Changes to definition of ‘close contact’

The definition of a Covid-19 “close contact” in NSW could change as the state prepares to reopen despite the deadliest day on record for the state.

The definition of a Covid-19 “close contact” in NSW is likely to change as the state prepares to reopen and vaccination rates rise despite its deadliest day on record.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant discussed the definition change on Wednesday, which is expected to come into force once the state hits its vaccination targets and businesses reopen within a fortnight.

Currently, the rules require any one deemed a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case must isolate at home for 14 days, regardless of the result.

The change, once the state reopens from lockdown on October 11, means a person’s vaccination status and whether they wore a mask may decide whether they need to isolate if they come into contact with a confirmed case. But the rules are murky.

“We are going to be factoring vaccination status into whether you even fall into the category of a close contact,” Dr Chant said.

Dr Kerry Chant said that while close contacts and exposure sites may be off the hook, positive cases will need to self isolate for 14 days regardless of their vaccination status.

“It is not about scaling back contact tracing,” she said.

“It will be the prioritisation … to determine where best to allocate our resources”.

Dr Chant said the health advice had not yet been finalised but that the rules may change depending on the setting.

“We’ll obviously be more concerned about some settings, so some settings like health care, disability, aged care, we may take a more cautious approach, because we are concerned about the complexity and the consequences in those settings,” she said.

“In other settings, it may be that we assume when everyone is vaccinated, and you have knowingly taken that risk, we don’t do the same level of contact tracing that has been occurring in the earlier phases in the outbreak.

“All businesses will be having indoor mask-wearing. All businesses will be having fully vaccinated staff.

“In terms of hospitality or new businesses that are opening and permitted at 70 per cent, those strategies and having the Covid-safe tea rooms will protect you from having anyone off.”

The state is just shy of having 62 per cent of all eligible people fully vaccinated, while more than 86 per cent have had at least one dose.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was confident the state would hit 90 per cent first doses next week.

NSW recorded 863 new Covid cases in what is a promising sign in lowering case numbers, but 15 deaths means today marks the state’s deadliest day of the pandemic so far.

Ms Berejiklian issued a “cautious warning” on Wednesday against a “surge in cases beyond what we can handle” once the state opens up.

“We’re all looking forward to October 11, it’s a day where we’ll be going to be able to do all those things we haven’t been able to do for a long time.

“But between 11 October and when we hit 80 per cent double dose we do need to exercise that extra degree in caution,” she warned.

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