Test and Isolate National Protocols

Exemption guidelines for essential supply chain workers

Jan 13: Thousands more people will now be allowed to return to work if they are a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case, with the national cabinet agreeing to expand which workers should be exempt from isolation rules.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the exemption would be extended to cover all those working in transport and freight, not just food distribution.

He added it would also include all non-public facing healthcare and support workers, emergency services, teachers and childcare workers and energy and waste management workers.

Essential workers/services list (full interim guidance is available here):

What happens if I’m a close contact?

If someone you live in a household (or household-like arrangement such as a care facility) tests positive for COVID, you will be identified as a close contact. As soon as you find out, you must be tested, either at your nearest free testing facility (either PCR or RAT) or by testing at home using a rapid antigen test.

Under the new arrangement, if you test positive you must isolate for seven days from the date your infection was confirmed with a test. If you remain asymptomatic during this period, no further tests are required. However if you do develop symptoms, you must take a rapid antigen test and receive a negative result before you leave isolation.

A close contact who returns a negative test must still isolate for seven days from the date of exposure, unless you meet the exemption criteria in the above table. You will be required to take daily rapid antigen tests if you are an exempt worker, until the rest of your household tests negative. If any symptoms develop you should cease work.

PCR testing for well people who aren't close contacts

Unless you are a close contact or have symptoms, you will not be able to get a free PCR test. This decision has been made to reduce the number of people in testing queues.

“If you don’t fulfil this definition of a close contact then there is no need for you to be in that line,” Scott Morrison said. “You should go home. Go to the beach, go and do what you want to do. Read a book in the park. Follow all the normal, commonsense things that you would do, monitor your symptoms, follow the Covid-safe practices, make sure you have booked for your booster, do all of those sorts of things – but there is no need for you to be in that line.”

Those people of course can still take a rapid antigen test bought over the counter from a supermarket or pharmacy, but Morrison made clear RATs would only be provided free under certain specific circumstances at state hubs.

Close contacts and PCR testing in South Australia

In South Australia, close contacts are defined as:

  • a household member or intimate partner of a COVID-19 case during their infectious period

  • someone who has had close personal interaction with a COVID-19 case during their infectious period:

    • for 15 minutes or more and

    • where masks are not worn and

    • in close physical proximity and

    • in an indoor setting

  • someone who has been notified by SA Health that they are a close contact

  • someone who has been in a high COVID-19 transmission area

Close contacts in South Australia are required to:

  • immediately quarantine for 7 days since they had contact with a COVID-19 positive person or were at the exposure location

  • get an initial COVID-19 PCR test

  • get a COVID-19 PCR test again on day 6 after exposure (a negative day 6 PCR test is required to be released from quarantine)

  • get a COVID-19 PCR test again immediately if symptoms develop

  • not attend high risk settings or COVID Management Plan events for 14 days after exposure

  • wear a surgical mask when around others

  • avoid contact with vulnerable people (young children, elderly, pregnant, people with chronic health conditions), avoid non-essential activities, avoid working across worksites and avoid shared spaces and maintain physical distancing on days 8 to 14 after exposure.

For more information visit the South Australian Government website.

Close contacts in Tasmania

In Tasmania, you will become a close contact if you:

  • Live in the same household as a case

  • Are a household-like contact of a case (spent 4 hours or more in the same accommodation)

  • Spent 4 hours or more at same site or venue as a case where there is increased risk of transmission

  • Spent less than 4 hours with a case where there is very high-risk of transmission

Close contacts are required to spend 7 days in quarantine, plus take a Rapid antigen test (RAT) on day 1 and day 6 regardless of vaccination status (close contacts will be given 3 RATs). On days 8 to 14 you'll be required to wear masks at all times when outside your home, and avoid high-risk settings and vulnerable people. For more information visit the Tasmanian Government website.

The Northern Territory and Western Australian governments have not issued guidelines that align with the national protocols, however you can find more information here:


More questions?

If you need help such as finding a testing or vaccination facility near you, or have questions specific to your personal circumstances, the Sonder team is here 24/7 to provide advice and assistance. Chat with us any time.

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