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Arrivals to be tested for Covid-19 on 7th day of isolation for trial period

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DURING a one week trial period in July, people arriving in Guernsey will have a Covid-19 test on day seven of their mandatory 14 days of self-isolation - if they receive a negative result, they will be released from self-isolation.

The Civil Contingencies Authority has decided that a seventh-day test for the virus that causes Covid-19 will be piloted for arrivals into Guernsey for a one-week period next month.

There will be a cap of 1,376 on the number of arrivals in total, coming in on a limited and specified number of Condor Ferries and Aurigny services between 5 and 10 July.

These arrivals will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, with a test for Covid-19 on the seventh day.

Provided the test returns negative, arrivals would be released from self-isolation on the eighth day, or as soon as a negative result becomes available.

Those travelling through Guernsey to Alderney and Sark will not be eligible to take part in the pilot at this stage in line with the decisions of those jurisdictions.

Left to right: Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby, CCA chairman Deputy Gavin St Pier, Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (28393479)

Between days eight and 14, those leaving self-isolation will be subject to 'passive surveillance', meaning they will be asked to report any symptoms - no matter how mild.

Anyone with any symptoms will be asked to be tested again.

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Everyone in this group will also be asked to limit their contact with other people as much as possible, such as avoiding going to restaurants during this time.

This approach balances the health protection risk of infection with the wider health and wellbeing needs of the population.

In previous press conferences about the pandemic, director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink repeatedly said the incubation period for the coronavirus is understood to be between two and 14 days.

However, data shows than in more than 80% of cases the virus would be picked up by a test after seven days.

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Coupled with passive surveillance and the Bailiwick's track and trace system, the risk of this approach is felt to be very low.

Left to right: Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby, CCA chairman Deputy Gavin St Pier, Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (28393500)

However, before introducing seven-day testing as the norm, this pilot is being carried out first to help ensure its effectiveness and to gather the requisite evidence to support any such decision.

'We have been led by data throughout our response to the pandemic,' Dr Brink said.

'Now that we have reach Phase 5 we have been looking at possible modelling of a shorter period of compulsory self-isolation, [which] is particularly important for those who need to travel off-island for treatment or to see loved ones.'

She explained the seven-day test approach was the preferred option and has been independently peer-reviewed.

'We're confident this is the best, lowest-risk option, but we do recognise there is no model that is completely without risk.

'Equally we know that 14 days of self-isolation is a big ask for some people, with some reporting to me that particularly in the second week of self-isolation, it is affecting their mental wellbeing.'

Managing this pilot in a controlled way is the best way to test what will work for the island.

Left to right: Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby, CCA chairman Deputy Gavin St Pier, Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (28393497)

'If we do get a positive case, we must not see this as a step backwards,' she said. 'We are very well equipped to respond in this controlled environment.'

CCA member and president of Health & Social Care Deputy Heidi Soulsby said Guernsey's borders have been and will continue to be the island's strongest defence in keeping Covid-19 from returning to our community.

She was confident that, as a result of the enhanced testing capacity and contact tracing team, there are enough protective measures in place to be confident in trialling this seventh-day testing pilot.

The pilot is also one of a number of measures that form the first steps towards Phase 6.

Discussions are ongoing with the Isle of Man on the possible formation of an 'air bridge' between the jurisdictions.

HSC president Heidi Soulsby, CCA chairman Gavin St Pier and Director of Public Health Dr Nicola Brink. (28393485)

If this can be implemented, and proves successful, it may pave the way for more air bridges with other places that have very low or no cases of Covid-19.

Chairman of the CCA Deputy Gavin St Pier said unless there are very rapid developments in a vaccine or treatment for the virus, which is possible but not certain, Guernsey will need to take a staged approach to reaching Phase 6, with a series of risk-controlled measures brought in gradually and carefully that will allow increased travel off-island.

The CCA firmly believes relieving people in self-isolation from some of the difficulties they are going through is the right thing to do, particularly given that the law requires all restrictions to be proportionate to the risk being managed.

'Understandably many in our community are concerned about border control but I can reassure you that the Civil Contingencies Authority will not make any change to the 14 day self-isolation requirement until we’re confident the pilot has been a success and has provided the evidence required to offer us an alternative way forward.'

Zoe Fitch

By Zoe Fitch
News reporter

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