A new home testing scheme has launched for close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, meaning an end to self-isolation.
The increase in COVID-19 cases in recent days means a growing number of people are being identified as close contacts of someone with the virus. If they are not fully vaccinated, they have been required to self-isolate.
With immediate effect anyone identified as a close contact, who has no COVID-19 symptoms, will no longer be required to self-isolate or have a PCR test.
Instead, close contacts will be strongly encouraged to take part in a free seven-day home testing scheme and to be extra vigilant for symptoms.
The change will apply retrospectively. This means anyone currently self-isolating because they were identified as a close contact is now released from isolation. The COVID-111 service will be emailing all those affected to confirm this.
Anyone who is self-isolating because they tested positive for the virus must continue to self-isolate in accordance with their direction notice.
Home test kits will be available in packs of seven, free of charge. Kits are available this evening between 8pm and 10pm from four schools in key areas around the Island:
- North – Ramsey Grammar School car park in front of the East Building (nearest Parliament Square)
- South – Castle Rushen High School car park
- East – Ballakermeen High School car park
- West – QEII High School car park
Anyone collecting test kits this evening should wear a face covering. From tomorrow tests will be available for close contacts to collect from a number of pharmacies around the island, with full details to be published.
Close contacts are encouraged to take a test every day for seven days from when they are advised they are a close contact. An anonymous online reporting system is available for people to confirm their daily negative results at https://covid19.gov.im/about-coronavirus/testing-results/.
Anyone who receives a positive home test result, or anyone who develops symptoms, should immediately isolate and call 111 and they will be offered a PCR test if necessary. If the PCR test comes back as positive, they will have to self-isolate for 10 days.
Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK said: ‘Government is aware of the impact self-isolation is having on a number of organisations – particularly small businesses and some schools – and the concern this is causing. We must continue to adjust our approach to COVID-19 as we adapt and learn to live with the virus. This is another step on that journey. We hope all close contacts will take part in our free home testing scheme. Not only will daily testing give peace of mind to close contacts, it allows Government to continue to monitor any spread of the virus, but is a less intrusive way that minimises inconvenience whilst helping to keep people safe.
‘We need to recognise that the majority of close contacts do not typically go on to develop the virus, especially those outside the household of a positive case. Therefore we need to take a balanced approach to this, as we did when we removed fully vaccinated individuals from precautionary isolation. Whilst there is of course a level of increased risk from this approach, we are now at the point where we must take a more proportionate response to these risks.
‘Personal choice, responsibility and judgement will remain important. If you’ve been identified as a close contact, think about how you go about your daily life in the 10 days after you’ve been notified. Please be safe, be smart, be kind. A combination of daily self-testing and asking the public to consider mitigations and their personal choices is, on balance, an appropriate alternative to having large numbers of our community in self-isolation.’
Whilst there will be no legal restrictions on close contacts, they should consider:
- Telling their employer that they have been identified as a close contact and letting them know if they’ll be undertaking daily home testing
- Telling friends, family and colleagues who may feel anxious or vulnerable
- Thinking about who they interact with in the 10 days after being told they’re a close contact
- Taking precautions that may make them and others feel safer, such as minimising face to face close contact, avoiding confined and poorly ventilated areas or wearing a face covering as appropriate.
The Chief Minister will hold a COVID-19 briefing tomorrow at 4pm.