On Friday 20 May it was announced that, assuming certain criteria are met, the quarantining of arrivals to Ascension will end on Sunday 31 July. In doing so the island will transition from a state of working to keep COVID-19 out of the community, to managing it as a community infection much like other common viruses.
Ahead of this time the public are being encouraged to consider what actions they can begin taking now to prepare for when the rules change.
For those eligible, particularly adults and older persons, vaccination provides the greatest defence available against COVID-19. A vaccinated adult has significant protection against developing a severe COVID-19 illness when compared to an unvaccinated adult.
Although children are fortunately less likely to develop a severe COVID-19 illness, vaccination is offered to those aged five to 11 years old and also provides significant additional protection against the most severe effects of infection. Children aged under five years old are much less vulnerable to a severe COVID-19 infection, so as yet have not been offered the vaccine. However, clinical trials are continuing and this may change in the future.
Unvaccinated adults are still at risk of developing a more seriousness COVID-19 illness, as are those with weakened immune systems and those with certain types of cancer. Whilst vaccination provides older people with a very high-level of protection, as they are at a higher risk due to their age and associated conditions, people over the age of 65 are currently being offered a fourth booster vaccine.
Further doses of vaccine have now arrived at Ascension and as such all eligible persons will be offered an additional booster ahead of quarantine requirements ending in July.
Adults of any age that remain unvaccinated are strongly urged to contact Georgetown Hospital and arrange to receive a course of vaccine ahead of 31 July.
Personal prevention measures
Whilst each person will need to consider how they change behaviour, or don’t as the case may be, when the rules change in July, there are steps that individuals may want to consider now to ensure that they are prepared.
When combined with other measures such as social distancing and hand washing, wearing a mask can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means that you are better protected against catching it and that if you have COVID-19 but aren’t yet aware, are less likely to transmit it to others.
Ahead of 31 July you may want to consider ordering masks for you and your family. Nonsurgical N95 masks provide some of the highest levels of protection, but most kinds of masks will offer some form of protection.
Regular hand washing is also advisable. Whilst washing for 30 seconds with soapy water is extremely effective, you may want to consider ordering portable hand sanitiser that you can carry with you or leave in your vehicle.
Workplace prevention measures
Although the risk of COVID-19 to vaccinated adults is now low, employers will be eager to ensure that large numbers of their employees do not catch COVID-19 at once and need to isolate, less it significantly disrupts each organisation’s ability to continue operating.
Employers are therefore likely to implement their own adaptions to your working environment when quarantine requirements are removed. You may want to speak to your employer now to understand what these are likely to look like, and how your daily activities are likely to change.
Isolating after a positive result
Although there will be no legal requirement, anyone that tests positive will be expected to isolate for at least five days, or until they test negative. This will help to slow the spread of the virus through the community and ensure that critical services can continue to operate.
Everyone is therefore encouraged to consider what they can do now to make sure they are ready in case this happens to them. You should consider whether you have some basic store cupboard supplies at home and some simple but effective medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen in case you feel unwell.
Individuals are also encouraged to speak to family and friends about providing some basic support whilst people are in isolation, either for you or them. Alternatively, discuss with your employer what measures they might have in place to help support you through isolation as needed.
Given Ascension’s extremely high-levels of vaccination, the removal of quarantine is likely to be initially disruptive at a community level rather than pose a significant risk to most individuals. However, taking the above steps now will help to ensure that each person is as prepared as they can be to manage this change.
Further information on each of these issues, and guidance on other issues related to the changes, will be made available in the coming weeks.