Risk mitigation requirements for household contacts

Application

These risk mitigation requirements apply to a household contact (someone who lives with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19).

If a person has been exposed to COVID-19, but is not a household contact, they should refer to the information for people exposed to COVID-19.

If a household contact has previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 and received clearance from the self-isolation period in the last 12 weeks, they do not have to comply with these risk mitigation requirements if they subsequently become a household contact.

A household contact does not have to comply with this advice if they have not been in contact with the person who tested positive to COVID-19 while they were infectious (for example, they were away from home during the infectious period).

A person is infectious in the 48 hours before they have symptoms or 48 hours before they test positive (if they do not have any symptoms).

Timeframes

A household contact must comply with these risk mitigation requirements for a period of 7 days from the last time someone in the household tested positive for COVID-19 (the date of the collection of the test is regarded as day 0).

Background

A person who is a household contact is at highest risk of contracting COVID-19, compared with other exposures.

This reflects the nature of contact between individuals within a household.

For this reason, quarantine requirements have remained in place for household contacts for the majority of the pandemic response.

However, it is recognised that there are certain workforces which are under significant pressures due to these quarantine requirements.

It is also recognised that there is a need to reduce the burden of quarantine on families and individuals, with a focus on wellbeing.

While the risk to community has not changed, it is recognised that the COVID-19 response is transitioning and broad mandated quarantine requirements are no longer proportionate for managing our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against this background, it continues to be recommended that a household contact seeks to minimise their movement within the broader community, wherever possible, and only leaves their homes when necessary for activities which cannot be postponed or delayed for 7 days.

This risk mitigation advice is therefore provided to individuals who need to leave their home.

Examples of when a person may need to leave their home could include, but are not limited to:

  • undertake work or study, if a person is unable to work or study from home
  • access childcare or school, including schools, early childhood education and care and out of school hours care
  • shop for items like groceries, and other essential supplies, where delivery is not possible
  • attend an unavoidable gathering (examples provided below)
  • exercise outdoors
  • essential animal welfare purposes.

Individuals will need to take personal responsibility in assessing the reason to leave home and whether or not this can be postponed or delayed.

General requirements and advice

  • A household contact must not leave their home if they have, or develop, any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild.
  • They must undergo COVID-19 testing and isolate until a negative result is received.
    • If a positive result is returned, the person must immediately comply with requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19.
    • If a negative result is returned, and the initial test was a rapid antigen test, it is recommended to have a PCR test and continue to isolate.
    • If a negative result is returned, a household contact should stay at home until their symptoms resolve.
  • When outside of the home, a household contact should:
    • practise COVID Smart behaviours and maintain appropriate physical distancing from people not known to them.
    • practise good hand and respiratory hygiene at all times.
    • avoid crowded places wherever possible.
    • avoid prolonged periods in indoor spaces, wherever possible.
    • avoid visiting and interacting with people who are at higher risk of severe illness.
      • if a visit is unavoidable, a negative COVID-19 test must be returned in the 24 hours prior to visiting.
      • the visitor must have no COVID-19 symptoms (be asymptomatic) and a mask must be worn at all times.
      • the visit should also take place in a well ventilated area, wherever possible.

Following these behaviours will assist in protecting people who may be at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

COVID-19 testing

  • Household contacts must undertake COVID-19 testing if they are regularly going to their place of work or study, or if they need to attend a gathering that is unavoidable.  
    • Further detail around testing requirements is included under each scenario below.
  • It is not necessary for a household contact who has no COVID-19 symptoms (asymptomatic) to undertake a COVID-19 test prior to leaving their home for outdoor exercise or for brief periods (for example, grocery shopping), or where it is unlikely that a person will come into contact with large numbers of people.
  • If a household contact cannot delay or postpone a visit with a person who is at higher risk of severe disease, they must undertake a COVID-19 test within the 24 hours prior to visiting.
  • A household contact should also consider undertaking a COVID-19 test on or after day 6, unless regular testing has already been undertaken.  
    • This is particularly important, noting that a person will no longer be subject to these risk mitigation requirements after day 7.
  • A household contact must undertake a COVID-19 test if they develop any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild.  
    • They must isolate until a negative result is received.
    • Even if a negative test result is returned, a household contact should stay at home until their symptoms resolve.

Mask wearing requirements

  • A household contact must wear a face mask in any indoor setting that is not their own home, if they are aged 12 years and over.
    • Only students in Years 7 to 12 will be required to wear a mask when attending school, consistent with previous advice.
    • Mask wearing for students in primary school is at the discretion of the student and their parents/carers, and would not be recommended for children in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECECs) or Preschool to year 2.
  • Face masks are also encouraged in the home, wherever possible, to reduce the risk of transmission in the household.

