Ex-CMO Nick Coatsworth: Seven days in COVID isolation is not an iron rule

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New models suggest rapid antigen testing could speed the isolation of some confirmed COVID-19 cases as one of Australia’s leading infectious disease experts calls for an end to the seven-day minimum period.

Former chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth says the current isolation rules are doing more harm than good as Australians are increasingly cut from the workforce.

“Even if there is a small risk of infection on day six or seven, if you wear a mask and wear it like doctors and nurses do, which is normal in a hospital setting, your risk of transmission is very low,” says dr. Coatsworth told Sky News.

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Treasury data shows that in the first six months of this year, three million workdays were lost to viral illness and an estimated 31,000 workers across the country were on sick leave in June.

dr. Coatsworth says seven days of isolation is excessive under the circumstances and should be scrapped.

New Zealand research, meanwhile, shows that using RATS as part of a “test-to-release” policy would shorten the minimum isolation period for confirmed cases.

‘The best tool’

“Rapid antigen testing is the best tool to determine if people are still contagious, so it is possible to adapt an isolation period to when people are contagious,” said Emily Harvey of Auckland University.

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“Some people could get out of isolation earlier than seven days, some people will have to be in isolation for longer.”

A policy of two tests to release would have a minimum isolation period of five days and a maximum of 10.

Australia reported another 15 COVID-19 deaths on Sunday, along with more than 9,000 new virus cases. A total of 86 deaths and more than 11,000 infections were announced on Saturday.

The country still has more than 127,000 active cases of coronavirus, with more than 3,000 patients across the country in hospital care.

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LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA

  • NSW: 4160 cases, five deaths, 1,821 hospitalized with 45 in ICU
  • Victoria: 2099 cases, nine deaths, 372 hospitalized with 23 in ICU
  • Queensland: 1,125 cases, zero deaths, 288 hospitalized with 10 in ICU
  • WA: 1055 cases, one death, 128 in hospital with six in ICU
  • ACT: 175 cases, zero deaths, 104 in hospital with three in ICU
  • SA: 439 cases, zero deaths, 153 in hospital with seven in ICU
  • Tasmania: 178 cases, zero deaths, 30 hospitalized with one in ICU
  • NT: 63 cases, zero deaths, 14 in hospital and none in ICU

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