At 10pm on New Year’s Eve when most of us were out celebrating the end of the shit show that was 2021, NSW Health was sneakily altering the rules around healthcare worker isolation requirements.

According to the new guidelines made public at 10m last night, even if a healthcare worker is a close contact of a confirmed COVID case they are permitted to leave isolation as long as they are asymptomatic. They are only permitted to travel to and from work during this time.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced changes to how close contacts were defined. This means that anyone considered a close contact must have spent a considerably large amount of time with the confirmed case thereby drastically increasing the chance that close contacts have become infected.

This comes after reports of staff shortages throughout the state causing widespread delays and confusion.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted that in excess of 2000 health care workers were currently off the job, creating a vast shortfall. This is either due to workers being close contacts of a confirmed case or from having COVID themselves.

NSW health justified its position in the press release by saying the decision was essentially made to mitigate further disruption.

“To ensure continued delivery of essential health services, asymptomatic healthcare workers in NSW’s public and private facilities who are classified as close contacts will in exceptional circumstances be permitted to leave self-isolation.

“The exemption allows these close contacts to leave self-isolation to attend their workplace, provided they have been identified by their employer as critical to the service and cannot work from home.”

TikTok user Tegan Writes gives a pretty good video summary of just how sneaky this move was.

@tegan_writes

NYE is definitely not a suspicious time to release this new Covid isolation information ???? #australia #covid19 #auspol #omicron #nye #newyearseve #nsw

♬ Oh No – Kreepa

Despite the press release saying that the goal is “to minimise potential impacts on health services across the state”, the order may have the opposite effect if the workers coming out of isolation were to asymptomatically infect their co-workers.

This would mean that even more staff could become COVID positive leaving the workforce in a more vulnerable position than it is now.

Today NSW recorded 22,577 cases marking the state’s second day in a row over 20k. Hospitalisations also rose from 832 to 901.