Islanders who have received their covid booster at least two weeks ago, as well as those under 12, will now be able to leave isolation after seven days rather than 10 - as long as they haven’t had any symptoms for 48 hours, and have registered two negative lateral flow tests.
The changes to the isolation policy were adopted today by the Competent Authority Minister, following advice from Public Health in consultation with the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell (STAC).
Express reported last week that Ministers were considering changes that were announced on Thursday (30 December).
Under the new rules, the definition of fully vaccinated is:
They will be able to leave isolation from Day 7 instead of Day 10, if:
Health and Social Care workers who are released from isolation on Day 7 will have to carry out daily Lateral Flow Tests from Day 8 to Day 10.
Pictured: Islanders will have to record two negative LFTs 24 hours apart on day 6 and day 7 before they can leave quarantine.
According to a Government press release, the changes to the isolation period reflect evidence which shows the risk of infecting others reduces quicker in those who are fully vaccinated, and that the greatest risk of passing on the infection occurs early on, when it is “just before, during, or just after the onset of symptoms”.
It also noted the move will help “support essential public services and the resilience of the island’s Critical National Infrastructure, while still limiting the spread of the virus” whilst balancing “the harms associated with the physical and mental health of isolating islanders”.
The Covid Safe team will be contacting islanders who are currently on day 6, 7, 8 or 9 of isolation, over the next 24 hours to release them from isolation if they fulfil the criteria.
Pictured: PCR tests will no longer be required for direct contacts.
Ministers have also approved the removal of the requirement for a PCR test for direct contacts. From Saturday 1 January, Direct Contacts will no longer be required to take a PCR test followed by 10 days of Lateral Flow Tests. Instead, they will only be required to undertake 10 days of Lateral Flow Tests.
Islanders who are identified as a Direct Contact will continue to be notified by the COVID Safe team by text message or email.
Any islander who tests positive on an LFT will need to attend for a confirmatory PCR test by booking online or calling the Coronavirus helpline, whilst symptomatic islanders should continue to book PCR tests online.
Based on the current position, Ministers have also confirmed that schools will re-open as planned on Tuesday 4 January. Children, Young People, Education and Skills (CYPES) and Public Health continue to monitor the situation.
As an additional precaution, staff in schools and childcare/early years settings are being offered a PCR test on the 1, 2 or 3 January, before they return to nurseries, schools and colleges.
The move comes as covid cases topped 2,000 last night, which the Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, described as a “sharp rise in infections… fuelled by the Omicron variant,” which he said is now the dominant variant in the island, as it is in the UK and many other European countries.
“Early studies are showing that Omicron cases are less likely to result in admissions to hospital, but this positive news is somewhat offset by its higher growth rate and therefore higher infection numbers and the lower vaccine protection for Islanders especially if they are not boosted,” he added.
“The new policy will continue to help break chains of transmission and will help maintain the community resilience. Evidence shows viral infection reduces quicker in those who are fully vaccinated, and the greatest risk of infection spread is seen at an early stage during or just after the onset of infection.
“As always I would very strongly encourage everyone eligible for vaccination to complete their schedule if they have not already done so. Vaccination remains our strongest weapon against COVID.”
Walk-in appointments will be available at Fort Regent from tomorrow (31 December) and for two weeks. This comes as the team has recruited more staff to accommodate vaccination for as many islanders as possible.
Pictured: Walk-ins will be available from tomorrow at Fort Regent.
Islanders are being encouraged to come forward for a booster as well as a first or second dose if they have not received it.
A dedicated lane will be created to maintain appointment times for islanders who have pre-booked a scheduled slot online. Walk-in vaccinations will be given on a first come, first served basis.
The Vaccination Centre will be closed on Monday 1 January and will re-open from 08:30 on 2 January.
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, reminded islanders of the importance to carry out their LFTs and urged them to complete their vaccination schedule, saying the vaccine remains the “strongest weapon against covid”.
“Covid-19 is spreading quickly among Islanders and the pace at which Omicron is transmitting may pose a risk to the resilience of our critical national infrastructure,” he said.
“This new guidance will continue to help break chains of transmission and minimise the impact on lives and livelihoods.
“The changes to the policy will also see a community-wide benefit to the health and wellbeing of islanders. Implementing the policy immediately will see some islanders who are currently in isolation being able to spend New Year with family and friends.”
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