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COVID-19 update: new definition of ‘close contact’ and isolation requirement changes

Last week, the Prime Minister gathered all the state and territory leaders for an emergency national cabinet meeting. There were three key changes that apply.

COVID-19 update
January 5, 2022

Last week, the Prime Minister gathered all the state and territory leaders for an emergency national cabinet meeting. There were three key changes that apply:

  1. The new definition of a ‘close contact’ is now:  Someone who has spent more than four hours with a positive case in a household-like setting (i.e. a house, accommodation, residential setting or care facility).
  2. If you are a ‘close contact’, you now must quarantine for seven days after your last exposure to a positive case, regardless of vaccination status.
  3. ‘Casual contacts’ no longer exist, so there is no isolation or testing requirements. However, if you have symptoms, you MUST still isolate and have a PCR test.

These new rules impact us all. Read the Australian Government’s national COVID-19 protocols here.

As you know, this is a quickly-changing environment and we will keep you updated when more information and/or changes are announced.

Here are more details:

New definition of a close contact

As mentioned, a close contact is now defined as only household or intimate contacts who spent more than four hours with a positive case. In exceptional circumstances, this definition may be changed by Health Teams. It is unclear what defines ‘exceptional circumstances’ and we are clarifying this with the government.

We’re hearing different states and territories are managing ‘high-risk settings’ and other elements of these changes differently, which is difficult to keep track of.

What we know right now is all close contacts should wear a mask when outside home and avoid visiting ‘high-risk settings’ until after either 10 or 14 days following exposure. There are some discrepancies between states and territories on exact number of days. For example, NSW is saying 10 days and ACT has stated 14.

We also assume disability services, like Aruma, would be considered ‘high-risk settings’.

We’re working hard to clarify these points, and other changing state and territory interpretations, with various state and territory governments within which we operate. We will let you know once we have more clarity.

What you need to know if you are a close contact

  • If you don’t have any symptoms, you will need to do a rapid antigen test.
  • If you are negative, you will be able to leave isolation after seven days.
  • If you are positive, you will need to do a PCR test to confirm your result.
  • If you are a close contact, and do show symptoms, you will need to get a PCR test.

Right now, it’s still unclear if there are different requirements for the disability sector.  We know that’s confusing and we’re working hard to get answers from the government as quickly as we can.

The isolation requirements for a COVID-19 positive case

Positive cases, regardless of vaccination status, will be able to leave isolation after seven days from when their infection is confirmed.

Questions

We know this is a difficult and changing environment to navigate and we really appreciate your patience and understanding as we all work together to ensure that we can support customers, families and staff to stay safe and well.

If you have any questions, please speak to a staff member at your local service. They might not have an answer straight away, but they will come back to you with more information once it is available.