Omicron’s high transmissibility has overstretched contact tracing capacities globally, prompting the World Health Organization to issue interim guidance on February 17.
In the update, the WHO said it continued to call for a pragmatic approach to any changes to existing measures to avoid “significant disruptions to essential services, including health services”.
“In places where there are increases in cases and where essential services are under pressure, quarantine and contact tracing policies may need to be adjusted,” the agency said in a statement.
In high caseload areas, WHO recommends that public health authorities consider modifying contact tracing efforts to prioritize contacts most at risk of spreading or contracting the virus, those most at risk of developing serious illness and healthcare workers.
“Another consideration is the possible shortening of quarantine for contacts who test negative, do not develop symptoms, and have recently received the primary series or a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” the guidance document states. .
Contact tracing has largely trumped vaccinations and mask-wearing in the United States. At least a dozen states have reduced contact tracing efforts, with many citing skyrocketing case numbers as a reason for ending or reducing work. Those who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations do not need to quarantine after exposure unless they develop symptoms, according to CDC guidelines.