Health authorities in Queensland are weighing up whether to follow the lead of other eastern states and relax isolation requirements for household contacts of COVID-19.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath will meet Chief Health Officer John Gerrard on Wednesday to discuss whether to take the step.
NSW and Victoria will scrap the requirement on Friday night, and Ms D’Ath says there is merit to having the same rules across the country.
“I would have liked this to be a national decision where all state and territories implement changes at the same time to avoid any confusion,” she said.
Close contacts are currently subject to a seven-day isolation period, beginning from when they last had contact with a known case.
Close contacts are defined by spending more than four hours with someone in the same residence.
The health minister said she was waiting for further detail on plans south of the border, including what will be required of household contacts if they’re no longer confined to their homes.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has previously recommended a nationally consistent transition to the removal of close contact rules.
Following the peak of the Omicron wave, it said quarantine could be replaced with frequent rapid tests, masks and avoiding high-risk settings.
The briefing with Dr Gerrard is expected to include an update on pressures in a health system affected by staff who need to isolate or quarantine.
“Obviously we know lifting close contacts will help as far as getting more people back at work, both in the health system (and) in the broader community, and help businesses and the economy,” Ms D’Ath said.
But the removal of the rules will inevitably result in an increase in positive cases.
“That is a given and everyone needs to be prepared … when there (are) changes to the close contact rules,” the health minister said.
Meanwhile, Ms D’Ath admitted case numbers were probably well below the actual number of infected people in the community.
Queensland reported another 8995 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with just under 600 people in hospital with the virus.
The health minister said data from hospitals was a more reliable indicator of how the current Omicron wave is tracking.
“That doesn’t change, even if there’s 10 times the number of cases out there,” she said.