A smartphone displays a screen from the NHS Covid-19 contract tracing app in view of traffic in this arranged photograph taken in London, the UK. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SIMON DAWSON
A smartphone displays a screen from the NHS Covid-19 contract tracing app in view of traffic in this arranged photograph taken in London, the UK. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SIMON DAWSON

SA will no longer require people that have been exposed to the coronavirus to quarantine except in cases where infections have been caused by cluster outbreaks, congregate settings or self-contained settings. 

This follows a recommendation to the health department by the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 that SA stop quarantine requirements and instead move to mitigating the spread of Covid-19. 

A circular released by the health department on Thursday says due to new information on Covid-19 and the current social and economic conditions, quarantine requirements for people with Covid-19 symptoms should stop with immediate effect. 

“Containment strategies are no longer appropriate — mitigation is the only viable strategy ... especially true of the newer, more infectious/transmissible variants like Omicron,” health department director-general Sifiso Buthelezi said in the circular. 

Contact tracing of those potentially exposed to Covid-19 will also no longer be required. 

“Quarantine has been costly to essential services and society as many people stay away from their work and thus lose their income and children miss out on schooling,” the circular reads.

“All contacts must continue with their normal duties with heightened monitoring (daily temperature testing, symptom screening) of any early signs. If they develop symptoms then they should be tested and be managed according to the severity of the symptoms.”

Buthelezi says testing is currently skewed to those who are symptomatic, while most infections are among those who are asymptomatic. 

“High risk” definition probably isn’t meaningful any more because it  doesn’t take into account aerosol spread, the newer variants’ increased transmissibility and pre-existing immunity, he said. 

The new rules apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. If a person tests positive, they will still be required to isolate for up to 10 days and once the mandatory period of isolation (eight days) is complete, they will no longer be required to do so.

maekot@businesslive.co.za

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