Scott Morrison reveals key agreements after emergency Covid-19 meeting
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says states and territories have agreed to narrow the definition of a close contact to people living with confirmed Covid-19 cases, in a major change that will begin in five jurisdictions from midnight.
Mr Morrison called a press conference following an emergency national cabinet meeting on Thursday to deal with the escalating situation caused by the Omicron variant.
“Omicron requires us to undertake a change of how we are managing the pandemic,” he told reporters at Parliament House.
“We need to reset how we think about the pandemic, and how we manage ourselves and the things we need to do as governments.
“Omicron is a game changer.”
The Prime Minister confirmed there would be a nationally consistent definition of a close contact, which would come into effect in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT from midnight.
Tasmania will adopt the new definition from January 1, while the Northern Territory and Western Australia will introduce it at a later date with announcements to be made in coming days.
A close contact will be narrowed to people who’ve spent at least four hours with a confirmed case in a household or household-like setting, such as an aged care facility.
They would then be required to isolate for a week - with the exception of South Australia, which will keep its isolation time to 10 days.
If the close contact has no symptoms they will then need to take a rapid antigen test on day six and return a negative result.
But Mr Morrison said that if the close contact had symptoms they would need to take a PCR test.
Similarly, if the close contact returns a positive result with their rapid antigen test, they will also need to take a PCR test to confirm they caught the virus.
The rapid antigen tests will be available for free to these people at testing clinics.
“So, if you are symptomatic, and that goes for anyone who is symptomatic, by the way, if you are symptomatic, then the right test is a PCR test,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison urged people not to fill up testing clinics unless they needed to.
“If you don’t fulfil this definition of a close contact then there is no need for you to be in that line,” Mr Morrison said.
“You should go home. Go to the beach, go and do what you want to do. Read a book in the park.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives for a national cabinet meeting with state and territory leaders at Parliament House.
“The people we need in that line are people who need a PCR test.
“We hope, over the next few weeks, to greatly reduce the volume people who are having these PCR tests, which means we will be able to increase the turnaround time of these tests, getting results back to those who need to take them.”
Mr Morrison said the changes would help ease the furloughing issues within the health workforce and retail sector.
He said those issues were not being felt in Western Australia and that is why they were waiting to make the changes.
“Western Australia is not suffering from these significant furloughing or isolating of workforce that is shutting down economies,” he said.
“That is not happening in Western Australia, but it is significantly happening in the eastern states.
“What I want to make very clear today is the definition we have adopted has actually come forward from the chief medical officer, which I strongly agree with.
“It is a practical definition to deal with the circumstances of the new period and maximise the resources we have available to deal with a pandemic.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said it had also been agreed overseas travellers arriving in Sydney would only have to take a rapid antigen test, rather than a PCR test, to relieve pressure on the system.
“It’s a more balanced approach,” Mr Perrottet told Sydney radio station 2GB shortly before the press conference.