The same exclusions that apply under the Public Health (Mandatory Face Masks) Emergency Direction 2022 apply under this risk mitigation guidance (for example, people who have a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, which makes wearing a face mask unsuitable).

For more information see ACT Public Health Directions.

Work and study

  • It is strongly recommended that a household contact works or studies from home where it is practical to do so, and where it suits the employee and employer, or the facility.
  • Household contacts must notify their employer and/or educational facility that they are a household contact.
    • This will assist employers and educational facilities to determine whether the household contact can work or study from home, or can attend the facility, if mutually agreed.
  • In considering whether a household contact can return to work or study during the quarantine period, employers and educational facilities will need to assess any potential risks in accordance with work health and safety obligations and any other relevant guidelines or policies in place.
    • Persons conducting a business or undertaking (employers) and workers, have obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
    • These work safety obligations apply independently of this risk mitigation advice and must be complied with.
  • If it is not practical to work or study from home, and where there is mutual agreement for the person to attend the workplace or facility, a household contact must:
    • Undertake a COVID-19 test in the 24 hours prior to returning to work or study and then every 48 hours if ongoing attendance is required.
    • Only leave home if they are asymptomatic and a negative result is returned.
    • If a positive result is returned, the person must immediately comply with requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Wherever possible, a household contact should:
    • Travel alone to work or study and avoid use of public transport or car sharing with persons outside of your household.  If not possible, ensure a mask is worn and physical distancing is maintained.
    • Maintain appropriate separation from the case(s) within your household.
    • Appropriate separation means:
      • staying and sleeping in a separate bedroom.
      • using a separate bathroom if available or cleaning a shared bathroom after each use.
      • not spending time in the same room as the case(s).
      • not sharing household items including dishes, cups, towels, and bedding.
      • avoiding common areas of the household – if unavoidable, wear a mask when in common areas and clean the area with detergent and disinfectant after use.

Grocery shopping

  • If a household contact is asymptomatic and needs to leave home briefly for critical shopping purposes (for example grocery shopping, where delivery is not possible), there is no requirement to undertake a COVID-19 test prior to leaving home.
  • Individuals must comply with mask wearing requirements and wherever possible practise COVID Smart behaviours.
  • Household contacts are asked to postpone any non-critical shopping until after 7 days have passed, wherever possible.

Attending a gathering for unavoidable reasons

  • If a household contact needs to attend a gathering that is unavoidable, they must:
    • Undertake a COVID-19 test in the 24 hours prior to attending a gathering, and only leave home if they are asymptomatic and a negative result is returned.
    • If a positive result is returned, the person must immediately comply with requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Wherever possible, a household contact should:
    • avoid use of public transport or car sharing.
    • if not possible, ensure a mask is worn and physical distancing is maintained.
    • follow COVID Smart behaviours at all times.
  • An unavoidable gathering could be one that a person is unable to delay attendance until after the seven-day quarantine period, and cannot participate remotely or in a contactless way.
    • Examples could include attending a funeral, voting in the Federal Election, and attending a necessary face to face community healthcare appointment that is necessary as determined by the individual’s health care provider.

Entering a high risk facility

  • A high risk setting includes residential aged care facilities, hospitals, correctional and detention facilities and residential accommodation that supports people who require frequent, close personal care and who are vulnerable to disease.
  • A household contact is not permitted to enter a high risk setting for 7 days from the last time someone in the household tested positive for COVID-19 - the date of the collection of the test is regarded as Day 0.
  • This restriction applies for both work purposes or for visitation purposes, unless an exemption has been granted to the person by the relevant facility.
    • In seeking an exemption to enter a high risk facility, a household contact must notify the facility that they are a household contact.
    • In considering whether an exemption should be granted to a person, whether an employee or visitor, a high risk setting is required to assess any potential risks to employees or residents, in accordance with work health and safety obligations and any guidelines or policies in place.
  • If an exemption is granted, the household contact must comply with any conditions of entry or additional safeguards which are required by the relevant facility.
  • Household contacts may still access urgent medical care or aged or disability care services.
  • It is also recommended that a household contact limits their entry into a high risk facility from days 8 to 14, and only enters if approved by the facility.

People who are at higher risk of severe illness

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (from age 50 years and over)
  • People with obesity, diabetes, serious cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease (including severe asthma requiring hospitalisation the last 12 months), severe chronic liver or kidney disease, active cancer or who are immunocompromised
  • People aged 18 years and older who are unvaccinated

For more information:

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: April 27 2022