Australia reduces COVID isolation timeframe
Australia’s national cabinet – a meeting of the country’s prime ministers – has decided to reduce the period of isolation for COVID-19 for those infected to five days after testing positive. Australians will only need to self-isolate for five days after testing positive, unless they continue to show symptoms on day five.
Isolation was previously set at one week following a positive test.
Those working in high-risk environments such as the elderly, disabled and home care will still be required to self-isolate for seven days.
The national cabinet also removed the requirement to wear masks on domestic flights.
The changes come into effect nationwide from Friday, September 9. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the decision as a “proportionate response at this stage of the pandemic”, citing the importance for individuals “to take care of their own health”.
In response, the Australian Medical Association questioned the councils that informed the decision and is calling for it to be published.
“Governments must base their decision-making on medical and health advice and we need to see that advice and whether they support today’s decision,” said WADA President Professor Steve Robson.
“If not, politicians have to explain themselves.”
A negative RAT should be a ticket out of isolation
Professor Bruce Thompson heads the School of Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He says the decision to shorten the isolation window to five days doesn’t make much sense, given that infectiousness can extend beyond that period.
A more sensible decision, he says, would be to require a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) to come out of solitary confinement.
“I think it’s a solution trying to find science to back it up,” he said. Cosmos.
“What I think they should do is [require] a rat. Then, if you’re actually negative, you’re unlikely to actually have a transmissible virus. But they didn’t.
The move to bring the ‘exit window’ back to five days brings Australia into line with rules in other countries, including the United States.
Recent research with a small study group found that it took up to 15 days for the cultivable virus to be completely destroyed by the body. But after five days, half of the study group still had the virus present.
Dr Kristy Short, a virologist from the University of Queensland, highlighted the confidence that a negative RAT result can bring. Although not infallible, RATs are better able to indicate infectivity than a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
“I personally would like to be RAT negative before I go out,” Short told Cosmos in July.
“We equate these rapid antigen tests to more indications of when you are infectious than a PCR test, because the viral protein indicates virus replication.”
Reduced isolation periods could return in the spring
Thompson points out that potentially having still-infectious people allowed back into public life after five days risks spreading the disease, increasing the risk of new variants emerging through mutations, and health officials are anticipating another wave of outbreaks. COVID-19 infection in Australia in late spring.
Experts like Thompson are wary of decisions that lower transmission barriers like periods of isolation. Even in a highly vaccinated population, transmission can still spread rapidly.
With only 7 in 10 people having received a third booster and less than 4 in 10 having received a winter dose, the potential exposure to reinfection is higher, even if the number of cases drops from its recent peak in July.
And while people are now thought to be able to catch COVID-19 within 28 days of a previous infection thanks to new subvariants, the deadline for receiving a booster is set at three months after recovery. of the disease.
Inconsistencies like these are themselves symptoms of nations learning while working to stop a rapidly evolving pathogen, Thompson says.
“We are still in this learning phase after all. You’re always going to have inconsistencies,” Thompson says.
“The fact that only a few years ago we had a brand new virus – a real doozy, this one – and vaccinated the world’s population in a few years is extraordinary, this has never been done before .”