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COVID-19: Close contact and home quarantine

What does close contact mean?

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) classifies a close contact as the following:

“You have been in close contact with someone who has confirmed Coronavirus disease, but you do not have any symptoms yourself. Close contact means that you had face-to-face contact within 1 metre or were in a closed space for more than 15 minutes with a person with COVID-19. This contact happened while the person with COVID-19 was still “infectious”, i.e. from 2 days before to 14 days after their symptoms began.”

For example, you may be someone who:

  1. Lives in the same household as a person with COVID-19
  2. Works closely in the same environment as a person with COVID-19
  3. Sat in the same classroom as a person with COVID-19
  4. Attended the same gathering as a person with COVID-19
  5. Provided direct care for a person with COVID-19 in a healthcare setting without using the proper personal protective equipment
  6. Sat within two seats (1 metre) in any direction of a person with COVID-19 case in any kind of vehicle including buses, minibus taxis, etc.
  7. Served as a crew member in the section of an aircraft where a person with COVID-19 was seated

How will I know somebody has tested positive?

You may receive community-based information regarding the closure. Alternatively, you may receive a call from the local health authorities if somebody that has tested positive listed you as a contact on their track and trace information.

Who will be in touch with me from the government or National Institute for Communicable Diseases?

If the person with COVID-19, with who you were in close contact, made a list of all the people he/she had close contact with from 2 days before they became ill, you may be called, visited at home or advised by community health workers and/or the NICD. The purpose of this contact is to assist you to self-quarantine at home for 10 days after your last contact and to monitor you for symptoms. You should observe yourself for any of the COVID-19 symptoms.

Why have I been asked to quarantine at home?

You have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 while they were still able to transmit infection. It is, therefore, possible that you may have been infected with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Staying at home in quarantine will help to control the possible spread of the virus to your friends, relatives and your wider community. In particular, staying at home will help prevent possible spread to the most vulnerable people in our communities, who are at risk for severe illness.

What does my home quarantine mean for me?

  • Stay at home. Do not go to work, school, or any public areas. Talk to your employer and ask for their guidance.
  • Do not use any public transport (including buses and minibus taxis).
  • Do not travel.
  • You should cancel any routine appointments, for example, medical and dental appointments.
  • If possible, you should not even go out to buy food, medicines or other essentials. You should ask friends or relatives to help you to buy groceries and essentials. If you have access to the internet, you can order your shopping or medications online but tell delivery drivers to leave any items for collection outside your house. Delivery drivers should not come into your house.
  • You should not go outside to exercise unless you can maintain a safe distance from others in an outdoor space. You should not have any visitors in your home during your quarantine period.
  • If you cannot isolate at home, you should request guidance from the NICD on a government isolation facility.

Will I be tested for coronavirus disease as a close contact?

You will only have a laboratory test performed if you develop severe symptoms, and fall within a high-risk group, within 14 days of your last close contact with a person with COVID-19. Guidelines for testing will change as the pandemic evolves, and it is best to consult with a health care worker to establish whether this is necessary.

Why should I not be tested for COVID-19 if I am concerned, but have no symptoms?

There are a number of reasons why we do not recommend testing of a person with no symptoms, even if you are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case:

  • A negative test result in a person with no symptoms does not mean that you do not have COVID-19. You could still be in the early stage of COVID-19 and develop symptoms later. Therefore, testing when you do not have symptoms could give a false-negative result.
  • Even if your laboratory test result were negative, you would still need to stay at home in quarantine for 10 days if you had close contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19.
  • There is a limited supply of laboratory tests globally, and we need to reserve our valuable laboratory testing resources for those who are sick and for those groups of people where we can use these test results for public health good (for example, health care workers).

If I test positive for COVID-19, will my own close contacts be tested for coronavirus disease?

No, unless they develop severe respiratory symptoms and fall within a high-risk category.