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Australia Weighs Lifting Covid Isolation Rules for Close Contacts

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Australia is considering relaxing its pandemic rules, including isolation requirements for close contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus, as the country shifts from trying to prevent transmission entirely to protecting those at risk of severe illness, health officials said on Friday.

“It’s not over, and there will inevitably be new variants, and there will inevitably be a level of virus within the community going forward,” Greg Hunt, the country’s health minister, told reporters in Australia on Friday. He also urged people to get booster shots as the country continues its vaccination campaign.

Government ministers have consulted the country’s health decision-making committee about lifting a requirement that people isolate for seven days after their last contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as ending mandatory testing for people with mild symptoms, according to local news media reports. The changes would still need to be approved by the health committee.

But with 94 percent of the population over age 16 having received a second dose and nearly two-thirds of eligible people having received a booster, the government has said it is prepared for a winter with greater transmission of viruses generally as it moves forward with learning to live with the coronavirus. Last month, the government began reopening most of the country’s borders, first to citizens and then to vaccinated international travelers, after being shut for nearly two years.

“We’re very conscious this winter that not only will we expect to see potential rises in Covid cases, but we’ll also start to see influenza circulating with the opening of the international borders,” Sonya Bennett, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, said at a news briefing on Friday.

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