CIH’s Housing 2021 invites Covid safety debate.

CIH appears to say six months is a reasonable period for test safety as its conference approaches, in contrast to most other major events.

The CIH’s Housing conference and exhibition returns to Manchester’s Central Exhibition Centre in September after a two-year hiatus thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we can’t help but wonder about the logic of their safety requirements with the pandemic still very much a concern.

An email sent to Housing Executive  last night, detailing the Covid requirements for attendees, clearly stated that all those wishing to visit the event must be able to demonstrate one of the following:

1. A negative Lateral Flow Test result, which can be taken at home or at a recognised centre free of charge, within 48 hours of the event.
This seems reasonable, and very much in keeping with the procedure of many other large-scale events such as concerts and theatre performances currently beginning to take place again around the country.

2. Have had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before attending.
Again, a policy that seems to sit very much within the confines of current scientific thinking around preventing the spread of Covid-19.

3. Have had a positive PCR test within the past six months and you have reached the end of your self-isolation period.
Six months? This seems utterly bizarre. A lot can happen in six months, and if a lateral flow test is required within 48-hours of the event, we can’t honestly see how a PCR test, positive or negative, remains valid for a further five months and four weeks. A lot can happen in five months and four weeks, as any reader could doubtless testify, and certainly a new Covid infection could occur. Also, what if I’ve finished my self isolation, have the positive test, and am still symptomatic?

We’re all pleased to see in-person events returning, but we can’t help feeling they should do so with the utmost safety consideration, and a six-month testing window seems to be far from that.

The six-month window is based on government advice that previous infection with Covid-19 can confer immunity on the infected, and is being adopted by many event organisers. Reinfection following a bout of Covid is very much possible, however, and how long such immunity may last is unclear.

Public Health England suggests immunity following infection can last “five months or more,” though the same study from January of this year added that “PHE also warned that although those with antibodies have some protection from becoming ill with COVID-19 themselves, early evidence from the next stage of the study suggests that some of these individuals carry high levels of virus and could continue to transmit the virus to others.”

US website Healthline is more optimistic, suggesting that eight months immunity is a reasonable assumption, though whether US healthcare is a place from which we wish to take advice is very much subjective.

A much shorter timescale for reinfection could be applied to the 27-year-old Indian woman who was widely reported to have been reinfected less than a month after her negative discharge from Bengalaru’s Fortis Hospital last August.

The simple fact of the matter is that nobody yet fully understands the machinations of the virus, but given that some of those attending the conference are likely to find themselves returning home to work with some of the most vulnerable members of society, and given that government advice on this, and many other issues, doesn’t have the best track record, we’d prefer to see full vaccination or a negative test as the requirements  to attend.

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