Society 04/09/2021

Health Dpt brings back contact tracing, including in schools

Those who are fully vaccinated will not be quarantined but will need to be tested as soon as possible

2 min
A health professional performing a PCR test on a pupil at the Benlloch School in Girona during a mass screening at the school a month ago.

BarcelonaCatalonia recovers covid tracing. The Department of Health will once again carry out diagnostic tests on close contacts of positive cases, also in schools, after the unprecedented volume of infections in the fifth wave forced them to suspend them due to the impossibility of tracing the chains of transmission. The downward trend in the number of infections that has been occurring over the last few weeks will allow for the recovery of this epidemiological control and traceability measure as of next Monday.

With this decision, the Government considers the mitigation phase to be over (there is no uncontrolled circulation) and resumes contact tracing, which is essential for the identification of asymptomatic cases. However, the protocol for managing cases of coronavirus will incorporate new features, such as the maximum period for testing contacts, due to the contagiousness of the delta variant. This mutation is not only more easily transmitted but the viral load is higher at the onset of infection (incubation period), also among those vaccinated with a complete vaccination schedule.

People vaccinated with both doses (or with one, in the case of Janssen) who are close contacts of a covid-positive person will continue to be exempt from the mandatory ten-day quarantine, but they will have to undergo a diagnostic test. The test will have to be done between the fourth and sixth day after contact with this person, preferably on the fourth day. On the other hand, unvaccinated people or people with incomplete vaccination schedule (who have only received one dose) will have to quarantine and do a PCR test between the fourth and sixth day. The Health Dpt has indicated that all these tests will be done, whenever possible, in centralised points.

Changes in schools

The Department also resumes testing close contacts of positive students in schools to find asymptomatic cases in classrooms, curb the spread of the virus and prevent centres from becoming a breeding ground for the spread of the virus in the community. The Health Minister himself, Josep Maria Argimon, had admitted that changes would be made to the back-to-school protocol to recover screening when a contagion is detected in a stable bubble. Finally, when a positive result is confirmed in a class, all members of the stable coexistence bubble will be tested. Indications, such as which diagnostic test they will be tested for, change depending on the immune status of the students.

If the student has the full immunisation schedule and is considered a close contact, Health will perform a lateral flow device test by self-sampling on the same day the infection is diagnosed, or the following day at the latest. The test will have to be done in any pharmacy that participates in the supervised rapid LFD testing program, which will then report the results to the health system to monitor the study of cases and contacts. Students who have not been vaccinated or whose vaccination schedule is incomplete will have to follow the same protocol as the general population: they will have to take a PCR test between the fourth or sixth day, preferably the fourth day, and comply with the 10-day quarantine. Even if the test is negative, the student will have to go into isolation.

"The main objective of the update is to generalise contact tracing at this stage of the pandemic in order to identify and cut transmission chains with an operation that modulates the care pressure on primary care centres in order to speed up and recover non-covid care tasks", stresses the Health Dpt in a statement.