Coronavirus crisis: WA’s new testing, isolation protocols for ‘high caseload environment’
Mark McGowan has outlined a new definition for close contacts and revealed isolation rules for those affected, which are set to be applied when WA reaches a “high caseload environment”.
However the Premier is yet to reveal the exact trigger point for the new protocols to come into effect.
Speaking to the media following a meeting of the State Disaster Council on Friday, Mr McGowan said it would depend upon a combination of factors he was hopeful were “weeks away”.
Key factors which will influence the implementation of the new definition and isolation protocols include average daily infections and how long an infected person had spent in the community.
What will ‘close contact’ mean once a high caseload environment is reached?
Close contacts will be redefined to mean household members or the intimate partner of a confirmed person with COVID-19 that has had contact with that person during their infectious period.
It will also apply to anyone that has had 15 minutes of face-to-face contact with a confirmed case while not wearing a mask.
Thirdly, anyone that has spent more than two hours in a small room with an infected person while not wearing a mask would also be considered a close contact.
What about casual contacts?
There would no longer be such a thing as a “casual contact”.
What does this mean for isolation protocols if I’m COVID-positive?
Isolation rules will also change, with the time a positive case is required to spend self-isolating cut from 14 days to just seven days. If symptom-free on day seven a West Aussie will be free to rejoin the community without requiring a test.
What if I still have symptoms?
If you still have symptoms on day seven you must continue isolating until your symptoms clear.
How long will I spend isolating if I am a close contact?
Close contacts will be forced to isolate for seven days from their date of contact with a positive case.
They will do a PCR or rapid antigen test on day one and another RAT on day seven, at which point they could leave self-isolation if negative.
What if I’m not a close contact but have symptoms?
If you are not a close contact but have symptoms the advice is to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result is returned.
What if I am a critical worker?
Critical workers designated as close contacts will be permitted to continue working provided they return a negative RAT test daily.
They must also wear a mask outside the home and isolate when they’re not working.
When will the high caseload protocols kick in?
Western Australia will halve isolation periods for COVID-infected people and their close contacts but only when it reaches a yet-to-be defined higher caseload.
The decision reached by Premier Mark McGowan and other state leaders on Friday means WA will indefinitely retain its current 14-day quarantine requirement, while there is still no clarity on exactly when the borders will reopen.
Mr McGowan did not provide a threshold for the “high caseload” but said it would take into account average case numbers and their level of exposure to the community.
“Right now, the virus is still at manageable levels and as such it is best to keep our current arrangements that help suppress the virus,” he told reporters.
How do WA’s protocols compare to other jurisdictions?
The new definitions are stricter than those set by national cabinet and adopted by most other jurisdictions.
They are broadly aligned with those of South Australia, where close contacts are required to isolate for 10 days rather than seven.
How does this impact WA schools?
Teachers and students who come into contact with a positive case but do not develop symptoms themselves will be encouraged to continue attending school, unless they had close one-on-one contact with the infected person.
Staff in those circumstances will be asked to take daily rapid antigen tests and quarantine when not at work.
“Face-to-face learning is our priority. We will not be closing schools,” Education Minister Sue Ellery said.
Can WA “crush and kill Omicron?
The premier has conceded WA has no chance of eliminating its Omicron wave as it did previous outbreaks.
But he said the continued border closures and quarantine rules would buy valuable time to improve WA’s third dose vaccine rate, currently at 34 per cent.
What the Premier said.
“These rules mean a single case won’t necessarily close a business while higher-risk interactions are still treated as such,” he said.
“We treat people’s health with the respect it deserves, slowing the spread of the virus, while ensuring that society keeps functioning.”
What has the opposition said?
Opposition Leader Mia Davies panned the premier’s “murky advice and confusing rules”.
“He now continues to incite fear and anxiety in the community using highly inflammatory language to justify this decision,” she said.
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