Health department scraps quarantine, isolation requirements for asymptomatic Covid-19 contacts

Contact tracing for Covid-19 cases will only be done in instances where all the people who have been in close proximity know each other and can determine who they might have been with when they were possibly exposed to the virus, the health department says.

“Because of the resources and the manpower, and also looking at the current number of cases, we are only doing contact tracing on people who were in a congregational setting, people who know each other,” department spokesperson Foster Mohale said.

The department took this decision following a recommendation by the ministerial advisory committee to end the quarantine requirement for asymptomatic Covid-19 contacts.  

According to the revised contact tracing protocols, contact tracing will no longer be done except in congregate settings or when there is a cluster outbreak of the coronavirus.

All contacts will no longer be required to test for Covid-19 unless they are symptomatic, and they can continue with their normal duties while monitoring themselves for early signs.

Both vaccinated and unvaccinated contacts will no longer be required to quarantine and will also not be required to get tested, irrespective of the level of exposure to confirmed positive Covid-19 cases.

Asymptomatic individuals are no longer required to isolate but must instead self-observe for the development of symptoms for five to seven days.

Those with mild disease such as coughing, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle pain and other symptoms should self-isolate for up to eight days. There is no longer a need for a negative Covid-19 test before returning to places of work. For severe disease cases, an isolation period of 10 days and a medical report will be required.

Meanwhile, the health department has also started the administration of the Johnson &  Johnson (J&J) booster shot as of 24 December. This follows approval by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority on Thursday for a second dose of the vaccine to be given to individuals two months after the first one.

With effect from 28 December, those who have received their primary two doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be able to get a third booster shot at least six months after their second.

“This is a significant and welcome development and we encourage all those who have had their vaccines to go and get their booster shots as soon as possible,” the chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Angelique Coetzee said in a statement on Friday.

“If our country is to recover its overall health, and economically, it is imperative that as many citizens as possible are vaccinated, and receive the booster vaccines as soon as possible. We cannot stress enough how important this is and we urge everyone to play their part in realising these recoveries.”

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Marcia Zali
Marcia Zali is an award winning journalist

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