10 February 2022

Chief Health Officer issues advice on COVID-19 contacts

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Western Australia’s Chief Health Officer has issued advice on the definition of ‘close’ contacts of COVID-19 cases as the virus situation in the State continues to evolve.

Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Robertson said that as WA case numbers grow, the public health priority was, as far as possible, to identify and isolate all active cases quickly, and quarantine their highest risk contacts.

“As part of the effort to achieve this, earlier this week the quarantine periods were reduced; and our approach to contacts was changed to align to the high caseload setting first announced on January 28, 2022,” Dr Robertson said.

“The experience from the past two years has shown that COVID transmission will occur mostly between people who have had close contact with each other, with the most high-risk being household and household-like contacts.

“The next group of people ‘at risk’ is those who have had face-to-face contact without wearing masks, and then people who shared a small space without mask use.

“The new approach is in line with national health advice.”

In the high caseload environment, a ‘close’ contact is defined as:

  • a household member or intimate partner of a person with COVID-19 who has had contact with them during their infectious period; or
  • someone who has had close personal interaction with someone during their infectious period, where that interaction involved:
    • at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact where a mask was not worn by the exposed person and the person with COVID-19;
    • greater than two hours within a small room, where masks have been removed for this period by the exposed person and the person with COVID-19 (note: if others are wearing masks in this scenario they would not be a contact); or
    • someone who is directed by WA Health that they are a close contact.

In this environment, WA Health will no longer classify people as casual contacts.

Dr Robertson said it was particularly important to note that the advice for face-to-face contact was specifically about where masks were not worn by either person – that is the exposed person is not wearing a mask and the person with COVID-19 is not wearing a mask.

“I note my public health advice published could have been misinterpreted and given the evolving situation in the WA community it is imperative that the definition is clearly understood,” he said.

Dr Robertson said the public would see a corresponding change in publicly-listed exposure sites to match.

“There will be a focus on listing high-risk exposure sites where we cannot identify all people who were there and where ‘close contact’ was likely to have occurred – as part of our effort to quickly and effectively find and isolate cases and close contacts,” Dr Robertson said.

“It is very important to provide the public with clear and quick information about risks so they can do their best to keep themselves and their loved ones as safe as possible.

“It would not be ideal for people to have to scroll through pages and pages of low-risk exposure sites – we want people to be able to easily see when there is a high-risk location and exposure time.

“At times, low risk exposure sites may be listed in circumstances determined by public health.”

Dr Robertson urged anyone with symptoms to get tested for COVID-19 immediately.

For more information about managing COVID-19 visit www.healthywa.gov.au.


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