Government, Press Release
On Sunday 19 June, three positive COVID-19 test results were returned following routine testing of new arrivals currently under compulsory isolation measures. As a consequence of the positive test results, 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 individuals in question arrived at Ascension on Sunday 19 June 2022 on the Airlink operated inter-island air service. All three had boarded the flight in Johannesburg.
The individuals are currently otherwise well, although one person returned a strongly positive result and reported being symptomatic during the flight.
Given the number of cases, and the fact that one was highly positive and symptomatic during the flight, all passengers have been placed into isolation and will be required to observe a period of quarantine in line with the Policy on the Isolation on Arrival of Persons Travelling from Affected Areas. This includes passengers that boarded the flight in St Helena.
During this time, those under isolation are encouraged to report any signs of illness to medical authorities so that a test can be arranged. As the strongly positive person was known to be symptomatic on the flight, hospital staff will be monitoring this cohort of arrivals and if it becomes clear that further positives are identified during the isolation period the length of isolation may be reviewed for others. This would be based on the fact that infection spread was clearly identified from the flight and as such it may be appropriate to extend isolation for several days, as has previously been applied to arrivals to Ascension that shared a flight with symptomatically positive persons.
The staff at Georgetown Hospital remain in constant liaison with experts in the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to ensure that the individuals who tested positive receive appropriate support. Further testing will take place over the coming days to monitor their levels of infection, and to confirm whether any further transmission has taken place on board.
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 individuals who tested positive have 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.
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 individuals no longer pose 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 cases were identified on Sunday 19 June in three individuals who arrived on the Airlink service from Johannesburg. This followed routine COVID-19 testing that all arrivals are subject to.
Why are the St Helena passengers also being made to quarantine?
Under the air corridor policy, whenever a positive is identified on the same flight as passengers from St Helena authorities review the situation and make a decision as to whether or not the St Helena passengers should quarantine. Whilst in flight separation protocols were reported to have been good, one person returned a strongly positive result and reported having been symptomatic throughout the flight.
Although quarantine is planned to end from 31 July, authorities are keen to ensure that COVID-19 is not inadvertently introduced into the community ahead of this time before all parties are prepared for the managed transition, and in doing so cause the air corridor between Ascension and St Helena to be closed during the time at which there will be a significant number of persons due to depart the island for St Helena. Taking a precautionary approach and applying quarantine to the St Helena passengers in this instance will give authorities more confidence that whilst they are still needed, the COVID-19 protocols in place remain robust.