Victorians who test positive for Covid will need to notify close contacts themselves | Coronavirus


Victorians who test positive to Covid-19 will be responsible for notifying close contacts themselves, in a measure that some epidemiologists say could help increase testing rates.

Under the new rules, announced by premier Daniel Andrews this week, people who test positive to Covid-19 will be required to notify their workplace, school, or childcare, which will in turn be required to notify employees or anyone who spent time in the workplace during the at risk period.

People who test positive will also be “strongly recommended” to tell their social contacts and encourage them to get tested, the Andrews government said in a statement on Thursday. But, except in circumstances of an emerging outbreak, the Victorian health department “will not trace or manage these contacts”.

Deakin University chair of epidemiology, Prof Catherine Bennett, said the changes could encourage more people to get tested because a positive result will no longer mean that all their close contacts have to isolate for 14 days.

Instead, people who have spent time with a Covid-19 positive person, but do not live with them, will just have to isolate until they return a negative test. Household contacts will have to isolate for seven days if they are fully vaccinated and 14 days if not.

Bennett said the new model may encourage people to get tested more frequently because they won’t be worried about sending all their friends and colleagues into quarantine. They also won’t have to provide details about people they have spent time with to the department, which may have put some people off getting tested.

“I think in the past people may have thought, ‘oh no if I test positive everyone I know will have to go into 14 days quarantine’,” Bennett said. “It is less impactful now to people in your social circle, and there is not a stigma around it like there is with other diseases.”

She said it is possible that, without the help of a trained contact tracer, people may not remember everyone they have been in contact with during a high risk period, but she said it is likely people will forget the smaller, least risky contacts – like popping in to see someone for five minutes, not a person they spent several hours with.

Bennett also said that despite Victoria regularly recording more than 1,000 cases per day, the reproductive rate of the virus had dropped to 0.9, meaning the case numbers should slowly come down.

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University of New South Wales public health professor Mary-Louise McLaws said the changes were part of the step toward living with Covid, but should be delayed until Victoria had reached a 90% vaccination rate across the total population – without pockets of lower vaccination coverage in certain vulnerable groups.

“I would prefer that, given that they are on average getting 1,000 cases a day, with the vaccine rate not yet at 90% across the whole population, that they would continue to conduct contact tracing for primary close contacts.”

Victoria was expected to reach 90% double dose among people aged 16 and over this weekend, and 90% of people aged 12 and over – the total eligible population – soon after that.

As of Thursday, less than 74% of people aged 12 to 15 were fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate was also lower among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, at 77.6% fully vaccinated.

In New South Wales, where the population rate is higher – 94.3% of people aged 16 and over, 74.6% of those aged between 12 and 15, and 79% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – contact tracers from the department of health are still tracing primary close contacts.

Both states have stopped publicly listing exposure sites or directly contacting people who may have been at those sites, except in cases of an emerging outbreak.

McLaws said she hoped the resources that were previously put into contact tracing would instead be put into targeted vaccination programs in hotspot areas.



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