On Thursday 24 December a positive COVID-19 test result was returned following routine testing of individuals currently subject to compulsory isolation measures. As a consequence of the positive test result, the Ascension COVID-19 Response Level was escalated to Level 2 RED. This escalation was in line with the Response Level Protocol and is a precautionary measure which alerts authorities and the public to an increase in the potential level of COVID-19 risk.
As per the Georgetown Hospital protocols, subsequent tests were conducted on the individual whilst they remained under monitor from medical staff, as well on six other individuals who were observing group compulsory isolation with the individual prior to their initial positive test result. Results from a test done on Wednesday 06 January indicated no virus present in the individual and they were therefore deemed to be negative.
Five separate rounds of tests were conducted on the other individuals in the compulsory isolation group over the last 13 days. None of these tests returned any results indicating COVID-19 infection, and as such the Senior Medical Officer is satisfied that no COVID-19 transmission took place.
As a result of today’s negative test result, the individual has re-entered group isolation and the group will be released on Thursday 07 January following completion of the 14 day quarantine period.
Due to this subsequent negative test result, the Ascension COVID-19 Response Level has been reduced to Level 1 AMBER as of this afternoon.
As with the previous escalation of the Response Level in November 2020, AIG will review the Response Level Protocol in light of this escalation and will report any changes to the protocol that result from this.
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 had arrived at Ascension on Tuesday 23 December. They had previously returned a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to their departure for the island. Although they remained asymptomatic, once in individual isolation the person in question was tested every 48 hours to confirm the level of infection.
The result of a test conducted on Monday 04 January indicated a significant reduction in the levels of the virus, to the point of non-infectious amounts. The result of a subsequent test conducted on Wednesday 06 January indicated no presence of virus in the individual. Given these negative results the Senior Medical Officer is satisfied that there is no risk to the public from any of the individuals in this isolation group.
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 Public Health England and are designed to ensure that any person arriving at the island is kept separate from the general public until the Senior Medical Officer is assured that they do not pose a risk of introducing COVID-19 into the community.
Even though the individual who tested positive had not had any contact with the wider public, and therefore any potential COVID-19 was contained, the level of risk to Ascension from COVID-19 had increased and as a result the response level was raised. Following the negative test result and confirmation that the threat from COVID-19 had reduced, the response level was returned to Level 1 AMBER.
Is it safe for these individuals to be released?
The test result has been analysed by the Senior Medical Officer and experts within Public Health England. Both are satisfied that the lack of virus mean that the person in question is non-infectious. As a result, they do not pose a risk to the public. Despite five rounds of testing, at no point have any others within the same isolation group returned positive test results.
The protocols in place in Ascension have been designed in liaison with experts in Public Health England 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.
Why is this group being released a day alter than other groups from the same cohort?
Following identification of a positive test result on Thursday 24 December, the 14 day isolation period reset for all individuals within that group. Therefore despite arriving on Wednesday 23 December, those within the group who had a positive test result will not be permitted to end their periods of compulsory isolation until Thursday 07 January.