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Public health committee recommends lifting COVID-19 quarantine for close contacts following national cabinet request

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Quarantine for close contacts of COVID-19 cases could be scrapped altogether, if a recommendation from Australia’s top public health officials is adopted by state and territory governments.

A statement released last night by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) says quarantine could be replaced by other risk mitigation measures for close contacts once the current wave of the subvariant peaks. BA.2 Omicron passed.

Cases of the subvariant are expected to peak in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia as early as next week.

A national cabinet meeting last month had asked the AHPPC to provide advice on how best for each jurisdiction to handle the abandonment of the quarantine period before winter.

The AHPPC said quarantine could be replaced by frequent rapid antigen testing for close contacts, wearing masks when leaving the house, working from home, avoiding high-risk environments and monitoring people. symptoms.

“Where quarantine is required, seven days remains appropriate at this time,” the committee recommended.

People with COVID-19 or showing symptoms of the disease should always self-isolate.

Call for a coherent national approach

South Australia only reduced the required quarantine period for close contacts from 14 days to seven days last week, matching the requirement in other states.

The state’s chief public health officer, Nicola Spurrier, who sits on the AHPPC, said today the committee is ‘very keen to have a change across the country’ this time around.

“We will be watching very closely, but not just in South Australia; we want to move forward on this as a nation,” she added.

Nicola Spurrier at a South Australian Emergency Management Council meeting last week.(ABC News: Rory McClaren)

Following the national cabinet meeting on March 11, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he thought the isolation rules for close contacts of COVID-19 cases were “superfluous”.

“We have instructed the medical expert panel to say that we want your urgent advice on this as soon as possible, as we would like to say goodbye to this rule as soon as possible,” he said.

The AHPPC met on March 23 but only published its recommendations yesterday.

He said the removal of quarantine requirements could “lead to an increase in the number of cases and a reduced capacity of the health system to provide certain acute and elective services”.

He noted that other countries that had removed quarantine requirements “were experiencing significant societal and healthcare system disruptions resulting from rising infection rates”.

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