Overhaul of COVID-19 quarantine proposed

Andrew Brown and Paul Osborne |

Quarantine requirements for close contacts of COVID-19 cases could be removed following a recommendation from one of the country’s leading health bodies.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has recommended a nationally consistent approach to transition away from the quarantine measures in place for close contacts.

The recommendation was made in a statement by the body, made up of chief health officers from across the country, while cases continue to spike nationwide.

The committee said a rise in cases linked to a sub-variant of Omicron was likely to peak in the middle of April.

In the statement, the committee said quarantine could be replaced by other measures following that peak.

The recommendation said quarantine could be replaced by frequent rapid antigen testing, mask wearing outside the house and limiting access of close contacts to high-risk settings.

“Where quarantine is required, seven days remains appropriate at this time,” the committee said.

“Removing quarantine at this time may lead to higher caseloads and a reduced capacity for the health system to provide some acute and elective services.”

The committee noted the number of daily cases increased by more than 76 per cent between March 11 and March 23, while hospitalisations rose by almost 25 per cent in the same time period.

However, in the two-week period, deaths were down by seven per cent, and the number of patients in ICU had decreased by five per cent nationally.

It comes as a new report showed the percentage of children who are “on track” across five key measures of development has fallen for the first time in 13 years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Early Development Census is a three-yearly government study which tracks early childhood development based on data from children in the first year of full-time school.

The five “domains” covered are physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge.

The latest report showed most Australian children were “developmentally on track” for each of the five domains.

But between 2018 and 2021 the percentage of children on track in five domains fell for the first time since 2009, from 55.4 per cent in 2018 to 54.8 per cent in 2021.

The 2021 data also shows a small but significant increase in the percentage of children who were “developmentally vulnerable”.

The “social competence” domain was the only domain where the level of vulnerability decreased, from 9.8 per cent in 2018 to 9.6 per cent in 2021.

Education Minister Stuart Robert said children, families and schools had shown enormous resilience and flexibility in unprecedented times.

He said the census would give governments the data they need to make informed decisions about where to target programs, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.


NSW: 25,495 cases, two deaths, 1345 in hospital, 43 in ICU

Victoria: 10,424 cases, six deaths, 310 in hospital, 12 in ICU

Queensland: 10,722 new cases, three deaths, 416 in hospital, 14 in ICU

Tasmania: 2108 cases, no deaths, 30 in hospital, none in ICU

ACT: 1014 cases, one death, 46 in hospital, two in ICU

Northern Territory: 458 cases, 19 in hospital, three in ICU

South Australia: 5134 cases, two deaths, 169 in hospital, seven in ICU

Western Australia: 8731 cases, two historical deaths, 211 in hospital, seven in ICU.