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Contact Tracing

Why is contact tracing important?

Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have a high risk of having been exposed to the disease to prevent onward transmission.

The Isle of Man Contact Tracing process aims to;

  • Isolate the positive case to prevent further onward transmission;
  • Look backwards to understand the source of any case;
  • Contact high risk individuals and in doing so break the chain of transmission of COVID-19 and minimise forward transmission from them;
  • Contain potential outbreaks of the virus within the Island
  • Identify otherwise unknown cases of COVID-19

Contact tracing is a useful and robust public health tool to control the virus, and plays an important role in allowing us to reduce the restrictions on our Island’s borders as we learn to live in a world with COVID-19.

It is however important that we balance the positive public health outcomes of contact tracing (such its ability to successfully limit onward transmission), with the potentially negative social impact of these precautions (for example, leading to a high percentage of the population being required to isolate).

Like much of the Government’s response to the pandemic, it is important to balance the health, social and economic needs of our Island, also taking into consideration ethics and human rights.

Download our guide to Contact Tracing for individuals and businesses.

 

Why would someone be contact traced?

Contact Tracing involves studying the behaviour and history of a known COVID-19 case to identify any person that they have come into contact with. Depending on the circumstances, some contacts may be deemed ‘high risk’ and others may represent lower risk.

As the Island’s defence, primarily through the vaccination programme, against COVID-19 has increased, the requirement for isolation has changed.

As of 14 July 2021 only someone who returns a positive COVID-19 test or displays symptoms is legally required to self-isolate (for details about isolation for those travelling to the island; please see Travel and Borders.

If you are identified as a close contact, and have no COVID-19 symptoms, you are no longer required to self-isolate or have a PCR test. Instead, close contacts will be strongly encouraged to take part in a free-seven day home testing scheme. 

Home test kits – called lateral flow devices – will be available in packs of seven, free of charge. Kits will be available at pharmacies across the Island

Contact tracing will continue to inform people if they have been identified as a close contact – at which point;

  • If they are 2+2 (double vaccinated, with the second dose administered at least 2 weeks beforehand) and have no symptoms = they are not required to isolate
  • Not double vaccinated, and not showing symptoms = they will be encouraged to collected a free seven day home testing course of lateral flow tests (LFDs). If you return a negative LFD and do not have any symptoms = you do not need to isolate.
  • If you return a positive PCR, positive LFD or are showing symptoms = you must isolate

If you are doing the home testing course you will be encouraged to take a test every day for seven days from when you are identified as a close contact. An anonymous online reporting system is available for people to confirm their negative results.

  • If you return a positive home test result, or develop symptoms, you should immediately isolate and call 111 and will be offered a PCR test if necessary. If the PCR test comes back as positive, you will have to self-isolate for 10 days.

Whilst there will be no legal restrictions on close contacts, you should consider:

  • Telling your employer that you have been identified as a close contact and letting them know if you’ll be undertaking daily home testing
  • Telling friends, family and colleagues who may feel anxious or vulnerable
  • Thinking about who you interact with in the 10 days after being told they’re a close contact
  • Taking precautions that may make them and others feel safer, such as minimising face to face close contact, avoiding confined and poorly ventilated areas or wearing a face covering as appropriate.

How will I be notified if I am a high risk contact?

A member of 111 or the Contact Tracing team will contact you by phone or email to notify you and provide you with directions about what to do next.  You may of course be contacted directly by the positive case ahead of a call, and where possible should consider your position and the risk you may pose to other individuals based on this status.

If you are identified as a close contact, and have no COVID-19 symptoms, you are no longer required to self-isolate or have a PCR test. Instead, close contacts will be strongly encouraged to take part in a free-seven day home testing scheme. 

 

I own or operate a business. How will my staff member be contact traced?

The Contact Tracing team will speak directly to the close contacts of a positive case. They will not automatically inform the contacts place of work, as depending on the circumstances, the risk to other staff members or customers may be low and will not have consent to share personal information from a case with third parties until the position is fully understood.

If a staff member is identified as a close contact, they will be encouraged to collect a seven day set of lateral flow tests. During this time businesses and employees should work together to manage the risks to the business.

A business may be asked to help contact tracing identify close contacts (for example by using signing in sheets or staff rotas but contact tracing will deem who is a close or high risk contact, and who is not.

If a business deploys additional mitigations (such as ventilation, hygiene, face coverings, protective screens) these will be taken into account by contact tracing in determining the risk of high contact interactions.

Examples:

Karen’s daughter who lives with her, tests positive on day 6 after travelling from the North West of England. Karen is therefore a close contact of a positive case, she is offered a set of seven day lateral flow tests.

The first LFD test comes back negative, therefore Karen does not have to isolate.

Neil travels from the UK to the Isle of Man to visit Edmund. He enters on the ‘No test no isolation’ pathway as he is 2+2.

When he arrives his friend Edmund isn’t feeling too well, and goes on to test positive and must isolate for 10 days.  Neil is identified as a close contact, but as he is 2+2 he does not need to isolate.

 

Why are those fully vaccinated exempted from testing or isolation?

Vaccines are highly effective at reducing the risk of serious illness and hospitalisation.  They also reduce the risk of infection, symptomatic illness and transmission to others.

The risks are reduced but not completely eliminated.  Therefore, to balance the significant impact of isolation on society and the economy and individuals generally, the policy was changed from 28th June to allow fully vaccinated individuals to be exempted from testing and isolation.

No vaccine is 100% effective however, and a proportion of vaccinated individuals will still develop the virus.  It’s important that everyone remains vigilant:  if you develop symptoms, stay at home and call 111, even if you have been fully vaccinated or had a recent negative test.