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What is close contact?

Text updated on 2020-05-03

Close contact with an infected person can potentially be a vector for the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. It is important to identify them in order to curb the epidemic.

The concept of close contact (or its equivalent, "case contact") is used in the context of epidemiological surveillance of infectious diseases. For COVID-19, close contact refers to persons who have had close contact with a patient with confirmed or suspected SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection. The exact list of situations that correspond to close contact may vary according to countries, research teams, and our evolving knowledge of COVID-19.

The following situations are generally considered to be close contact:

(1) Persons who live, study, work, or have other forms of close contact with a person with COVID-19.

(2) Medical personnel, family members, or other persons who have had close contact with a patient without taking effective protective measures during diagnosis, treatment, nursing care, and visits.

(3) Other patients and their attendants who are in the same clinical ward as an infected patient.

(4) Those who shared the same transport or elevator with the patient.

(5) Those who have had direct face-to-face contact within 1-2 meters (depending on the country) of the person affected by COVID-19 or for more than 15 minutes.

These close contacts are generally monitored by epidemiologists because they have a higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 than the rest of the population. In order to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and to eventually eliminate it, it is important to quarantine close contacts.

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Further reading

What is the purpose of social distancing?

What is the recommended distance between two people?