News Coronavirus Push to scrap close contact isolation rules in next step towards living with virus

Push to scrap close contact isolation rules in next step towards living with virus

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Close contacts of a COVID case may soon no longer be forced to self-isolate for a week as National Cabinet considers scrapping home quarantine requirements as soon as possible.

Under the proposed changes, healthy people with mild respiratory illnesses would instead be encouraged to undertake voluntary self-isolation while symptomatic.

Australia would also transition away from PCR testing.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) will urgently review both measures and report back to the nation’s leaders.

Close contact quarantine rules were overhauled at the end of last year to ease workforce shortages which was followed by certain jobs being made exempt from isolation requirements.

If the AHPPC approves the latest measures, there will be no more requirement for people with mild symptoms to self-isolate.

As winter approaches, Australians are poised to find out whether they will be offered a second COVID-19 booster shot ahead of an expected surge of infections.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the advice is expected by the end of the month on whether a fourth vaccine dose would be recommended for people over 65.

Mr Hunt said it was more likely than not a second booster would be advised.

The government has set aside $2.1 billion to prepare for winter, including $1.2 billion to help protect residential aged care and disability care sectors, $356 million to protect vulnerable population groups and a further $571 million for vaccines.

But while a COVID-19 spike is expected, it is unlikely to reach the same levels of early 2022, Mr Hunt said.

Plans have also been drawn up to handle a new – and possibly more infectious – Omicron sub-variant.

SA eases more COVID-19 rules

A raft of COVID-19 restrictions have been eased in South Australia, providing a boost for ongoing arts events and the wider community heading into the Adelaide Cup long weekend.

From Saturday, SA has scrapped all density limits in hospitality and other venues, along with removing capacity caps on household gatherings.

Singing and dancing is now allowed in all settings while most people who contract coronavirus will only be required to isolate for seven days, down from 10.

People with serious underlying health conditions may be required to isolate for longer, but will be guided by health officials.

Mask mandates for indoor venues remain in place but will be reviewed next week.

Adelaide Fringe Director Heather Croall said the changes meant audiences could increase, something venues and artists are thrilled about.

“The whole Fringe experience is about going out for a meal, seeing a show and dancing afterwards, so we are welcoming of these changes,” she said.

“And with hundreds of shows already sold out over the next 10 days, the increased capacity will mean that more audiences can get out there and buy tickets.”

SA’s COVID-19 daily case numbers have hovered around 2500 over the past few days and were expected to remain at those levels for the immediate future.

On Friday there were 2503 new infections reported, along with one death.

There are 88 people with COVID-19 in hospital including 10 in intensive care, where two are on ventilators.

Active cases across the state stand at 22,054.

Premier Steven Marshall said the changes to virus rules were only possible thanks to the great co-operation of the state’s public.

“Overall South Australia has come out of this extraordinarily well compared to just about any other jurisdiction in the world,” he said.

-with AAP