As members of the public will be aware, AIG keeps all COVID-19 protocols and procedures under constant review. As such, following further advice from experts in the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), AIG has introduced a new category of “convalescent COVID-19 individual” in the compulsory isolation, or quarantine, process.
Recently available evidence from the UKHSA indicates that an individual has a negligible risk of re-infection with COVID-19 within 28 days of confirmed infection and subsequent recovery. As COVID-19 measures have been put in place based on the risk certain individuals might pose to others, recovery from a recent infection is therefore relevant when assessing what isolation or restrictions measures it is necessary to apply to arrivals to the island.
As such, if an individual travelling to Ascension is able to provide reliable documented evidence that they have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection, then they will not be required to undergo compulsory isolation on arrival at Ascension. This will apply to all persons who meet the definition of a “convalescent COVID-19 individual”, regardless of the territory from which they have travelled from, with immediate effect.
To satisfy the Senior Medical Officer that they do not pose a risk to others anyone wanting to be considered as a “convalescent COVID-19 individual” will need to provide evidence of a previous positive test result, and as with all travellers to Ascension they will need to provide a negative pre-departure test result prior to leaving for the island. As in practice compulsory isolation is only applied to those travelling from an area where community transmission is established, they will also be tested on arrival along with other such passengers.
Based on the most up-to-date advice available, authorities are comfortable that in making these changes the community will not be placed at additional risk.
Other territories have also considered this evidence and adapted their protocols accordingly. As a result, some territories are allowing arrivals to benefit from a period of recovery extending to 90 days after a previous infection when considering what impact a previous infection has on quarantine procedures. Whilst certain territories may be willing to accept a greater level of comparative risk, based on Ascension’s specific circumstances a more conservatives period of 28 days after infection and subsequent recovery has instead been decided upon.
The application of a 28-day window of recovery seeks to recognise and take advantage of the effect on immunity of recovery from a previous infection, whilst also taking a precautionary approach in recognition of the limited medical facilities within Ascension and the impact that community transmission would be likely to have on hospital admissions.
This approach is consistent with that taken throughout the pandemic. Since March 2020 AIG has strived to ensure that all COVID-19 measures that are put in place are proportionate, based on Ascension’s particular circumstances at the time and informed by the most up-to-date scientific understanding of COVID-19. Taking this approach has allowed AIG to continuously adapt its procedures. This has seen compulsory isolation lengths reduced from an initial 14 days to eight days following arrival and has also allowed for the introduction of an air travel corridor between Ascension and the islands of St Helena and the Falkland’s, whereby quarantine can be waived for certain categories of passengers provided certain conditions are met.
Further information about what criteria must be met in order for someone to be considered a “convalescent COVID-19 individual” can be found in the Policy on the Treatment of Convalescent Persons within the Compulsory Isolation Model on the AIG website here. The Policy on the Isolation of Arrivals from Affected Areas has been updated to reflect these changes and can also be found on the AIG website at the same link.
Shouldn’t everyone who has come straight from an area with COVID-19 quarantine?
It is important that COVID-19 protocols in place remain proportionate to the risk to others. The scientific evidence shows that someone who has recovered from an infection within the last 28 days will pose a similar level of risk to others as someone who has completed a period of isolation following arrival to Ascension.
As such, AIG is implementing changes in a way that seeks to effectively take advantage of someone’s immunity against COVID-19. This is why it is only being applied to those who have recovered from an infection in the narrow window of the last 28 days.
Anyone applying to be considered a “convalescent COVID-19 individual” will still be tested on arrival and will be required to provide a negative pre-departure test along with everyone else who travels to Ascension from an affected area.
How do you know that they’ve definitely recovered from a recent COVID-19 infection?
Anyone applying to be considered a “convalescent COVID-19 individual” will need to provide a PCR test result showing that they previously tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 28 days. As it is a requirement for people travelling to Ascension from places with established community COVID-19 transmission (e.g. USA, UK, South Africa, etc.) to provide a negative pre-departure PCR test result, nobody who is still positive should be able to board a plane here.
As an additional failsafe, anyone applying to be considered a “convalescent COVID-19 individual” will also be tested on arrival, as is the practice for all travellers from affected areas.
Will these changes place the community at more risk?
All COVID-19 measures in place in Ascension are carefully considered against the best available evidence and are designed to protect the community against the unguarded introduction of COVID-19 to the island.
Based on further advice from experts, AIG has determined that these changes can be introduced in a way which does not place the community at increased risk. AIG has previously been able to adapt the protocols in place in light of new advice and evidence, and will continue to do so when appropriate.