Multiple passengers on two flights in Queensland who were originally listed as close contacts of a COVID-19 case have now been classified as casual contacts, meaning they’ll be able to leave quarantine before Christmas.
On Tuesday night, all of the passengers on two flights – one from Newcastle to Brisbane and one from Brisbane to Townsville – were listed as close contacts. At the time, they were told they’d have to undergo quarantine for two weeks.
The COVID-19 case in question has been linked back Newcastle’s Argyle Hotel outbreak.
Today, though, the Queensland Government changed the majority of the passengers’ statuses to casual contacts, meaning they can be released from quarantine if they test negative.
Yvette D’Ath, Queensland’s Health Minister, said that the state backflipped on its OG decision after a review from the chief health officer.
It essentially found that the state should apply normal isolation rules to the flights, despite fears about the Omicron variant spreading.
“We can apply the normal rules in relation to these flights and we don’t need to wait until we get the findings of whether it’s Omicron because, if it is, we still will apply these rules,” D’Ath said.
“There’s been a lot of discussions overnight and I know that there’s been contact with other chief health officers and health officials interstate to see how states are dealing with this based on the national guidelines.”
Some of the passengers – namely, the ones who were sat near the COVID-19 case – are still close contacts, so they’ll be continuing with their quarantine.
Queensland Health’s decision to list everyone on the flights as a close contact initially copped a fair amount of flack.
One of the passengers from Newcastle told Nine News about the “total confusion” he and his wife experienced when they were named close contacts.
He claimed there was: “No contact tracing, no info toward the passengers, I haven’t been contacted, my wife hasn’t been contacted.”
Now, both of their statuses have been updated to casual contact, rather than close.
Dr Vyom Sharma, a Melbourne based GP and broadcaster Tweeted about the fact that so far, planes haven’t been the root cause of that many serious COVID outbreaks.
“My understanding is that we haven’t had many superspreader events in flights (some, but not the rule). If genomics don’t show this to be Omicron, could they make their isolation requirement more focussed on where the positive case was sitting?”
He was clearly on to something, because that’s now the view that Queensland Health has taken for this plane case.
It’s also important to note that to fly from NSW to Queensland, you have to be fully vaccinated. Currently, Queensland’s rules around COVID restrictions if you’re fully-vaxxed are slightly different to Victoria and NSW’s.
At the moment, if you’re a fully-vaccinated person who’s deemed a close contact in either of those two states, you only have to isolate for seven days compared to Queensland’s 14.
Earlier this week, Queensland announced they’d be switching to a seven day quarantine for fully vaxxed close contacts: but not until New Years Day 2022. Close contacts also have to test negative on day one and five of their quarantine.