Western Australia’s chief health officer has ruled out slashing the Covid-19 isolation period from seven to five days and has indicated broader mask mandates are unlikely to return.
Andy Robertson said despite other parts of the world shrinking their isolation periods, there was research which indicated that was a poor decision.
“Unfortunately, people can still be infectious at seven days and there’s some recent papers coming out that suggests up to 25 per cent of people may still be infectious at seven days,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
“If we bring it back to, say, five days, we’re going to have a lot more infection in the community.
“I know some people are often well by day five and they’re frustrated they can’t go back to work or back to school, but it is actually helping to protect the community.”
Dr Robertson said aside from the mask mandate at hospitals, aged care and disability services, and public transport, it was unlikely a wider mask mandate would return.
“I don’t think we can ever rule out any public health and social measures,” he said.
“I think it’s unlikely at this stage, but we could get new variants which require us to reassess and make further recommendations, but at this stage it’s unlikely.”
It comes after the Australian Medical Association in WA repeatedly called for a broader mask mandate.
Dr Robertson also revealed the number of health staff furloughed after becoming infected with Covid-19 had fallen from 1230 to 939.
“There’s obviously a number of close contacts as well and they’ve also dropped,” he said.
Meanwhile, despite modelling predicting WA’s latest Covid-19 wave would peak much higher, Dr Robertson said case numbers had been dropping over the past 10 days.
“With this wave we’re now past the peak and we’re on the way down,” he said.
WA recorded 4423 new infections to 6pm Thursday night, taking the total number of active cases to 27,557.
There are now 424 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including 17 in intensive care, while three more deaths have also been recorded – all women, aged in their 60s, 70s and 80s respectively.
Dr Robertson said 24 per cent of people in hospital with Covid-19 were not vaccinated, while 25 per cent of the people in ICU were unvaccinated and 22 per cent of deaths involved unvaccinated people.
“There is really good evidence that you’re putting yourself at considerable risk by not getting vaccinated,” he said.
Premier Mark McGowan has said modelling is often wrong but Dr Robertson said it was still a useful tool.
“There’s a classic quote, which is that all models are wrong, but some are useful,” Dr Robertson said.
“I think we need to take them into consideration … they’re helpful, they give us a guidance.
“If the modelling is indicating we’re on the upswing, then they help us to prepare for any of the consequences of it.
“We can’t follow them slavishly because they will be altered by different factors including people’s behaviour.”
Dr Robertson was also asked about reports WA had about two million rapid antigen tests which had been withdrawn from sale – he responded they were professional RATs and were “perfectly fine”.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration put out an advice late last night that said the reason they were withdrawn was because the company has withdrawn them from sale, not because they don’t work, but because it was a commercial decision for the companies,” he said.
“There’s three companies which have withdrawn them from sale.
“The TGA made it very clear that there has been no indication that any of these RATs are sub-optimal.
“They work perfectly. They’ve just been withdrawn from sale because that’s a commercial decision. Not because they are ineffective.”