UPDATED: ‘Close contacts’ redefined; PM says we need to ‘reset how we think about the pandemic’

Albert McKnight 31 December 2021 86
Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison announced changes to the definition of ‘close contacts’ this afternoon after National Cabinet. Photo: Screenshot.

UPDATED, FRIDAY: After announcing changes to the definition of a ‘close contact’ of COVID-19, the nation’s leaders have further relaxed the testing rules for the virus.

On Friday (31 December), following discussions with health professionals the leaders removed the need for a rapid antigen test on day six for confirmed cases in isolation, a previous requirement that had been announced the day before.

“If confirmed cases remain symptomatic, they should remain in isolation,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

“Anyone with symptoms will continue to seek a PCR test.”

THURSDAY: The definition of a COVID-19 ‘close contact’ will change in five Australian states and territories tonight due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

National Cabinet met on Thursday (30 December) to discuss the issue before Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced national leaders had agreed to a “practical” way forward to dealing with the Omicron variant of the virus.

He said the “gear change” would reduce pressure on PCR testing for COVID, free up health workers and reduce the number of people who need to isolate.

“We need to reset how we think about the pandemic,” Mr Morrison said.

“Omicron is a game-changer.”

He said the new variant had resulted in more cases, but there was increasing evidence of its lower severity.

The new definition of a ‘close contact’ will come into effect in the ACT, NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia from midnight tonight.

Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory will make their announcements in the coming days.

Under the new agreement, Mr Morrison said you are only a ‘close contact’ if you spend more than four hours with someone you live with who has COVID-19.

“Except in exceptional circumstances, a close contact is a household contact … of a confirmed case only,” he said.

“A ‘household contact’ is someone who lives with a case or hasn’t spent more than four hours with them in a house, accommodation or care facility setting.

“So, you are only a close contact if you are, effectively, living with someone or been in an accommodation setting with someone for more than four hours with someone who has actually got COVID – not someone who is in contact with someone who has had COVID.”

READ ALSO: UPDATED: ACT confirms 253 new cases; NSW records 12,000; National Cabinet to discuss ‘close contact’ definition

A confirmed case must isolate for seven days from the date they took their test, then on day six. They must have returned a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) before leaving isolation.

A ‘close contact’ who is symptomatic must have a PCR test, but if they are asymptomatic, they must have a RAT, and if that returns a positive result, they must have a PCR test.

If a ‘close contact’ returns a negative test they must still isolate for seven days from the date of exposure and have another RAT test on day six.

Mr Morrison said this changes who needs to line up to get a test.

“If you don’t fulfil this definition of a close contact then there is no need for you to be in that line. You should go home,” he said.

“If you’re anything other than a close contact, and you’re not symptomatic, you don’t need to go and get a test.”

READ ALSO: UPDATED: Police investigating protestors over Old Parliament House fire

He also said he hoped people would enjoy New Year’s Eve and look forward to the new year confidently, while also exercising “common sense”.

Speaking earlier today, Health Minister Greg Hunt advised New Year’s partygoers to “avoid the moshpit”.

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86 Responses to UPDATED: ‘Close contacts’ redefined; PM says we need to ‘reset how we think about the pandemic’
Sharron Gozzy Sharron Gozzy 10:36 am 03 Jan 22

Maybe rethink how you think about the PM

Beth Cotterill Beth Cotterill 4:21 am 01 Jan 22

So focus has moved from Best medical advice to be driven by the rate of the spread of omicron and the race of a lifetime to voting day?? The fireworks made me think of the safety & the health of people of the world being blown up by politicians 😢😢Letting covid rip, accepting that everyone is going to get it at some point. 😥

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:09 pm 31 Dec 21

Yesterday’s announcement, reinforced by today’s change, was more of a quantum leap than a “gear change”, particularly “the complete abolition of the casual contact notion” (that’s a quote from the transcript of yesterday’s press conference), but that message may not be getting through – this webpage should essentially disappear, not be “reviewed and updated” –


The other issue which shell-shocked health officials will need to get their heads around, and start explaining in a somewhat clearer and more coherent fashion, is the continuing purpose of the check-in system – unless they’re planning on putting a QR code at the entrance of every private residence in pursuance of the new “close contact” definition……..

Don Stewart Don Stewart 5:54 pm 31 Dec 21

WHY ARE MEAT PRICES SO HIGH IN OZ? because 100% of the OZ media is reporting Covid 100% of the time & not telling the public that the biggest Meat Processor by far in OZ is also big in the USA where due to Covid & other labor problems there has been a under-capacity to Meat Process/ over-supply of cattle & profits of $500 per head have/are been made & are being spent in OZ where there is a undersupply due to Live Cattle Exports resulting in +$300 per head market over break even .

JC JC 2:29 pm 31 Dec 21

Sher bee you probably won’t see this as I don’t use Facebook. But re your comment about mask wearing and one taking their own personal responsibility the issue with that is mask wearing for the most part minimises the wearer transmitting the virus rather than someone wearing a mask contracting it.

