State, territory leaders defend COVID isolation changes

Major changes to COVID isolation rules from next week

Premiers have defended national cabinet’s decision to cut the COVID isolation requirement down to five days after the peak medical body called on the government to release the health advice.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson has urged the government not to treat the virus as other infectious diseases after the prime minister said there aren’t mandatory isolation requirements for other illnesses.

Professor Robson said the AMA had not been consulted ahead of the announcement, and that doctors were “scratching their heads on what this advice is”.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said he was satisfied with the health advice presented to him at national cabinet, and by his own chief health officer, that it was the right time to move.

“Everything is always balanced … and the advice from my chief health officer was very strong that we should do that,” he said when asked about the reduction.

“Over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, I’d been one of the more cautious people about COVID. But the health advice given to me was very strong.”

Mr McGowan said case numbers wouldn’t necessarily go up due to the isolation changes, after a warning from Professor Robson about a potential spike.

“One of the things we face is a lot of our staff, particularly in hospitals, are furloughed, which has other complications,” he said.

“Maybe six weeks ago, the AMA was saying case numbers were going to go through the roof and … it turned out to be the opposite.

“What’s occurring is case numbers are going down, we’re coming out of winter, it’s the right time to do it.”

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said it was time the nation moved away from mandatory health orders, so employees could make their own decisions about when to go to work.

“We need to move to a place where if you’re sick you stay at home, and if you’re not sick you go to work,” he told the ABC on Thursday.

“Ultimately, the point we need to get to is a less reliance on public health orders and a greater reliance on people respecting each other.”

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said while he argued the reduction from seven days to five should occur at the end of September rather than next week, there was a compromise from moving immediately.

“Ideally, we would be fully over the winter peak before making this step down,” he told ABC radio.

“[But] I was pleased that rather than an instant announcement, that doesn’t occur for another 10 days or so.”

More than 60 people with COVID-19 died across the nation on Thursday while more than 11,700 cases were recorded.


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