Household close contact rules scrapped in favour of RAT testing in NSW

Close contact isolation rules in NSW have been eased for those living in the same house as a COVID positive case, if they continuously test negative themselves.

The new rules announced in NSW on Wednesday morning will come into effect from 6pm on Friday April 22.

Close contacts will be required to test negative on daily rapid antigen tests before coming into contact with people from outside their household, and work from home where they can.

Close contacts will still need to adhere to a series of precautions, including avoiding hospitals and aged care facilities and correctional facilities.

They are also asked to avoid contact with immunocompromised and elderly persons.

They will still be required to wear a mask in indoor settings outside of the home.

Under the previous rules, household contacts of a positive case had to undergo seven days of isolation regardless of their test result in most workplaces.

“The nature of contact within a household poses a significant for transmission and we are aware that people can get reinfection,” NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said on Wednesday.

“Whilst the vaccines are holding up incredibly well against severe disease, they don’t afford absolute protection again transmission of the virus.”

Green dots will also be removed from public transport and public health orders requiring key workforces to be vaccinated will be lifted, with those requirements now based on occupational health and safety risk assessments.

Hotel quarantine for unvaccinated travellers will also be scrapped in the state.

“Today is a day in our state where the people of NSW can be incredibly proud,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

It follows a recent push from business groups in NSW and Victoria, which say staffing issues continue to inhibit the economic recovery of the respective states.

“NSW and Victoria are Australia’s biggest economies and the current isolation rules are providing a barrier to businesses as healthy people are forced to isolate unnecessarily,” Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter said on Tuesday.

“With NSW airport workers currently having an exemption to the household contact rules, there is inconsistency and unfairness.

“This needs to be fixed so that all businesses can have fair access to workers in the current tight labour market and be open for business.

“Business needs certainty and we know that they are already struggling with supply chain issues and staff shortages.

“Let’s give them the opportunity they need to continue their recovery and let’s give it to them now.”

Similar calls came from Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra.

“Access to staff continues to be a major issue for business,” Guerra said on Tuesday.

“The current isolation requirements are making it difficult for them to provide service for customers and maximise their business opportunities.

“We are seeing other parts of the world moving ahead with revised requirements, and we can use that experience to our advantage.

“We need to release the handbrake and enable businesses to operate at the maximum capacity possible and lead our economic recovery.”

On Wednesday, NSW recorded 15,414 new positive cases and 16 new hospitalisations, bringing the total number of patients being treated with COVID in the state to 1639.