Australia’s top doctor says people affected by covid-19 should still not go to work while they have symptoms, despite the lifting of mandatory isolation rules across the country.
The country’s National Cabinet met on Friday where prime ministers, chief ministers and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese agreed to scrap mandatory covid-19 isolation rules from October 14.
Isolation rules will remain in place for Covid-hit hospital and elderly care workers, but the decision of how long to stay away from the workplace will now be a decision most Australians will decide for themselves.
During a press conference, Seven News reporter Mark Riley noted that the removal of isolation rules did not give Australians clarity on how long they should stay out of work.
‘How do they stay away for now, five days, seven days, three days, one day?’ she asked.
Paul Kelly, the chief medical officer, said workplaces shouldn’t be treating Covid-19 any differently than they have for the past two and a half years.
Australia’s National Cabinet reportedly agreed to scrap mandatory Covid isolation rules
Professor Kelly pointed to a letter he wrote to Mr Albanese in which he said he strongly encouraged Australians with “respiratory illnesses, and in particular those with confirmed covid, to stay home and in particular to avoid environments high-risk as long as they have symptoms.
He told reporters in Canberra: ‘We have not changed the infectiousness of this virus. The infectious period, we know, the average is two to three days is the peak of infectiousness.
“Again, it would be, if someone has symptoms, they are more likely to be infectious.”
However, Dr. Kelly said the government will not prevent infected people from “going out into (the) community now”. And we won’t be in the future.
‘In terms of the occupational elements, in those particularly high-risk settings, that will continue to be a discussion with employers.
‘The elements of health and safety at work apply to all kinds of infectious diseases, Covid should be seen like this.’
Australia is the latest country to join other nations around the world that have abandoned Covid isolation measures, including the UK and Switzerland.
“We want to have measures that are proportionate and targeted,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
Pandemic disaster leave payments will also be eliminated on the same date, with the exception of people in “high-risk settings.”
Professor Paul Kelly is seen addressing the changes during a press conference on Friday.
Nine Network reported that the mandate will remain in place for hospital and elderly care workers, but will not otherwise apply to Covid patients (Pictured National Cabinet meeting on Friday)
“We want to keep promoting vaccines as absolutely critical, including to people getting booster shots,” Mr. Albanese said.
“And we want a policy that promotes resilience and capacity building and reduces reliance on government intervention.”
Professor Kelly warned that removing isolation rules was not an indication that the pandemic was “over”.
“It recognizes that we are in a very low community transmission phase of the pandemic here in Australia,” he said.
“In no way does it suggest that the pandemic is over. It is almost certain that we will see future spikes of the virus in the future, as we have seen earlier this year.
“Right now, however, we have very low rates of both cases, hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, elder care outbreaks, and various other measures that we’ve been tracking very closely in our weekly open report.”
“However, now is the time to consider that we have other things we can do to protect the most vulnerable people, and that is absolutely our key objective.”
Albanese dismissed concerns that removing isolation rules and pandemic disaster payments would encourage infected workers to return to the office.
“It’s time to move away from Covid exceptionalism, in my opinion, and think about what we need to do to protect people from any respiratory disease,” he said.
The change follows a push by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to abolish the long-standing rules.
Australians in all states and territories are currently required to self-isolate for five days if they test positive for Covid-19.
“We want to have measures that are proportionate and targeted,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday.
“We need to get to a point where if you’re sick you stay home and if you’re well you go out and enjoy life and that’s where we need to get to as a country,” Perrottet said.
“We also need to get to this position where people take care of each other, take care of each other and make sure that if you’re sick you stay home without there being a public health order.”
Australian Medical Association President Dr. Steve Robson warned against the move on ABC News Breakfast.
Dr Robson said: “I think the people who are pushing for isolation periods to be cut are not scientifically literate and they are putting the public at risk and they need to understand that.”
We are seeing a huge increase in the number of COVID cases again. The holiday season is coming when people would be traveling all over the world.
The Nine Network reported that the mandate will remain in place for hospital and elderly care workers, but will not otherwise apply to Covid patients.
“This is a period of significant risk and we ask for caution because we need to protect the health system.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said COVID should be normalized as a virus and treated like any other respiratory condition.
Meanwhile, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that while case numbers were declining, caution was still needed.
“Right now is a period of low case numbers, low hospitalization, low levels of community transmission, it’s unlikely to be a better time than now, going into the summer,” he told reporters.
“But you also have to take into account what might come next.”