• Rikki Lambert

Shifts away from close contact quarantine, PCR tests on the cards


National cabinet is moving to scrap quarantine requirements for all close contacts of COVID-19 cases as soon as possible as well as to transition away from PCR testing. 


Healthy people with mild respiratory illnesses will instead be encouraged to undertake voluntary self-isolation while symptomatic.


The move comes as South Australia drops a raft of restrictions effective 12:01am Saturday morning, including density limits on public gatherings. Whilst face masks remain a requirement in some indoor contexts, that is expected to be reviewed within a week - just before South Australians go to the state polls on Saturday 19 March.


The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will urgently review quarantine and PCR requirements and report back to the nation's leaders. 


Australians are also poised to find out whether they will be offered a second COVID-19 booster shot ahead of an expected winter surge of infections. 


Health Minister Greg Hunt said the advice is expected by the end of the month on whether a fourth vaccine dose would be recommended for people over 65.


Mr Hunt said it was more likely than not a second booster would be advised.


The government has set aside $2.1 billion to prepare for winter, including $1.2 billion to help protect residential aged care and disability care sectors, $356 million to protect vulnerable population groups and a further $571 million for vaccines.


But while a COVID-19 spike is expected, it is unlikely to reach the same levels of early 2022, Mr Hunt said. 


Plans have also been drawn up to handle a new - and possibly more infectious - Omicron sub-variant.