Australian Medical Association left ‘puzzled’ by Albanese’s ‘political decision’ to reduce COVID-19 isolation requirements

The Australian Medical Association has labelled Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s decision to slash the COVID-19 isolation requirement from seven to five days a “political decision”.

Mr Albanese also announced mask mandates on domestic flights would also be scrapped on the advice from acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd on Wednesday afternoon after a meeting with the National Cabinet.

AMA President Professor Stephen Robson called on the Government to release the health advice after expressing concern about the implications it could have.

“The AMA, like a lot of medical groups and doctors around the country, were puzzled by the decision yesterday, the political decision to reduce isolation for people with COVID from seven to five days to help deal with the workforce, certainly in non-vulnerable workplaces,” he said.

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“We’re puzzled why they won’t release the health advice underpinning that.

“At the moment, we’re calling for that to be released so the politicians can justify to the public why they’re making this decision if it is different to the advice that they’re receiving from their health teams around the country.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese insisted the National Cabinet decision was a “proportionate response” at this state of the pandemic and was made on the “weight of evidence and the advice” received.

“We had a discussion about people looking after each other, people looking after their own health and being responsible for that… there aren’t mandated requirements for the flu or a range of other illnesses,” he said.

“What we want to do is to make sure that government responds to the changed circumstances, COVID likely is going to be around for a considerable period of time.”

However, Professor Robson doubled down on the calls for transparency on where the advice came from and who was providing it.

“They’re not releasing that advice. We would love to see it. And most doctors around the country are scratching their heads on what this advice is that they’re getting,” he said.

“This is a major change that’s got enormous potential ramifications through the community and it really is a political decision that’s at odds with a lot of doctor’s thinking around the country.

“So we’d really like to see that advice.”

The changes will come into effect from next Friday, September 9 for asymptomatic COVID-19 cases, but those who work in high-risk settings including disability and aged care, will still be required to isolate for seven days.

Those still experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 after five days will also still be required to remain in isolation.

The Paid Pandemic Leave Payments will be changed to reflect the isolation requirements with the Government to discuss whether they will be extended after the scheduled September 30 expiry date.

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