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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 with or have other forms of close contact with a person with COVID-19.

(2) Persons who work or study in the same room as a person with COVID-19.

(3) Persons without masks who have shared the same transportation or elevator with a person with COVID-19.

(4) People who have shared a meal with a person with COVID-19.

(5) People who have had direct face-to-face unmasked contact within 1-2 metres (depending on the country) of the person with COVID-19or for more than 15 minutes.

(6) Medical personnel, family members, or others who have had close contact with a patient without taking effective protective measures during diagnosis, treatment, nursing, and visitation.

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

These close contacts are usually monitored by epidemiologists because they are at higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 than the rest of the population. To limit the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and eventually get rid of it, it is important to isolate yourself if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.

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Further reading

What is the purpose of social distancing?

What is the recommended distance between two people?