I isolate for?
Updated:

COVID rules explained: When should I get tested? And how long should I isolate for?

isolate
The definition of a close contact depends on where you live in Australia. Photo: AP
Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Australian governments agreed to adopt a uniform definition of a close contact at a snap meeting of national cabinet last week.

The agreement led to shorter isolation periods and fewer people needing to self-isolate at any one time.

But less than 24 hours later the federal government changed the rules again and state governments like South Australia veered from the agreed-upon path.

So here’s a quick review of the most up-to-date rules – depending on where you live.

Victoria

Am I a close contact? 

Under the new national definition, a close contact is someone who has spent four hours or more with a confirmed case in a household or household-like setting, accommodation or care facility.

That includes four hours made up of shorter times.

What are the quarantine rules? 

If you are a household or household-like contact, you must immediately quarantine in your home for seven days.

If you live with the person who has tested positive, your quarantine period starts from the date they got tested.

Isolate away from them as much as you can.

  • Get tested on day one, or as soon as possible, with a PCR test if you have symptoms or a rapid antigen test (RAT) if you don’t have symptoms
  • On day six, get tested using a PCR test if you have developed symptoms. Use a rapid antigen test if you don’t have symptoms or tested negative to your first PCR test.

If you don’t live with the diagnosed person, your quarantine period starts from the day you last saw them.

Again, get tested on day one and day six using a rapid antigen test or PCR test, depending on your symptoms and results.

Read more here.

New South Wales

Am I a close contact? 

According to NSW, your risk of being exposed to the virus is at its highest if you are a household contact or spent a long time with someone who has been diagnosed with the virus (e.g. slept over at their house). Again, this falls under the new national definition.

What are the quarantine rules? 

If you are a close contact, you must isolate for seven days from the last time you were in contact with the COVID-positive person.

NSW recommends you take a PCR test as soon as possible, followed by a rapid antigen test on day six.

If both tests return negative then you may leave isolation on day seven.

But if either test is positive, you must continue to isolate and follow NSW’s guidelines for testing positive.

Read more here.

Queensland

Am I a close contact? 

Queensland has also adopted the new national definition of close contact.

What are the quarantine rules? 

Once you find out you are a close contact, you must:

  • Use a rapid antigen test if you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms or a PCR test if you do have symptoms
  • Quarantine for seven days since your last contact with the diagnosed person.

If you have no symptoms, you may leave quarantine when:

  • You have completed seven days of quarantine and returned a negative rapid antigen test from day six of isolation
  • You have not received further direction to isolate from the government.

Read more here.

Northern Territory

Am I a close contact? 

The Territory is operating under the new national definition.

What are the quarantine rules?

Vaccinated close contacts must quarantine immediately for seven days, while unvaccinated close contacts will still need to isolate for 14 days.

If you have symptoms, you must get a PCR test in the first three days and then do a rapid antigen test on day six.

If you don’t have symptoms, you need to do a rapid antigen test in the first three days and again on day six.

Tasmania

Am I a close contact? 

Tasmania has also updated its definition of close contact in line with the national changes.

What are the quarantine rules?

If you are a close contact, you are required to quarantine for seven days and have a rapid antigen test on days one and six.

If your first RAT result is negative, you still need to isolate for seven days. If your second RAT result is positive, you need to get a PCR test. But if your day six RAT result is negative, then you’re free to exit isolation on day seven.

It is strongly recommended that close contacts continue to wear a mask at all times for a further seven days after they leave quarantine.

They should also avoid high-risk settings.

Read more here.

South Australia

Am I a close contact? 

In South Australia, close contacts will continue to be defined as:

  • Household and household-like contacts and intimate partners
  • Those who have been in a setting where there has been significant transmission of COVID-19 (and there has been greater than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact)
  • Those in high-risk communities/settings/workplaces where someone has tested positive for the virus (and there has been greater than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact).

What are the quarantine rules?

For close contacts in South Australia, you need to isolate for seven days.

Get an initial PCR test on day one and again on day six, even if your first test is negative.

A negative day six PCR test is required to be released from quarantine.

Read more here.

ACT

Am I a close contact? 

In the ACT, close contacts include all your household members, someone who has spent more than four hours with you in the same room or a small area in a house, accommodation or care facility.

What are the quarantine rules?

Note: ACT Health is currently reviewing its page, so check back for more updates.

As of December 31, 2021, all close contacts are required to:

  • Immediately quarantine for seven days after you were last exposed to the diagnosed person
  • Complete the close contact declaration form (unless directed otherwise when contacted directly by ACT Health)
  • Get tested for the virus.

Read more here.

Western Australia

Although WA Premier Mark McGowan has agreed to the new changes “in principle”, WA will continue using its existing close contact and isolation rules until a later stage.

At present, the state still imposes a 14-day quarantine.