Business groups have called for the easing of the seven-day isolation requirement for household contacts of people with Covid-19, with the New South Wales and Victorian governments looking likely to do so within days.
The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age report the states are set to announce the scrapping of the rule by the weekend as Covid cases drop.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said on Tuesday that the state’s isolation rules and other Covid-19 restrictions could be scrapped after the peak of the Omicron wave.
He said the peak may have “come and gone”, but a few more days of data were needed to confirm the falling seven-day case trend.
“That gives us options in terms of getting rid of the very few remaining rules that we have, and I think you’ll see some movement there very, very soon,” he told reporters in Wangaratta on Tuesday.
Members of NSW’s Covid and Economic Recovery Committee met on Tuesday to discuss overhauling the rules after a substantial drop in coronavirus infections in the state.
The NSW and Victorian governments have said they would work in “lockstep” over removing remaining restrictions.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Business NSW have said the rules should be relaxed to ease staffing shortages, suggesting those deemed close contacts be allowed to work and undergo daily rapid antigen tests instead.
Business NSW chief executive, Daniel Hunter, said with such high vaccination rates, Australians have demonstrated a capacity to live and work with the virus.
“The current isolation rules are providing a barrier to businesses as healthy people are forced to isolate unnecessarily,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
With NSW and Victorian airport workers now exempt from household contact rules, there was “inconsistency and unfairness”.
“This needs to be fixed so that all businesses can have fair access to workers,” he said.
“Business needs certainty and we know that they are already struggling with supply chain issues and staff shortages.”
Victorian Chamber chief executive, Paul Guerra, said staff shortages continued to hamper business.
“We need to release the handbrake and enable businesses to operate at the maximum capacity possible and lead our economic recovery,” he said.
Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten agreed, saying a week of isolation is too long.
“Get vaccinated. If you’re sick, stay at home, but other than that, seven days’ isolation is unwieldy, ”he told the Nine Network.
“A lot of the rest of the world has got rid of it. I think it’s time for us, too. ”
Multiple Victorian worker groups are already exempt from isolating as household close contacts, including education, emergency services, healthcare and transport staff.