Chief Minister Alfred Cannan MHK last night announced changes to the Island’s response to COVID, including a move towards maximising the self-management of testing across the community.
New evidence shows that the Omicron variant is extremely transmissible and could result in a significant increase in cases, leaving the Island’s critical infrastructure severely strained and milder cases going undetected, leading to further transmission. The public have been supportive of the measures so far and are asked to continue to play their part and take personal responsibility in helping to combat the spread of the virus.
The Chief Minister said:
‘We are all aware that Omicron is spreading through the community, with 126 cases identified of the variant so far.
‘I want to again thank the whole community for doing what is right for the Island by following the strengthened guidance issued in the recent weeks. It is important that we continue to work together as a community as this impending wave of Omicron approaches the Island, and do what we can to help reduce the spread as much as possible and most importantly, protect our vital health services.
‘We are asking for increased vigilance from everyone against the backdrop of increasing cases. This includes wearing face coverings when mixing with people outside of the household, practising good hygiene and most importantly, testing yourselves regularly with lateral flows and that you ‘know before you go’ before attending any events, parties, Christmas shopping, workplaces or visiting the elderly.
‘I also urge anyone eligible to come forward for their COVID booster and get that important protection against the virus. Whilst the virus appears more transmissible across those who have been fully vaccinated, the booster dose clearly helps protect a level of both transmission and against severe symptoms.
‘Alongside these existing measures, Government is proposing new changes to testing by allowing the public to self-report positive tests and self-report when negative, allowing them to target their isolation to the period when infection is more likely.
‘The new approach recognises the need to minimise the impact on the Island’s critical services, our society, and our economy from significant levels of isolation, while maximising the ability to provide support for those who need it.’
The new measures will come into effect at 00:01 Wednesday 22 December.
New testing measures
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 using a lateral flow test will no longer be required to book in for a PCR test – they must still isolate immediately for 10 days and instead report the positive result online.
A COVID-positive individual is encouraged to test daily throughout the isolation with LFTs. This period of self-isolation can then be reduced by recording two negative LFTs a minimum of 24 hours apart.
Both negative test results must be officially recorded before someone is released free from isolation and clear instructions will be provided to all cases reporting in at each stage.
PCR testing will still be available for a range of diagnostics, including travel and hospital screening. It will also be available for anyone who is symptomatic but has tested negative at home, as well as for those who need to confirm a positive diagnosis if their self-tests remain positive after 7 days and for anyone who needs a positive confirmation for work purposes.
Household contacts of potential Omicron cases will no longer be required to isolate. All close contacts of existing and new COVID cases will be treated identically, and asked to be vigilant by self-testing for 7 consecutive days.
A public document outlining the Government’s Omicron Strategy with more detail on the background and the changes being made can be found online at www.gov.im/covid19