Australian State Extends Mask Mandate, Reduces Quarantine to 7 Days for Close Contacts

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

The Queensland government has extended its protective mask mandate to cinemas, theatres and for hospitality workers from 5 a.m. on Dec. 23.

This comes one day after it reduced the quarantine period by half for peopled deemed close contacts of COVID-19 cases.

Queensland had already made masks mandatory in retail centres, hospitals, aged care, airports, ridesharing vehicles, and on public transport.

“Masks help slow the spread of the virus and we want Queenslanders to keep staying safe as borders open and families reunite,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wrote on Facebook on Dec. 22.

Palaszczuk announced 186 new COVID-19 cases—the highest in Queensland since the pandemic began. But none of the new cases were in hospital wards requiring “COVID care,” she said.

“We are seeing some preliminary advice is that the vaccines appear to be working and they are protecting Queenslanders from getting seriously sick,” she added.

Of the 186 cases, around 112 are being treated for COVID-19 from their homes instead of in hospital wards per the state’s new policies, according Queensland Chief Health Officer John Gerrard.

While there are 79 people in hospital who also have COVID-19, only one of them is there to be treated for their COVID-19 symptoms, Gerrard said, noting that one patient has underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, the reduced quarantine period means fully vaccinated close contacts are only required to quarantine for seven days instead of 14. It came into effect at 1 a.m. on Dec. 22.

Close contacts include anyone who has 15 minutes of face to face contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Close contacts will need to return a negative test result on both day one and day five of their quarantine period.

The changes were planned for Jan. 1, 2022, but have been brought forward as the state reached a milestone of 90 percent of eligible Queenslanders getting a first dose of one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Queensland Deputy Premier and Acting Health Minister Steven Miles welcomed the chief health officer’s advice.

“I know how welcome this move will be,” Miles said in a release.

“It provides more flexibility and certainty to business.

“We want them to be able to remain open and trading through this busy time of year,” he said.

Chief Health Officer Gerrard said the move was consistent with the national guidelines.

“We have been planning this now for a while,” Gerrard told reporters on Tuesday.

“The national guidelines suggested a 14-day quarantine period in states which were in an exclusion phase.

“As we move forward and we are seeing more community transmission, and also now that we’ve reached a high level of vaccination in Queensland, we are joining with the other states in the national standard of a seven-day quarantine period for double vaccinated [people] who come into contact with cases,” he said.

The state government also announced changes to the requirements for businesses listed as exposure sites.

From Dec. 22, businesses will not be required to undertake deep cleaning after being listed as an exposure site, nor do they need to close.

Cleaning can be done overnight with standard household cleaning products.

‘We Have to Effectively Let COVID in’

Meanwhile, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has called on the state government to scrap quarantine requirements in light of the high vaccination rates.

The Courier Mail reported that Queensland’s PCR testing requirement as a condition of entry to the state saw people queuing in cars for two hours.

“The overwhelming conversation I hear is given the vast majority of Queenslanders are vaccinated, we have to effectively let COVID in—and live with it,” Tate said, according to Courier Mail.

“With that in mind, the state has to be careful to ensure constantly changing COVID restrictions and regulations don’t unduly impact on employees, employers and the wider community.”

Tate said that the current rules around isolating close contacts has meant that dozens of police officers and hundreds of hospitality staff need to be stood down, placing “a huge burden” on the police force and small businesses.

“I strongly encourage the Premier to continue to relax the rules as we race towards 90 per cent double vaccination,” he said.

“Otherwise, millions who’ve done the right thing and had double jabs, plus booster jabs, will rightly start asking: what was the point?”

Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au