Under new rules agreed by the National Cabinet yesterday, asymptomatic people who have tested positive for COVID will only have to isolate for five days.
However, the seven-day mandatory isolation will remain in place for people with symptoms and workers in high-risk settings like disability and aged care.
In his announcement, Prime Minister Albanese noted that these changes are a “proportionate response at this point in the pandemic” and will come into effect from Friday, 9 September.
“What we want to do is to make sure that government responds to the changed circumstances, that COVID likely is going to be around for a considerable period of time,” he added.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrotett has previously pushed for shorter isolation periods, backed by the federal opposition leader Peter Dutton. Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he would back the move ‘if supported by health advice.’
The news of shorter isolation periods has been welcomed by business groups like the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).
“Covid and the flu are significant factors in the current staffing challenge,” said Paul Zahra, CEO, ARA. “If people are healthy, we should allow them to get back to work. We thank the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers for taking this common sense approach, which is an important step forward in our transition towards living with Covid.”
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) also supported the move. ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar highlighted this will significantly reduce the burden of workforce shortages on Australian business.
“Reducing isolation rules from seven to five days for those without symptoms will be critical in further alleviating the acute workforce shortages across the economy,” Mr McKellar said.
“With businesses recording worsening staff absences, this change will enable more employees to return to work earlier, ensuring businesses can keep their doors open and keep the economy moving.”
Along with shorter isolation periods, the National Cabinet has also agreed to drop requirements to wear masks on domestic flights. This, too, will come into effect on 9 September.