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Premier Mark McGowan will provide a COVID update at 11.30am (AWST) ahead of an impromptu national cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Mr McGowan and other state and territory leaders will discuss the “gear change” described by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday morning that will see changes in definitions to COVID-19 close contact cases.

As the nation recorded nearly 20,000 new COVID cases collectively on Wednesday, Mr Morrison unveiled a new plan for testing and isolation requirements he hoped would be adopted consistently across the country.

“We’re going through a gear change when it comes to how we manage testing arrangements, the definition of close contacts, how we furlough staff and isolate people who are impacted by cases,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“It’s important that we continue to adjust and get as consistent an approach as we possibly can across all the states and territories.”

National cabinet will discuss adopting a national definition of close contacts, which the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has recommended be narrowed to only include household contacts of positive cases.

It will also urgently discuss coronavirus testing requirements on Thursday as Australia moves away from its reliance on PCR tests towards widespread rapid antigen test use – but the responsibility for purchasing the tests will remain with state governments.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said Omicron was proving to be milder – between 15 per cent and 80 per cent less severe than Delta – but the large number of cases was putting pressure on PCR testing. The country’s chief health officers are discussing in a Wednesday afternoon meeting the best way to reserve those tests going forward.

With Rachel Clun and Fergus Hunter.

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