On Monday 07 February a positive COVID-19 test result was returned following routine testing of new arrivals currently under compulsory isolation measures. As a consequence of the positive test result, the Ascension COVID-19 Response Level has been escalated to Level 2 ORANGE. This escalation is in line with the Response Level Protocol.
Under Level 2 ORANGE measures, public venues and facilities remain open. As it is expected that the introduction of COVID-19 into the wider community has not occurred, this escalation is a precautionary measure and serves to ensure that a higher level of alertness is observed by authorities on the island and the general public.
Members of the public should continue to practise good cough and hand hygiene, and be alert to the development of any potential COVID-19 symptoms.
When additional testing confirms negative results and the Senior Medical Officer is satisfied that there is no longer a COVID-19 presence on the island, the Response Level will return to Level 1 AMBER.
Further information regarding this matter will be made available to the public in the coming days.
As ever, anyone who develops a new persistent dry cough, a fever or experiences unexpected shortness of breath should go home, self-isolate and telephone Georgetown Hospital on 66252 for further advice.
The individual in question arrived at Ascension on Saturday 05 February on a flight from Turkey. They had previously returned a negative COVID-19 test result prior to their departure for the island.
The individual is currently asymptomatic and otherwise well. As they were observing compulsory isolation in a bubble with others, they have been placed into individual isolation and they will have their conditions monitored by medical staff. The rest of their bubble will now be subject to further testing, and the entire cohort from their flight will be retested in 48 hours to confirm whether any others have become infected.
The staff at Georgetown Hospital remain in constant liaison with experts in the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to ensure that the individual that tested positive receives appropriate support. Further testing will take place over the coming days to monitor their levels of infection.
This is a scenario that AIG had planned and prepared for. Robust measures for effectively managing arrivals to Ascension have been in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. These protocols have been developed in liaison with experts from the UKHSA and are designed to ensure that any person arriving at the island is kept separate from the general public until the Senior Medical Officer can be assured that they do not pose a risk of introducing COVID-19 into the community.
As a result, the individual that tested positive has not had any contact with the wider public. Authorities are therefore confident that the virus has been effectively contained and so has not been spread to others in the community.
Are members of the public at risk?
AIG has planned and prepared for this scenario, and robust protocols are in place to manage all arrivals to Ascension. These have been designed in liaison with experts in the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to ensure that the risk posed to the island by those arriving from affected areas is reduced to the lowest level possible.
The positive case was identified during routine testing of arrivals. All air travellers, regardless of origin, observe quarantine procedures on arrival to Ascension. Due to the procedures and protocols in place, the risk posed to the general public by someone who tests positive following their arrival is therefore very low.
However, members of the public are encouraged to be on a heightened state of alert until the Response Level returns to Level 1 AMBER, and to continue to practise good hand and cough hygiene.
When will the Response Level return to Level 1 AMBER?
The Response Level will be de-escalated once testing has determined that the individual no longer poses a threat to the wider community. Further testing will be conducted over the coming days, and the Response Level may be reduced as a result of these tests.
Where and when were the cases identified?
The case was identified on Monday 07 February 2022 in an individual that was already in compulsory isolation following their arrival over the weekend. Prior to this they had returned a negative test result ahead of their departure to Ascension.
What will happen to the individuals now?
They have been placed into individual isolation and will be monitored by medical staff. At present they are asymptomatic and are otherwise in good general health.
What about the other people who were on the plane with them?
Whilst all individuals returned a negative pre-departure test result, as the positive results were identified during routine testing following arrival, all those who travelled on the flight will be retested within the next 48 hours. They will also be subject to the usual testing protocols during isolation, as well as prior to being granted permission to exit isolation, to assure authorities that they do not pose a risk to the public.
What about staff who worked at the airhead when the plane arrived?
Strict protocols are in place to ensure that for all arriving planes, the risks to those who are required to work at the airhead are effectively and appropriately managed. Therefore it is not thought that any onward infection has taken place at this point in time. As a result of these procedures there is no need for isolation or testing of any staff members.