South Australian businesses celebrate scrapping COVID-19 close contact rules, but medical experts have a warning

For the first time in two years, South Australians no longer need to self-isolate for seven days if they are found to be close contacts of a COVID-19 case.

The news was announced last week and aligns the state with New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

The change has been welcomed by many in South Australia’s hospitality and retail sectors, which have been hit hard by closures resulting from staff shortages.

The owner of Adelaide’s Soi 38 restaurant, Terry Intarakhamhaeng, called the change in protocol a “relief”.

“”I have [had] many staff over the past few weeks have self-isolated due to close contact [rules] and some nights we had to close early because we didn’t have enough staff to operate,” he said.

SOI 38 prides itself on preparing traditional Thai recipes using only local South Australian ingredients.(Provided: Facebook)

Under the changes, close contacts will be allowed to come to work, provided they notify their employers or educational institutions of their close contact status.

They will be required to take five rapid antigen tests over a seven-day period after exposure to the virus and wear masks at all times when outside the home.

They will also be banned from going to high-risk establishments, such as hospitals and aged care facilities.

Mr Intarakhamhaeng said the rules strike the right balance between community safety and business operations.

“Customer experience is one of our main goals, aside from serving great food in our traditional way of cooking,” he said.

COVID-19 cases will “certainly” increase

SA reported 3,907 new cases, about the same as yesterday.

But Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy warned the move would lead to an increase in COVID-19 infections in the state.

The SA President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Chris Moy.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy said people still needed to take precautions.(ABC News: Claire Campbell)

“It is almost certain that we will see an increase in the number of cases,” he said.

“While we are seeing an increase in convenience with people not being required to quarantine so more people can go to work, in theory we are paying a price in terms of increased risk of people traveling to spread the infection.”

Dr Moy welcomed the state government’s decision to delay the easing of restrictions by a week, compared to eastern states.

“The key thing you need to see every time you remove restrictions is that cases come down and the hospital system adapts. That seems to be the case at the moment,” Dr Moy said.

“What we need to see, going forward, is people are still getting their boosters, their flu shots, and we’re not seeing people going to work sick.”

The number of patients in SA hospitals with the virus has risen from 222 to 250.

15 people are in intensive care, compared to 11 yesterday.

Four women aged between 70 and 90 have died in South Australia after testing positive for COVID-19.

Currently, 93.4% of South Australians have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, but just over 65% have received three.

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The epidemiologist warns of rising case numbers as restrictions ease.

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