Sep 01, 2022

Aged care staff still need to isolate for seven days despite new COVID isolation changes

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People working in aged care facilities will still need to isolate for seven days if they contract COVID-19, despite Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announcing Australia’s COVID-19 isolation period will change in just over a week.

At a press conference following a National Cabinet meeting with State and Territory leaders yesterday, Mr Albanese said that from September 9 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 will only need to isolate for five days if they have no symptoms. 

“If you have symptoms, we want people to stay home,” Mr Albanese said. 

But the new rules do not apply to everyone. 

People who work in high-risk settings with vulnerable people, including people who work at aged care facilities, will still need to isolate for seven days. 

Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), industry peak body, Paul Sadler said while the number of COVID-19 cases in the community and in residential aged care facilities have fallen, it was still important to be cautious. 

“Providers are urged to follow the advice of health experts both federally and in their jurisdiction in relation to managing positive COVID cases, including required isolation periods which apply to those who work in or visit aged care facilities.”

Mr Sadler added that ACCPA also welcomed the recent Government announcement that funding had been extended for the COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program until end of January 2023, which includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies and Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), in-reach Polymarese Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, and in-reach vaccination clinics for aged care homes. 

Mr Albanese said the five-day period would be reassessed “at some time in the future”. 

Also from Friday, September 9, face masks will no longer be required on domestic flights, but mask mandates in some States for commuting on public transport and being in high-risk settings, like aged care, were not touched on.

Professor Adrian Esterman, Chair of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of South Australia, told ABC News that half of people with COVID-19 were still infectious on day five and a quarter were infectious on day seven.

He recommended the Government move towards what the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control does, which tests people before ending their isolation period.

“It isn’t based on days, it’s based on test results,” said Professor Esterman. 

“To simply reduce it to five days [with no testing], that’s not sensible because you will have 50%of people released out of isolation that are infectious.”

But Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett also told the ABC reducing the isolation period was unlikely to lead to many more cases.

“By the time people realise they have an infection – and it seems to be a shorter infection for many with Omicron, particularly if vaccinated – five days captures the main period when people are at their most infectious after testing,” she said.

“A reduction in isolation of two days at the less infectious end of an infection is not going to have a big impact on transmission. Especially if we continue to encourage everyone to wear masks and avoid high-risk settings for the following week.”

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