Tens of thousands of people are in isolation, and this is starting to impact business and essential services. So the government had little option but to reduce quarantine periods, starting from January 3.
The new rules apply automatically from Monday, even for those who are currently in quarantine.
Who gets shorter quarantine?
The quarantine period is being reduced from 14 to 10 days for those infected with the virus and who have taken the booster jab.
To be allowed out on the 10th day, they must also be free of COVID-19 symptoms for three days.
Those living in the same household as an infected person may also exit quarantine after 10 days if both they and the infected person have had the booster. If not, the entire household must quarantine for 14 days.
As with the initial doses, 14 days must pass before a person is considered to have taken the booster. Without it, individuals must isolate for the full 14 days.
What about contacts?
Here is where it gets slightly more complicated.
There are two types of contact: primary and secondary.
Primary contacts are those who have had direct contact with a person who has tested positive. Secondary contacts are those who meet those primary contacts, such as members of the same household.
For months, primary contacts who were fully vaccinated have been able to exit quarantine if they test negative for the virus after the contact has taken place and again after a week. This will remain in place.
As has been the case in the past months, only those with a valid vaccine certificate can benefit from this measure.
From January 17, a certificate is deemed valid if an individual received the booster jab up to nine months before or a second dose up to three months before.
The change is in line with other measures coming into force on January 17, when the vaccine certificate will only be valid if either of those two conditions are met.
From January 3, any secondary contacts who have received a booster dose (and 14 days have passed since getting it) do not need to quarantine at all.
Will children have to quarantine for 14 days?
No. Children are unable to take a booster dose just yet but they can also quarantine for 10 days so long as their parents have been given the booster and the minors are fully vaccinated.
What about the unvaccinated?
People who have not had any vaccine dose must quarantine for the full 14 days whenever they are positive or in contact with an infected individual.