UPDATED 5:30 pm: The isolation period for positive COVID-19 cases has been reduced from seven to five days following this afternoon’s National Cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders in Sydney.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the decision to transition was made “on the weight of evidence and in recognition of the complex set of competing priorities”.
The changes will come into effect next Friday (9 September) and the pandemic disaster leave payments will be adjusted from the same date to reflect the changed rules, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said this afternoon.
The domestic flight mask mandate will be scrapped on the same date.
Only people who do not have any symptoms will be able to leave isolation after five days and those who work in aged-care and disability care will still need to isolate for seven days if they test positive.
“[It was decided] this was a proportionate response at this point in the pandemic,” the Prime Minister told reporters after the meeting.
Mr Albanese said further discussions on the pandemic leave payments would take place in the coming weeks.
“There is a general view that we need to ensure that people who need to be looked after are looked after,” he said.
“It is a matter of working those issues through and that is why we are meeting in a fortnight’s time because the extension of the pandemic leave payment is due to conclude at the end of September.”
Mr Albanese said state and territory leaders had, at the meeting, reiterated their commitment to working collaboratively on COVID-19 issues.
Mr Barr described the meeting as having been “an engaging and respectful discussion on the next steps in pandemic management”.
“I was pleased that the transition is being undertaken in a measured way, after the winter peak and with plenty of notice being given.”
Yesterday, he indicated that AHPPC would not brief the Cabinet with a recommendation to reduce isolation.
The ACT has recorded 236 (129 PCR and 107 RAT) new COVID-19 infections in the 24 hours to 8 pm yesterday and hospitalisations have fallen below 100 for the first time since late June.
COVID-19 hospitalisations associated with the BA.4 and BA.5 wave peaked in mid-July at 171.
Of the current 90 cases in hospital, two people are in the ICU but no one requires ventilation.
Active infections continue to fall as well – 1214 have been reported today. Since the pandemic began, 202,543 infections have been recorded in the Territory.
Yesterday, there were 202 infections.
State and territory leaders will meet at National Cabinet this afternoon to discuss several pandemic-related issues.
It’s expected the topic of mandatory COVID-19 isolation periods will be on the agenda.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has been vocal in calling for the seven-day COVID-19 isolation period to be shortened to five.
Some want to go further, calling for COVID-19 isolation to be scrapped entirely.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wouldn’t rule out changes, but he’s called for national COVID-19 consistency.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in a statement yesterday he believed state and territory leaders would not be given advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to reduce the length of isolation at this time.
“I anticipate there will be discussion in National Cabinet tomorrow and potentially further consideration at the September National Cabinet meeting,” he said.
It’s understood the aircraft mask mandate could also be discussed.
In June, the AHPPC reversed its airport mask mandate, but face coverings continue to be mandatory on planes.
At the time, AHPPC said the terminal mask mandate was “no longer proportionate”.
Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron had threatened legal action over the issue, but this was walked back once the mandate was lifted.
Interstate, NSW has reported 22 deaths overnight and 5434 new cases of COVID-19.
There are now 1802 people in hospital with the virus and 38 patients in ICUs around the state.
The state’s health department said COVID-19-related deaths are notified from a range of sources and not all occurred in the week they are reported as there is sometimes a delay between a death occurring and it being notified.
Victoria has recorded 26 deaths overnight and 2857 cases of COVID-19.
There are 333 people hospitalised with the virus and 20 patients in the state’s intensive care units.
More to come.