As the public will be aware, on Friday 02 July revised protocols were put in place for the compulsory isolation of persons arriving at Ascension. In light of the extensive rate of vaccination amongst the community, the ability readily to deploy testing, and revised scientific advice with regard to COVID-19 and the impact of widespread full vaccination, various categories of arrivals are now distinguished within the compulsory isolation process.
Taking a precautionary approach to changes, a distinction was previously made between “households” and “bubbles” of fully vaccinated individuals undergoing isolation together in a group setting. Households were considered to be a group containing individuals, such as a family, all members of whom are likely to have a common travel history prior to arrival at Ascension. Bubbles were considered to be a group containing individuals placed together for the purposes of observing compulsory isolation and who therefore may not have a common travel history prior to arrival at Ascension.
Due to the potential lack of a common travel history, bubbles were previously considered to pose a greater risk of inter-group transmission during isolation and were therefore required to observe 10 days of compulsory isolation measures, as opposed to the eight days required of households.
However, following further discussions with experts in Public Health England, AIG is now satisfied that when testing is applied the additional assumed risk dynamic within a bubble can be effectively mitigated. As such, the distinction between households and bubbles is no longer applied. Therefore from now on both household and bubbles will be considered to be the same category of persons, and will therefore have the same measures applied to them.
As such, as of Wednesday 04 August, the isolation protocols for each category of arrival are now therefore as follows:
|Category of arrival||Days|
|Vaccinated groups of four or fewer persons||x|
|Unvaccinated, or mixed, groups of four or fewer persons||x|
|Vaccinated groups of five or six persons||x|
|Unvaccinated, or mixed, groups of more than six persons||x|
The updated Policy on the Isolation on Arrival of Persons Travelling from Affected Areas reflecting these changes can be found on here.
It should be noted that whilst both Ascension and St Helena remain free of community established COVID-19 transmission, the air travel corridor between the territories will remain in place. As such, the above conditions would only need to be observed by arrivals to Ascension from St Helena in the event of a positive COVID-19 test result being returned from the air crew or passengers from the UK, who are tested on arrival.
Following extensive discussions with expert colleagues in Public Health England, AIG are confident that taken in combination, these revised measures continue to manage effectively the threat posed to the community by COVID-19.
Why were bubbles treated differently to households before but not now?
The changes made to compulsory isolation protocols in July were some of the most significant changes made to the management of arrivals from areas affected by COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. As such, officials strived to proceed in a precautionary but proportionate way.
Given the potential difference in the risk dynamic between the two types of group isolation, categorising these differently was determined to be a suitably precautionary measure whilst understanding in this area developed. As authorities now have a better understanding of the risk dynamics of these two categories, they are confident that the previous distinction no longer need be applied.
Is AIG considering any further adaptions to compulsory isolation?
AIG keep all COVID-19 related protocols and procedures under constant review. Any adaptions to these are considered against the most up-to-date understanding of COVID-19 and are discussed in liaison with experts from Public Health England. Further adaptions are likely to be proposed in the future based on Ascension’s specific circumstances, but will only be put forward if officials are confident that they can be implemented in a safe and effective way.