So the only way they work is if everyone wears one which of course would mean a mandate rather than personal responsibility.

kenbehrens kenbehrens 10:05 am 31 Dec 21

Maybe the definition of a Casual Contact was too broad, but restricting Close Contracts to people you live with (> 4 hrs a day), is dead set crazy. With the exception of the wife, who shares my bed, I spend more time, in close proximity, with people at work than I do with other members of my household, yet they aren’t included in the Close Contact definition?

Today, > 21,000 cases in NSW. I’m guessing that equates to – say 30,000 Close Contacts under the NEW definitions?
What is the true number? I guess the person you work with goes home to a family and they then reclassify as a Close Contact, unless they are asymptomatic?

I think National Cabinet (which includes the States and Territories) agreed to redefine Contacts because it’s
just impossible to test these numbers and forcing all Contacts into isolation would shut down the entire country.

Outside of peak, NSW trains now operate on a weekend timetable. Exception of course for the Cricket, when full services will operate.

    chewy14 chewy14 11:52 am 31 Dec 21

    Except you have to be wearing a mask with the people you are working with now.

    And if someone at your work tests positive, you will still have to get a test and monitor for symptoms, just the quarantine requirmenents will be less onerous.

    And once again, what you aren’t getting is the government has all the data on this and you don’t. Where and how transmission is occurring as well as what the limits of testing, tracing, health system capacities etc.

    On what basis are you calling the government’s position “crazy”, when you don’t remotely have close to the information needed to have an informed position?

    kenbehrens kenbehrens 6:22 pm 31 Dec 21

    Today, case numbers in NSW and ACT doubled and yet today, a decision was made to further reduce the isolation period by one day, prompting the AMA to warn people may still be infectious. On the same day as numbers doubled, NSW announced that it was again scrapping QR Codes.
    When NSW previously scrapped QR Codes, Dr Chant confirmed that that decision was political and was against her advice.
    While you say I haven’t seen the data, we are
    only hearing from politicians. We aren’t hearing from the Commonwealth and State CMOs.

    chewy14 chewy14 11:33 pm 31 Dec 21

    QR codes are only useful if you turn around the tests fast enough and have the contact tracing resources ro make it worthwhile.

    20000+ cases is why those things won’t achieve anything.

    And indoor mask usage will be determined by the numbers at the time.

    kenbehrens kenbehrens 6:36 pm 31 Dec 21

    NSW Deputy Premier has said that QR Codes and masks would start to be removed from 27th Jan.

David Jarvis David Jarvis 9:09 am 31 Dec 21

Well, for crowded shops and pubs that means no more close contacts….I feel so much safer now 😂

Jim Donaldson Jim Donaldson 8:25 am 31 Dec 21

Whatever happened to the plan? The roadmap? What phase are we in? What phase were we meant to be in? All that bollocks, conveniently forgotten.

Futureproof Futureproof 8:08 am 31 Dec 21

I had my two mandatory vaccinations, so I’ll go where I want

Peter Evans Peter Evans 7:19 am 31 Dec 21

But where are the RAT tests to make this work and are people going to pay $10 a test if they can find them?

Ness Dix Ness Dix 4:27 am 31 Dec 21

I’m absolutely fuming right now. I was tested at Mitchell on Tuesday night at 9pm as I was then classified as a close contact as I was exposed at work on Christmas Eve. I have been so very patient until the 48 hour mark passed now Im beginning to lose it big time. How is it that people that were tested after me to go on some fabulous holiday to Queensland have recieved results yet Im still waiting and all as I want to do is go back to work so I can pay my mortgage and car payment next week? I can’t go to the supermarket and buy a rapid test as I live on my own and Im in isolation, I can’t go and get a PCR as they will turn me away for not being a close contact anymore, Im at my very whits end 😡😡😡😡😡😡

    Steph Anglim Lagones Steph Anglim Lagones 3:59 pm 31 Dec 21

    Ness Dix if you can- put up a post on the Canberra notice board group and I’m sure someone will be able to grab a rapid test for you (I’m working right now so I can’t or I’d grab one for you) 👍 I saw someone else do it

A SP Pillai A SP Pillai 10:59 pm 30 Dec 21

Live your life

Kylie Tinnock Kylie Tinnock 10:39 pm 30 Dec 21

So why not get the states to scrap the entry test if there is no close contact unless you live with them. We can freely travel around the country without being a close contact

Sue Ellen Sue Ellen 10:37 pm 30 Dec 21

Where's Delta gone? No mention and yet I doubt it's disappeared.

Mark Dawson Mark Dawson 10:28 pm 30 Dec 21

Well he has already redefined 'close contacts' amongst LNP staffers so...

Gloria Fardy Gloria Fardy 10:12 pm 30 Dec 21

Yes please!!

Jay Kay Jay Kay 9:55 pm 30 Dec 21

Tldr - we can't manage an actual pandemic so we are moving the goalposts

Christine Lawrey Christine Lawrey 9:25 pm 30 Dec 21

Still following, not leading.

    Gavin Bridge Gavin Bridge 10:02 pm 30 Dec 21

    Christine Lawrey he's gaining votes! That's the job of a politician! Think about that next time you vote!

Katarina Vucic Katarina Vucic 8:39 pm 30 Dec 21

Finally some clearer message

Monica Tiffen Monica Tiffen 8:32 pm 30 Dec 21

No one really knows WHAT to do for the best!!!!

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