The Prime Minister believes isolation rules for close contacts of COVID-19 cases are now redundant, as the nation moves to the next phase of living with the virus.
- National cabinet has asked AHPPC to consider exactly when isolation rules for close contacts can be scrapped
- Mr Morrison said the current rules were starving businesses and hospitals of staff
- He questioned how workable they would be with the winter virus season approaching
National Cabinet met on Friday to discuss the ongoing threat posed by the Omicron variant, as well as plans for the standard winter virus season.
Scott Morrison, premiers and chief ministers asked the nation’s top medical taskforce, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), to consider exactly when isolation rules for close contacts could be scrapped.
“It’s starving businesses of staff, of hospitals of staff, and all of these things — although for the health sector, there have been some exemptions,” Mr Morrison told reporters today in Sydney.
“That rule is becoming, we believe as leaders, redundant.
“So we’ve tasked the medical expert panel to say we want your urgent advice on this as soon as possible, because we’d like to say goodbye to that rule as quickly as we can.”
Isolation requirements have gone through a number of iterations over the past couple of months, as workforce demands required more exemptions for essential staff to be allowed to work.
Mr Morrison said with the winter virus season approaching, maintaining the status quo was unsustainable.
“Particularly with the kids back at school — I mean, we all know what it’s like with kids and flus and other things that, you know, they bring it home and then the whole family has to stay home and can’t go to work,” he said.
National cabinet is not due to meet again until June 2022, after the federal election.
While discussing the further relaxation of restrictions, Mr Morrison was asked whether he could ever see a set of circumstances where rules snapped back into force – particularly with national cabinet’s decision to also wind back the use of PCR testing.
“I certainly hope not,” he replied.
“You can never know what the next variant may be, and I know we discussed the mutations of the existing variant with Omicron yesterday,” he said.
“What we’ve seen with these latest permutations of this variant is it doesn’t need to change our settings, we can keep doing what we’re doing.”
The federal opposition said it backed the health advice, but warned against complacency.
“We have seen big problems over Christmas and problems in aged care,” Shadow Finance Minister Katy Gallagher told Channel Nine.
“We want to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.
“Cases are starting to surge again and we have been warned by experts that winter will bring on another wave of Omicron.”
Mr Morrison conceded there would be a “challenge going in to winter” as COVID-19 and influenza start to mix.
“We’ve had, obviously, COVID the last few years, but the fact that we have had so many of the social restrictions means that we haven’t had bad flu seasons the last couple of years,” he said.
“In fact, we’ve had very few fatalities from flu, they dropped dramatically during that period.”
He noted that PCR tests that pick up COVID-19 and also flu strains would be in use in coming months.