Hardwick suggestion on changes to iso rules sparks debate

Updated April 5 2022 - 12:21pm, first published 12:00pm
Victorian minister Jaala Pulford has hit back at calls for the removal of COVID close-contact rules.
Victorian minister Jaala Pulford has hit back at calls for the removal of COVID close-contact rules.

The Victorian government has swatted away calls from Richmond AFL coach Damien Hardwick to wind back COVID-19 isolation rules for close contacts.

Innovation, Medical Research and Digital Economy Minister Jaala Pulford on Monday dismissed a renewed push for the state to dump mandatory seven-day quarantine for close contacts of positive cases.

Hardwick made a direct plea to Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday after livewire Sydney Stack was withdrawn from the Tigers' VFL side because of the edict.

"If we could just get rid of the close contact rule, Dan, that would be terrific," he said after his AFL team suffered a 33-point loss to St Kilda.

"(It would) make everyone's life a hell of a lot easier."

Hardwick's stance is at odds with the AFL, which reiterated it would be led by state governments on COVID-19 protocols.

While conceding Hardwick was entitled to his view, Pulford said the government would continue to rely on the advice of health experts.

"There's a lot of (COVID-19) about in the community at the moment," she told reporters on Monday.

"To prematurely make these changes isn't without risks to the health system. It's not without risks to the health of the people in our community."

Speaking from Clayton in Melbourne's southeast, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated his belief week-long isolation is now "redundant" for close contacts.

"Ultimately that is a decision for the premier. It is premiers who decide to shut cities down or open them up, not the Commonwealth government," he said.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee last week flagged quarantine for close contacts could be replaced with other measures following the peak of the current sub-variant Omicron wave.

It warned "removing quarantine at this time may lead to higher caseloads and a reduced capacity for the health system to provide some acute and elective services".

Prior to the recommendation, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy also criticised close contact isolation rules after he was forced into seven-day quarantine following a positive test for his nine-year-old son.

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said he was yet to test positive and set return to parliament on Tuesday.

She said the Andrews government should listen to health experts but not "outsource" its decision-making to them.

"That's how we've got to being the longest locked down city in the world. That's why we've got a shadow lockdown going on at the moment," she said.

"This is an issue that Daniel Andrews and others need to look at. It's having massive impacts on our community, families, business and Victoria's ability to rebuild."

After testing positive a week ago, Mr Andrews was freed from isolation on Monday but opted to work from home.


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