One of the last remaining COVID-19 restrictions – mandatory isolation periods for positive cases – will be scrapped from Friday, 14 October.
Authorities say symptomatic cases are still required to remain at home and avoid mingling in the community as they state “the pandemic is not over”.
National Cabinet reached the decision at a meeting of state and territory heads with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday (30 September) in Canberra.
It’s been reported the decision was unanimous.
Targeted financial support will continue for casual workers and those who work in high-risk settings like aged care, hospitals and disability care.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Albanese said the government had been obliged to provide financial support to workers when isolation had been mandatory.
“It was always envisaged that these measures were emergency measures that were put in place,” he said.
Mr Albanese said the government could not afford to pay people’s wages forever.
One month ago, National Cabinet voted to reduce mandatory isolation from seven to five days.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman would not explicitly say whether she supported the decision or not.
She described the situation as “complex”, which could “theoretically” risk an increase in community transmission and an uptick in cases, but it was unclear if that would happen at this time.
In the next two weeks, discussions will be underway at a national and local level about some of those complexities, including whether people would be advised to remain home for a certain amount of time after their symptoms resolve.
Dr Coleman noted the Territory was currently in the midst of a low-risk situation.
“I have great confidence in the community that if they are sick they will stay at home,” she said.
In the week ending 29 September, the ACT recorded 616 (264 PCR and 352 RAT) COVID-19 cases and the death of a man in his 80s. Last Friday, the ACT reported 730 infections and no deaths.
There are now 342 active infections in the Territory and 205,752 cases have been reported since March 2020.
There are 55 people in hospital with the virus, including one in the ICU. No one needs ventilation.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said reporting of COVID-19 cases would likely continue so authorities could monitor the situation.
She said anyone who tests positive after Friday, 14 October, would still be obliged to report their positive result to ACT Health.
Anecdotal evidence suggests not everyone is recording positive rapid antigen test results to the directorate.
Ms Stephen-Smith said many who had not recorded a positive test result would be asymptomatic and may not even have sought a test.
She said the cohort of people who tested positive and did not report the test would likely be small in the ACT.
The Health Minister said the community was in a good space thanks to hybrid immunity from vaccination and prior infection and low transmission rates moving into spring.
In further signs of easing COVID-19 pressure, the ACT is continuing to scale back its PCR testing response. The Kambah testing site closed permanently today and the others will operate with reduced operating hours.
PCR testing, which is expensive to conduct, is encouraged for vulnerable cohorts.
In the week covered by ACT Health’s weekly epidemiological report, 4916 PCR tests were conducted compared to 7075 in the previous week. Test positivity has now fallen to 7 per cent.
As of 11:59 pm last night, the ACT is no longer under a public health emergency declaration.
Instead, special pandemic management laws have been put in place.
Ms Stephen-Smith described the moves today as part of “another shift” in COVID-19 management but stressed the pandemic was not over and decisions would be revisited if another variant emerged.
Interstate, over the past week, NSW recorded 12,592 new cases (7640 RAT and 4952 PCR) and 82 people died with the virus.
There are now 1057 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals and 24 people in ICU.
Victoria recorded 9458 cases and 59 pandemic-related deaths.
The seven-day rolling average for hospitalisations was 145 patients and nine people in the ICU.