Aus leaders agree on new close contact definition

Australian leaders on Thursday agreed on a new definition of Covid-19 close contacts in a bid to relieve pressure on testing sites across the country.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison met state and territory leaders earlier in the day to discuss Australia’s response to surging Covid-19 infections and the new Omicron variant, reports Xinhua news agency.

Following the national cabinet meeting, Morrison said the nation’s leaders agreed to introduce a new nationally-consistent definition of a virus close contact.

Under the changes, only someone who has spent more than four hours with a confirmed case in a household or household-like setting will be considered a close contact and required to quarantine for seven days.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests will continue to be available at existing testing centres, with RATs (rapid antigen tests) increasingly being utilised over coming weeks.

“So you’re only a close contact if you are effectively living with someone or been in an accommodation setting with someone, more than four hours, with someone who has actually got Covid,” Morrison told reporters.

“If you’re a close contact, you get a rapid antigen test. If that returns a negative, you still remain in isolation for those seven days and you have a rapid antigen test again on day six.”

It comes amid increasing demand for tests across the country, with many people spending days in quarantine awaiting results.

There were a record of more than 21,000 new cases recorded across Australia on Thursday, meaning the country has reported more cases in the last two days than it did for the entirety of 2020.

The new caseload has thus increased to 362,691.

Australia also reported 15 deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday, the highest figure in recent days, taking the country’s pandemic death toll to 2,225.

The deaths included a Covid-positive child under the age of two in South Australia (SA).

Till date, 94.3 per cent of Australians aged 16 and over had received one vaccine dose and 91.3 per cent were fully inoculated, according to the Department of Health.

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