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Govt eases self-isolation rules for close Covid-19 contacts

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

Close contacts of people with Covid-19 will no longer need to self-isolate if they are over 16 and vaccinated or have had the virus within the preceding 90 days, the Gibraltar Government will announce today.

The decision, based on the advice of the Director of Public Health and the Covid-19 Strategic Coordination Group, is a key element of new rules aimed minimising disruption to people’s lives while controlling the spread of the virus.

Although close contacts - even within the same household - will not need to self-isolate, they will be required to adhere to strict guidance on masks and limiting social contact.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will still need to self-isolate for 10 days and should follow the instructions and advice of the Contact Tracing Bureau.

“This relaxation of the self-isolation requirements for close contacts of positive cases comes at a time when a large proportion of Gibraltar’s resident and working population are fully vaccinated, and our hospital and healthcare capacity is stable,” said Dr Helen Carter, the Director of Public Health.

“The new simplified rules do away with concepts of casual contacts and hybrid isolation, and will significantly ease the pressure on the Contact Tracing Bureau, which will allow them to focus their resources on the most effective means of tracking the virus and reducing its transmission.”

“It is vitally important that anyone who is contacted by the CTB follows their instructions and advice, and effective mask wearing will be a key aspect of this strategy.”

The rules, which come into effect as from Thursday, will affect close contacts of someone who tests positive for Covid-19 and will be different depending on vaccination status.

Close contacts, including household contacts, who are fully vaccinated or have had Covid-19 within the last 90 days and are over 16 years old do not need to self-isolate, unless told otherwise by the CTB.

Anyone who is a Covid-19 close contact and does not need to self-isolate under the rules will nonetheless be instructed to:

• Wear a mask when out in public and at work

• Try to minimise social contacts, especially with vulnerable or unvaccinated people

• Call 111, take a test and self-isolate immediately if symptoms develop.

People who work in close proximity to vulnerable groups should inform the CTB and their employer and will be risk-assessed on an individual basis.

Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated and have not had Covid-19 within the last 90 days, and are over 18 years old, will need to self-isolate for 10 days.

Close contacts who are under the age of 18 and are in full time education in Gibraltar do not need to self-isolate whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

They will not need to wear a mask in school.

The government said there was epidemiological evidence that schools and college are not major vectors for Covid-19 transmission at present.

The changes were decided under the advice of the Director of Public Health and with the agreement of education professionals that the need to avoid further disruption to pupils’ education outweighs the potential for transmission in educational settings.

Patients who are awaiting surgery or planned admission to hospital were advised to strictly follow the guidance and instructions of their healthcare providers, including self-isolating before surgery or hospital admission.

“This change to the requirements for self-isolation for close contacts will significantly reduce disruption to people’s lives, whilst keeping the risk of transmission reasonably low,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

“This is a positive announcement for children in education and their teachers, for workers and employers, and for families.”

“Covid-19 is still all around us, and this is an important next step in our ability to live with the virus in the ‘new normal’.”

“For this to be effective, we have to continue to work together and wear masks properly when they are needed, be careful about who we have contact with and call 111 at the first sign of symptoms, however mild.”

If you have any concerns or develop symptoms in this time, call 111 immediately.

The new rules, which will be keot under review, will come into effect at 00:01am on Thursday September 30, 2021.

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