An early return-to-work program for COVID-19 close contacts in healthcare during the Omicron wave in Japan

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During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, maintaining adequate staffing in healthcare facilities is important to provide a safe work environment for healthcare workers (HCWs). Japan's early return-to-work (RTW) program may be a rational strategy at a time when there is an increased demand for the services of HCWs. We assessed whether the early RTW program for HCWs who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 case in our hospital was justified. Close contacts were identified according to the guidance document of the World Health Organization. HCWs who met all of the following conditions were eligible to apply to an early RTW program: (1) difficult to replace with another HCW, (2) received the third dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, (3) a negative COVID-19 antigen test before each work shift, and (4) consent from relevant HCWs and their managers to participate in the program. Between January and March 2022, 256 HCWs were identified as close contacts (median age, 35 years; 192 female). Thirty-seven (14%) secondary attack cases of COVID-19 were detected. Among 141 HCWs (55%) who applied to the early RTW program, nurses and physicians comprised about three-quarters of participants, with a higher participation rate by physicians (78%) than nurses (59%). Eighteen HCWs tested positive for COVID-19 by the sixth day after starting the early RTW program. No COVID-19 infection clusters were reported during the observation period. These findings suggest that the early RTW program for COVID-19 close contacts was a reasonable strategy for HCWs during the Omicron wave.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-104
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Infection and Chemotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01-2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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