15 July 2020

Change to FIG Covid-19 Response Level – Zero cases in the Falkland Islands

Earlier this year the Falkland Islands Government introduced a wide range of measures in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.  The measures were designed to be proportionate to the risks we were facing and were strengthened when the first cases were confirmed here in the Islands.  The outbreak was managed and contained effectively, and there has not been a confirmed case of Covid-19 in the Islands for nearly 80 days.  We are fortunate that unlike much of the world, we are living in a Covid-19 free environment, and in light of the fact we have zero cases it is appropriate that FIG consider what our current response should look like in that context.

To help us check whether the virus is here or not, surveillance samples are taken from people across the community and if a positive result does show up, the KEMH has a testing and tracing policy to help identify anyone else who may have been exposed, and require them to isolate.  Taken together, these systems help to reassure us that the Covid-19 virus is not currently in the community.

On 6th July 2020, an overarching requirement to Quarantine was introduced through the Infectious Diseases Control (Coronavirus, Quarantine) Regulations 2020.  Ensuring that people arriving from areas where Covid-19 is present stay isolated from us for 14 days helps to significantly reduce the risk of the infection arriving and spreading into communities across the Falkland Islands.  14 days is currently understood to cover the “incubation period” for the disease, which is the time from when a person is infected to the time they become infectious and develop symptoms.

Because of the time since the last positive Falkland Islands Covid-19 case and the protections we have in place, the local risk level has changed and is now considered to be very low.  This means that FIG feels that it is now the right time to help people to return to a greater level of normality and review the measures, restrictions and guidance we have in place as a response to the pandemic.

Public Health recommendations have not changed, and you are still advised to maintain good hand hygiene, more frequent cleaning (especially of high-touch surfaces and commercial premises), keep a social diary or a register for businesses, and follow cough and sneeze etiquette. Physical distancing and social bubbles advice also remains, and these are a matter of personal choice.

The situation is being kept under constant review, and additional advice or new regulations may be developed and published if Covid-19 arrives in the Falkland Islands.

What this change means for you:

  • People who develop Covid-19-like symptoms should immediately call KEMH for advice on 28000.
  • Keep washing or sanitising your hands after you go into a building and regularly through the day.
  • Sneeze and cough into your elbow.
  • Physical distancing is recommended but you can make a personal choice whether to do so.
  • Mixing with people from different social groups is also a choice.
  • The number of people you welcome into your home is a personal choice.
  • The number of people who attend gatherings inside or outside is a personal choice.
  • Organising and attending social events such as two-nighters, dances or darts competitions is a personal choice.
  • Keep a social diary to help tracking and tracing if it is needed after a positive test is found.

What this change means for businesses and public services:

  • Public health guidance on social distancing and appropriate hygiene measures remains and should be followed where possible.
  • Continue with the increased levels of cleaning in buildings and public areas.
  • All businesses can open as normal.
  • Registers are still recommended for all business and services (not just those in the hospitality sector).
  • Children can attend school, Stanley House, nursery and childminding as usual.
  • The library and college are fully open and will be maintaining a register.
  • Stanley Leisure Centre and gym facilities are open as normal. Use of swipe cards by gym members and normal procedures for booking sporting activities will operate in the usual way.
  • FIGAS and Workboat Services will revert to operating as normal, with the exception being that people subject to quarantine cannot travel on them.  Appropriate hygiene measures, including availability of hand sanitiser, will continue to be in place for these services.
  • It is recommended that all businesses and agencies have up-to-date business continuity plans in place to close if the risk of Covid-19 increases.
  • Faith groups can meet and celebrate as normal.
  • Social events and clubs can meet as normal.
  • Youth groups can meet as normal (subject to the requirements of their parent organisations where relevant).

What this change in response level means for Government and Public Health:

  • Border and quarantine controls remain in place and will be kept under review.
  • Surveillance swabbing, contact tracing and anti-body testing will continue.
  • Public Health advice will continue to be reviewed to reflect current best practice.
  • Risk levels will continue to be assessed and changes made if they are needed.

Further announcements with additional clarifications may be made as required.

If you have flu-like symptoms, please stay at home (do not go to work or school) and phone the Hospital on 28000. Staff will provide advice. DO NOT come to KEMH directly.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a new or worsening cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • temporary loss of taste or smell.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.