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What is the new national definition of a COVID close contact?


Paul Hayes


30/12/2021 5:49:54 PM

A close contact is now a person who spent four hours or more with a confirmed case in a household or ‘household-like’ setting.

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison said the move is a ‘practical’ one designed ease increasing pressure on the country’s straining COVID testing systems. (Image: AAP)

Updated at 9.35 am Friday 31 December to reflect updates in South Australia.

With Australia recording tens of thousands of daily COVID cases and the country’s testing system stretched to its limits, most states and territories have agreed to a national definition of a close contact.   
 
Close contacts will now be classified as someone who has spent four hours or more with a confirmed case in a household or household-like setting.
 
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said the move is a ‘practical’ one designed ease increasing pressure on the country’s straining COVID testing systems, outlined the new definition following a national cabinet meeting on Thursday 30 December.
 
‘Except in exceptional circumstances, a close contact is a household contact, or household-like, of a confirmed case only,’ he said.
 
‘So you are only a close contact if you are, effectively, living with someone or have been in an accommodation setting with someone for more than four hours with someone who has actually got COVID.
 
‘[It] is not someone who is in contact with someone who has had COVID.’
 
People who fit the new definition of a close contact will be required to quarantine for seven days from the date of exposure. People without symptoms should test themselves with a rapid antigen test on day six and, if they test negative, can leave isolation on day seven. Those who test positive should take a PCR test.
 
Symptomatic close contacts should have a PCR test.
 
The new definition came into effect at midnight Thursday in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory. Tasmania will follow suit on 1 January, while the Northern Territory said it will announce its plans in coming days.

It appears South Australia will resist the changes, however, with Premier Steven Marshall outlining his the state’s definition of close contacts in a Facebook post on Friday morning. According to the Premier, SA will define a close contact 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 more than 15 minutes’ face-to-face contact)
  • those in high-risk communities/settings/workplaces where someone has tested positive to COVID-19 (and there has been more than 15 minutes’ face-to-face contact).
Premier Marshall also said SA will continue to rely on PCR tests, with close contacts still required to get an initial PCR test and another one on day six, or ‘immediately if symptoms develop’.

While Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has agreed with the new definition ‘in principle’, the state will continue usingits existing close contact and isolation rules for the timebeing.
 
‘It was widely acknowledged at the [national cabinet] meeting that Western Australia is in a very different position compared to other states and territories,’ he said. ‘While WA has agreed in principle with the changes to testing and close contacts, these new settings will only be implemented in Western Australia at a later stage.’
 
Thursday’s announcement of the new definition comes on the same day Australia registered a record 21,343 new COVID cases, driven largely by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
 
Australian COVID cases on Thursday 30 December
  • NSW – 12,226 
  • Victoria – 5137 
  • Queensland – 2222 
  • SA – 1374 
  • Tasmania – 94 
  • ACT – 252 
  • NT – 37 
  • WA – one 
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Dr Daisuke Ikeda   31/12/2021 4:21:07 PM

What is the point of QR check-in now?


Dr Monica Stella Maris Gantus De Whitton   2/01/2022 5:39:46 PM

Hi, I’m just thinking. I see 30 + patients a day. If the patients have COVID (asymptomatic ) I don’t know.
Some consultations extend well beyond 20 minutes. So GP’s will be close contacts from the first day.
Mask and shield and hand washing of course. But most GP offices don’t have windows. No ventilation.
Telehealth would be the solution to avoid infection from me to the patients and viceversa.
But Medicare will punish/fine/investigate with the rule 30/20.
The chronic disease patients coming for care plans will get infected with poor immunity sitting in the waiting room.
I’m 69 and I’m fit to continue working, but is there any input to minimise risks? To be a qualified specialist for 35 years and be exposed to a disease that we have been avoiding for two years?
If my reasoning is wrong, I apologise and wait for advice.
Thank you