As of Friday, September 9, the requirements for isolation for people with COVID and asymptomatic are will be cut off From seven days to five days. Masks will not be required on domestic flights.
While the Australian Medical Association President Steve Robson Call In order to release the science behind the national cabinet decision, the change shows that we are now rapidly pushing towards a “business as usual” pandemic. This political strategy requires the abolition of protections or restrictions, so that life and business can return to “normal”.
But life is nowhere near normal. COVID is the third most common Australian killerwith 11,746 deaths so far this year. And there is mounting evidence that COVID survivors are at risk Long term health effects On the lungs, heart, brain and immune system.
In fact, there is no going back to normal now that we are living with COVID.
Read more: Long COVID: How researchers focus on the self-targeting immune attacks that may lie behind it
So what is driving these changes and what will the impact be?
First of all, there No scientific basis for change. We know that people differ in terms of how long they remain contagious with COVID after testing positive.
Determining a reasonable isolation period depends on balancing the risks to the community from continued transmission and the benefit of enabling individuals with COVID to return to work, school, and normal activities as quickly as possible. Seven days was already a compromise. And now the Prime Minister of New South Wales, Dominic Beirut, has called for it Isolation to be abolished entirely. Has the evidence changed regarding this balance?
There are a number of recent studies on people vaccinated in the Omicron era to assess how long people shed the virus and are potentially contagious after testing for the novel coronavirus. This new research shows a large number of people (among third And the HalfIt remains contagious after a five-day isolation period. else study Two thirds of infections appear to be contagious after this time.
Therefore, of the 11,734 people reported to have contracted the COVID virus on September 1, at least 3,900 will remain infectious on Day 5. If they are released from seclusion, they can infect others.
Moving forward, this could lead to many additional COVID cases that would not have occurred if the seven-day isolation period had been maintained.
While reducing the duration of isolation only applies to people without symptoms, transmission is well accepted without symptoms. Unfortunately, our politicians did equivalent Lack of symptoms with inability to transmit the virus to justify changes. It is clear that decision makers need to be better informed.
Read more: Should states cut COVID isolation from 7 to 5 days? Here’s what they’ll need to consider
But what about companies?
Compulsory isolation puts pressure on people and companies. But with the number of COVID cases drop From the peaks of the BA.4/5 wave across Australia, the number of people who tested positive for COVID is lower than at any time this year. Pressure on individuals and businesses due to mandatory isolation is at a low point by 2022.
So why change now? Perhaps the hope is that while we see a decrease in transmission due to the large number of people recently infected with the COVID virus, relaxing our protective measures will not lead to an immediate increase in cases.
In this trust trick, politicians can make these changes without any apparent effect. They will continue to do so until all anti-transmission mitigations are gone. This is all part of the strategy that, in Words from the Prime Minister of New South WalesIt has “less reliance on public health orders and more reliance on respecting each other.” As if the two concepts are mutually exclusive rather than mutually reinforcing.
Unfortunately, reinfection is a common occurrence, and we will face another pandemic wave in the future, most likely before the end of the year. Hence, our systematic dismantling of all current protections will make the next wave come sooner and affect more people.
Reduce transmission instead
Allowing a large percentage of people to return to work while they are still infectious is not a solution to the workforce disruptions that COVID continues to cause. This is because there will be an increase in injuries in workplaces and schools due to the shorter isolation period. When the next wave comes, it will cause more people to furlough because they are sick with the coronavirus or care about others, defeating the ultimate goal of change.
And as we learned with wave BA.5 – the Most people hospitalized with COVID In Australia since the beginning of the epidemic – bringing back states once they are removed does not happen even when Medically advised. Once the protection is loosened, there is no turning back – it’s a one-way street.
In other countries that have shortened and then abandoned isolation altogether, such as in the United Kingdom, transmission has worsened and has become The economic effects are exacerbated.
Removing mask mandates on planes means an increased risk of your travel being disrupted by COVID and also airport disruptions due to flight crew getting sick from the increased exposure.
Read more: Want to reduce your chance of catching COVID on an airplane? Wear a mask and avoid business class
By reducing isolation and thus increasing workplace mobility, we make the workplace less safe. The rights of people to a safe workplace must be considered along with business continuity.
Allowing increased transmission will affect the economy by increasing the number of people affected by the prolonged coronavirus. In the UK, the model we’re emulating seems to be, even One in four employers They report their productivity is Affected by COVID long.
Moving into a pandemic as usual leaves us unnecessarily vulnerable and will eventually disrupt business even more.
The emergence of increasingly more contagious and vaccine-resistant variants of COVID, along with the simultaneous removal of attenuating agents such as isolation and masks, dooms us to recurrent and devastating waves of disease.
Our best chance for business continuity is not a one-way path to a disruptive business-as-usual pandemic but a multi-layered strategy. This will include enhanced booster rates, safer indoor air, public indoor masks and maintaining the current isolation period for those infected with COVID.
Read more: How does Omicron compare to Delta? Here’s what we know about infection, symptoms, risks, and vaccine prevention