People who test positive for COVID-19 will only be required to isolate for five days except in vulnerable settings following a meeting of national cabinet.
- National Cabinet has agreed to shorten COVID-19 isolation requirements by two days for most workers
- The AMA fears the reduced period could worsen workforce shortages
- Pandemic payments will be reduced, and mask rules for domestic flights dropped
Workers in high-risk settings such as disability and aged care, and people still displaying symptoms would be required to keep to the seven-day isolation period.
“We want people to stay home. We want people to act responsibly,” Mr Albanese said.
The reduced isolation requirement will come into effect from September 9.
Support payments for people required to isolate will also be reduced from the same date, and requirements to wear masks on domestic flights will be dropped.
The current pandemic leave payment of $750 is scheduled to end on September 30, but the Prime Minister said conversations on whether to extend that payment were continuing.
The ABC understands the reduced payment will amount to about $540.
Mr Albanese said he and state and territory leaders believed the relaxed rules were a “proportionate response at this point in the pandemic”.
“We had a discussion about people looking after each other, people looking after their own health and being responsible for that … there aren’t mandated requirements for the flu or a range of other illnesses,” he said.
“What we want to do is to make sure that government responds to the changed circumstances, the COVID likely is going to be around for a considerable period of time.”
The Health Services Union this week called for mandatory isolation to be scrapped for people who did not have symptoms.
But the Australian Medical Association has expressed concern, and its president Steve Robson says reduced isolation could in fact worsen workforce shortages
“We know there is significant potential for transmission, and it may be that the changes they have made will make work attendance worse, we will have to see from here,” Professor Robson said.
“Almost a third of people on day six and seven after they contract COVID are still potentially infectious.
“Allowing people who perhaps have no symptoms but could still infect others into the workplace may not achieve what the government is hoping to achieve.”
The United States maintains a five-day isolation requirement for positive cases, while the United Kingdom has scrapped mandatory isolation.