Types of contacts

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Last Updated: 30 Nov 2021 11:47am

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You may be identified as either a close, casual or low-risk contact if you have been to an exposure site visited by someone who has tested positive to COVID-19.

Public Health will tell you what you need to do in terms of quarantining and getting tested.

The routine requirements for each type of contact are outlined below. Extra requirements might apply if Public Health decides they are necessary based on the risk created by factors including mask use, vaccination status, environment, activities and other epidemiological factors.

Low-risk contacts

If you have visited a low-risk exposure site, you must monitor yourself for symptoms.

You must get tested if you develop symptoms, even if they are mild.

You are not required to quarantine.

Casual contacts

A casual contact is someone who has been in the same place as a confirmed case during their infectious period but does not meet the requirements for a close contact

What to do if you are a casual contact

You must get tested between days 3 and 5.

You are not required to quarantine but you must wear a mask for 14 days from exposure to the COVID-19 case, when you can’t physically distance from others.

If you develop symptoms before or after the required test, you should isolate and have a test immediately.

The requirements for casual contacts are the same for vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

Close contacts

A close contact is someone who has had face-to-face contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case during their infectious period, creating a reasonable risk of transmission.

A close contact is generally someone who has had at least 15 minutes face-to-face contact with a case. Examples of likely close contacts include:

  • Household contacts
  • Social contacts with extensive interaction with the case
  • Workplace contacts where COVID-safe behaviours have not been implemented.

A close contact may also be someone who works in a setting where there is a known high risk of transmission or severe outcome infection. For example abattoirs, hospitals or accommodation facilities for vulnerable people.

A person might still be a close contact if they have spent less than 15 minutes face-to-face with a case but there is some risk of transmission based on:

  • one or both people are not vaccinated
  • PPE has not been used appropriately
  • the setting increases the risk eg is indoors, small room, poor ventilation
  • the specific variant of COVID-19
  • the nature of the exposure increases the risk eg shouting or singing.

What to do if you are a close contact and vaccinated

If you are a close contact and are vaccinated, you must quarantine immediately and have a COVID-19 test.

You must get tested again on day 5 or 6.

If your test results are negative, you will be released from quarantine after 7 days.

For the next seven days, you must:

  • maintain physical distancing (1.5m) from other people
  • wear mask where you can’t keep your distance
  • avoid non-essential activities
  • not enter any high-risk settings , except for essential reasons.
  • avoid contact with vulnerable people (eg elderly, pregnant, people with chronic health conditions).

You must also be tested again on day 12 or 13.

If you develop symptoms between the required tests, you should isolate and have a test immediately.

People who are unvaccinated and in the same household as a vaccinated close contact must also follow the same quarantine requirements (no testing is required). These secondary contacts do not need to continue to quarantine if the close contact tests negative and they leave the household.

People who are vaccinated and in the same household as a vaccinated close contact are not required to quarantine.

What to do if you are a close contact and not vaccinated

A close contact is someone who has had face-to-face contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

If you are a close contact and are not vaccinated, you must quarantine immediately for 14 days from exposure to the COVID-19 case.

You must have a COVID-19 test at the start of your quarantine, and again on day 5 or 6, and then on day 12 or 13.

If your test results are all negative, you will be released from quarantine after 14 days.

If you develop symptoms between the required tests, you should have a test immediately.

People who are unvaccinated and in the same household as an unvaccinated close contact must also follow the quarantine requirements (no testing is required).

People who are vaccinated and in the same household as the unvaccinated close contact do not need to quarantine but should limit further exposure to the contact and to avoid high-risk settings for 14 days.

Testing, Tracing, Isolation and Quarantine plan

Fact sheet: Keeping our community COVID-safe

Fact sheet: Keeping your business COVID-safe

Examples

Although every case will be different and will depend on the exact circumstances, examples of how contacts would be assessed are:

Flight: those sitting in the rows surrounding a case (the same row as the case, 2 rows in front, 2 rows behind) would likely be considered close contacts. Others on the flight would likely be low-risk – and just need to monitor for symptoms – or a casual contact. The decision might depend on the movement of the case around the plane during the flight, compliance with mask wearing, the length of the flight and whether they were unwell and coughing.

Airport: If a case has walked through an airport with a mask on and was not in close contact with anyone, it may be listed as a low-risk exposure site. However, if they sat at a café within the airport for a longer time and removed their mask to consume food or drink, the cafe may be classified as a casual contact exposure site.

Supermarket: A supermarket attended by a case would likely be classified as a low-risk exposure site. If a member of staff spent considerable time serving the case face‑to‑face without a plastic barrier, they are likely to be a close contact.

Childcare: If a case was a child at a childcare centre, other children and carers who they had direct contact with - such as they played together in the playground - would likely be classified as close contacts.

Restaurant: If a case was one of eight people in a group who dined at a restaurant, the other people at the table would likely be close contacts. People at other tables, which had appropriate physical distance between tables, may be casual contacts. If the case has paid the bill at the counter and the person serving them wore a mask, that staff member would likely also be a casual contact.

Vaccination status explained

Vaccinated refers to a person who is at least 14 days following receipt of the final dose of a primary course of COVID-19 vaccine approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Unvaccinated refers to a person who is <14 days following receipt of the final dose of a primary course of COVID-19 vaccine approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration OR has only received one vaccine dose OR has received no vaccine doses.

Approved testing method

All testing referred to in this document is PCR testing, which involves nasal and throat swabs. This applies to children and adults of all ages.

Care for people with COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19, Public Health will contact you to work out a care plan. This will involve talking with you about your symptoms, any medical conditions, your home situation and the support you have available. Read more about the care available to people with COVID-19.