COVID contact tracing focusses on close connections

Only close contacts are tested for COVID-19 after a positive case

Testing and isolation for COVID-19 in the community is focussing on ‘primary contacts’ of people who test positive.

That means people in the same household or anyone who has been in tight proximity – closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes – with the infected individual.

It also includes anyone who has had close physical contact, such as a hug or a kiss, with that person, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said.

Lee said public health chiefs in Cayman are following World Health Organization guidelines for contact tracing. Under current protocols, anyone classified as a ‘primary contact’ is isolated for 14 days and then tested for COVID-19.

Depending on the recency of the contact, they may also be tested before going into quarantine.

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If those primary contacts test positive on their initial test, another round of contact tracing begins for their contacts.

Lee emphasised that health advisors believe limiting testing and isolation requirements to primary contacts only is sufficient to manage the outbreak at this point, while allowing Cayman to operate with some level of normalcy.

In the UK, he said, the use of smartphone apps to aid contact tracing had led to an overly sensitive identification of contacts.

“One of the problems with the electronic systems is they are often not very discriminatory and can cause confusion,” he said.

“It put out quite a lot of the UK workforce when it was absolutely not required.”

The UK media coined the term ‘pingdemic’ to describe the impact on businesses of workers being isolated after being alerted to stay home by contact tracing apps when it was not a medical necessity.

Alerts sent out by the official app telling people to self-isolate for 10 days reportedly caused huge disruption in schools, businesses and the healthcare system.

Lee said Cayman was sticking to WHO guidelines and focussing its contact tracing efforts on primary contacts only.

“There is no question that the public health team absolutely understands what a primary contact means,” he said.

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