The ACT has followed similar moves from NSW and Victoria and scrapped the requirement for household contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to quarantine for seven days.
The changes will come into effect at 11:59 pm on Tuesday, 26 April, unlike in the larger two states where the changes will apply from tomorrow.
Although household contacts will no longer need to quarantine, they will have to comply with a number of risk mitigation practices, including wearing a face mask in indoor spaces outside the home, working or studying from home if practical and avoiding high-risk settings.
Contacts must still advise ACT Health and their employer or educational facility that they are a household contact.
If they must attend an unavoidable gathering (such as a funeral or vote in the Federal election), they must return a negative COVID-19 test result 24 hours before attending.
Contacts who need to attend work or study must also undertake COVID-19 testing and return a negative result 24 hours prior to returning to work or study and then every 48 hours if ongoing attendance is required.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said further announcements would be made next week regarding arrangements for education as well as how the ACT Government could provide additional access to rapid antigen tests if required.
At this stage, it’s unclear whether students will be able to remain at home and undertake remote learning if they are deemed a household contact.
Any household contacts who develop symptoms must quarantine until they resolve, regardless of whether the contact receives a negative test result or not.
As expected, the Territory’s rules are mostly the same as arrangements that will come into effect tomorrow in NSW and Victoria, although with less reliance on rapid antigen testing.
In NSW, household contacts must undergo daily rapid antigen tests. In Victoria, they must record at least five negative rapid antigen tests in the seven days after being identified as a close contact.
Ms Stephen-Smith said it was expected that any household contact who is required to leave their house will abide by COVID-safe behaviours and avoid interacting with elderly or immunocompromised people, crowded places and spending prolonged periods indoors.
She also asked household contacts to carefully consider whether they need to leave their homes and interact with others, including for work or study.
“We know these changes will provide relief to many people, both to individuals and to employers. We know there are many households that have had to quarantine a number of times,” she said.
The changed requirements will result in an additional risk of COVID-19 transmission. However, Ms Stephen-Smith said it was a balancing act between this and the broader impact on business and people’s lives.
“This is not about encouraging people to leave quarantine or opening the door for people to just go out into the community and go into crowded spaces because they feel like it,” she said.
“This is really about saying if your workplace needs you to come to work because they’re really short-staffed and you cannot work from home, these are the risk mitigation we can put in place to enable you to do that with a level of safety.”
Ms Stephen-Smith explained that the additional four days before the change comes into effect locally was to allow time for updating ACT Health’s systems, advice to businesses and health directions, and the website.
She said the ACT Government was also unaware of the full detail of the announcements from NSW and Victoria until both states’ governments made them on Wednesday morning.
However, she rejected suggestions of frustration with the larger states moving together ahead of the ACT, instead arguing it was important the bigger states did collaborate to ensure consistency.
“The advice from the ACT Chief Health Officer was that we just needed an extra few days. I know there will be potentially some frustration for people who are in quarantine over the weekend, and we do apologise for that,” she said.
International traveller arrangements will also fall into line with those for NSW and Victoria from 11:59 pm tomorrow (22 April).
All arrivals will be encouraged to get a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of arrival, and any quarantine requirements for unvaccinated travellers will be removed.
No changes to existing vaccine mandates, mask mandates or check-in requirements were made by the Territory’s health authorities.