Put simply, contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have been exposed to an infectious disease and telling them so they can look after their own health, as well as preventing spread to others. A list of people you have been in contact with can be recorded manually or by phone app technology such as Australia’s COVIDSafe app.
COVID-19 doesn’t need sexual contact to spread – only 15 minutes or more within 1.5 metres of a contagious person. Some people who have COVID-19 show no or very mild symptoms.
Contact tracing helps a person know they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 so they can get tested, monitor for symptoms and isolate to prevent possible onwards transmission.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you have a responsibility to tell contact tracers who you have been in close contact with, including anyone you’ve dated, so they can advise people at risk to get tested and monitor their symptoms. You can also tell your date yourself to be extra sure. By now, we all know how contagious COVID-19 is so it’s important to take it seriously, especially if you’re dating multiple people.
Luckily – like safer sex (condoms + regular testing = all the fun and none of the worry) there are some simple steps that minimise the risks and make dating safer.
STEP 1: If one of you has COVID-19 symptoms, don’t meet up, and get tested right away. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of virtual date ideas to keep you busy.
STEP 2: When you do meet up, respect physical distancing rules (stay 1.5m apart) and all other COVID-19 regulations. You’ll find NSW details here.
STEP 3: Have a great date! Casual sex isn’t recommended right now due to COVID-19, but if things do head that way, here’s everything you need to know to stay safe.
STEP 4: If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and went on a date while infectious, you need to let contract tracers know. You can also let your date know yourself to be extra sure. It’s important you still have their details on a dating app, Whatsapp, Instagram or phone (whatever works for you).
STEP 5: Not all dates go well and you might not want to stay in touch. That’s where the COVIDsafe app comes in. This app is free and records who you have been in contact with if they also have the app on their phone. If both of you download this app it’s another level of protection before heading off on a date.
If you test positive for COVID-19, a public health official will call you to see how you’re feeling and to find out where you have been while infectious. You might feel uncomfortable disclosing you hooked up while infectious but it’s important to let them know because sexual contact like kissing can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Public health officials never disclose your name or other personal information to your close contacts. Confidentiality is key to encourage contact tracing participation so the process can effectively protect the community.
Do you have more questions about COVID-19 and sex or dating? Ask Nurse Nettie.
Confused about the do’s and don’ts during COVID-19? Here’s all you need to know on dating, safe sex, STI testing and wellbeing.