Self-isolation circle widened as fears mount over COVID-19 variants

EASTERN ONTARIO — Have you been identified as a “high-risk contact” of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19? Members of your household are now required to go into self-quarantine with you, under a new rule widening the policy impact around those identified as contacts of other individuals who have tested positive for the virus or exhibit symptoms of infection.

Similarly, if a member of your household has symptoms of COVID-19 and needs a test to rule out COVID-19, you and other household members must stay at home until the individual receives a negative test result or an alternative diagnosis from a health care provider confirming the symptoms are not related to COVID-19.

The upped restrictions went into effect today “in response to the threat of potential COVID-19 variants of concern,” says the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), which has updated its rule in accordance with updated Ministry of Health guidelines.

High-risk contacts must isolate for 14 days from last exposure, even if their test result comes back negative. However, the rule is not as strict for household members as it is for the person actually deemed a high-risk contact.

“All household members of a high-risk contact will be asked to stay home for the duration of the high-risk contact’s quarantine except for essential reasons,” explains the EOHU. “Essential reasons include attending work or school/childcare, errands for food, medication, and essential medical appointments. Non-essential visitors must refrain from entering the home during the isolation period.”

If a test is recommended for a symptomatic individual who nonetheless fails to be tested, that person must isolate for 10 days from symptom onset, says the EOHU, adding that members of the household must then quarantine for 14 days from their last contact with the symptomatic individual.

If the symptomatic individual cannot isolate from the rest of the household during the requisite 10 days, all household members must quarantine for 14 days, starting from the end of the symptomatic individual’s isolation period.

“Variants of concern are being detected across Ontario and urgent efforts by all are needed to slow their spread and protect our health system and the most vulnerable members of our community,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “The variants have proven to be more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19, which means we will have to double our efforts and intensify public health practices to prevent transmitting infection.”

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