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Everything you need to know about new rules for isolation, close contacts



As the Omicron variant rapidly makes its way across Australia, bringing with it exploding case numbers in almost every state, a number of changes have been implemented across the country to reflect the new state of the play.

Health officials have now agreed that Omicron is less a severe variant compared to Delta, and although far more transmissible, it does not pose the same threat now as it would have in previous outbreaks.

Given the extra layer of protection the vaccine has added into society, a number of changes relating to management of the pandemic – including the definition of a close contact and isolation times – are being rolled out from midnight tonight AEST.

READ MORE: Close contacts redefined and isolation period for COVID-19 cases reduced after National Cabinet meeting

Here's everything you need to know:

What's changing?

The definition of a COVID-19 close contact and the isolation times for positive cases and close contacts.

What's the new definition?

As of midnight, a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case can now be defined as "a household contact, or a household-like contact, of a confirmed case only".

Not an interaction in a retail store, supermarket, bar or restaurant, only somebody that a person has spent over four hours with inside a home.

"A household contact is someone who lives with a case or has spent more than four hours with them in our house, accommodation or care facility setting," Mr Morrison said.

"You are only a close contact if you are, effectively, living with someone or have been in an accommodation setting with someone."

Queue at Roma Street Station in Brisbane for pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

What about isolation times?

A confirmed positive COVID-19 case will have isolate for seven days starting from the date they tested positive on PCR test, previously they would have to isolate for 10.

On day six of their isolation period, the infectious person will have to have returned negative rapid antigen test prior to being able to leave isolation on the seventh day.

Coronavirus, lockdown, isolation

How long do close contacts isolate?

A close contact that is symptomatic must take a PCR test and if positive, isolate for seven days from the date of the positive test.

"So, if you are symptomatic then the right test for you is a PCR test," Mr Morrison said.

A close contact who is asymptomatic – meaning they don't show any symptoms – must have a rapid antigen test, and if positive, they must then have a PCR test.

If close contacts return a negative test, they must still remain isolated for seven days because symptoms a may present later.

"And that is seven days from their date of exposure to the person who is a confirmed case," Mr Morrison added.

"They also will have a rapid antigen test on day six."

Covid-19 rapid antigen test kits.

I haven't been in contact with a COVID-19 case inside a home and don't show symptoms, do I go about life as normal?

Yes. If you don't fulfil the new definition of a close contact then there is no need for you to be in the line for a PCR test.

"You should go home. Go to the beach, go and do what you want to do. Read a book in the park," Mr Morrison said.

"Follow all the normal, common-sense things that you would do, monitor your symptoms, followed the COVID say practices, make sure you have booked for your booster, do all of those sorts of things."

So who has agreed to these new rules?

Mr Scott Morrison has announced all states and territories have agreed to the new defintions.

He said the changes will come into affect New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and the ACT from midnight tonight.

Tasmania will follow on January 1, and the Northern Territory and Western Australia will be making announcements in the next few days.

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