Mandatory COVID isolation comes to an end soon, with changes to the rules happening from 14 October.
While Australians will be encouraged to stay at home if they have COVID, they won’t have to.
So you will need to weigh up the pros and cons of isolating if you get the virus. We’ll take a closer look at the issues in this post and also find out what’s next for COVID in Australia.
Why are COVID isolation rules changing?
The reason why COVID rules are changing is that Australia is now in a much stronger position compared to the peak of the epidemic.
There has been a big decrease in COVID cases overall, as well as a drop in people being treated for COVID in regular hospital wards or intensive care. There has also been a reduction in outbreaks in aged care facilities.
The government is also satisfied that there is good immunity to COVID in the population. This is because people have either had a COVID infection or are up to date with their vaccinations.
What’s more, healthcare professionals now have plenty of experience in treating COVID infection, which they learned during the most intense days of the pandemic. And antiviral treatment is now more readily available than before.
All these factors mean that the COVID situation is now considered stable, and rules can be relaxed.
What should I do if I test positive for COVID?
If you have COVID symptoms such as fever, coughing, sore throat or breathlessness, you can take a home test. If you get a positive result, you may wish to do a PCR test as well.
Under the new rules, it’s up to you whether or not you isolate. You may choose to isolate for up to a week, for example, or you could carry on with your daily activities if you feel well enough.
If you decide to stay at home because of your symptoms, know that you can treat them yourself if they are mild. For example, you can keep track of your temperature with a thermometer and use cooling products to make you feel more comfortable.
If you’ve chosen to isolate, you can continue to take home tests to find out whether you are still COVID positive and venture out when you get a negative result.
People who work in high-risk settings such as hospitals and aged care facilities will not be able to go to work for five days following a positive result.
You may wish to have a discussion with your employer about whether to come to work if you test positive. Some people may opt to work from home.
If you decide to go out and about while you have COVID, remember that the virus is still infectious. You can take precautions to protect people around you and reduce the risk of passing on the infection.
- Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds frequently
- Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- Wearing face masks
- Catching a cough or sneeze in the inside of your bent elbow or a tissue. If you use a tissue, dispose of it straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- Staying away from vulnerable people, such as the elderly or people with low immunity
- Not going to crowded places
What happens next?
Experts believe that further waves of infection are likely and the cycle could continue for another two years (1).
New variants of COVID-19 may also emerge.
If the situation worsens and health advice changes, the government may review the changes to COVID rules. So it’s important to know that COVID is still around and may be for some time to come. To help continue to keep infection under control, the government is encouraging all Australians to have their COVID vaccinations.
Learn more about getting your COVID-19 vaccination here.
We’ve turned a corner!
It’s good to know that Australia has turned a corner when it comes to COVID infection. But it still makes sense to take precautions and try to reduce the spread of infection.
From 14 October, it will be your decision whether or not to isolate. If you do decide to go out while you are COVID-positive, take a few simple measures to cut down the risk of spreading it to others.
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- ABC News website, ‘Here’s the health advice that led to COVID isolation rules being dropped,’ 30 September 2022.