Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
24 Dec 2021
9:54 am

Health Department stops tracing, quarantining of Covid contacts

Thapelo Lekabe

The department on Thursday night published revisions to contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols.

Photo for illustration: iStock

After receiving recommendations from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19, the Department of Health has decided to stop contact tracing and quarantining for contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19, with immediate effect.

The department on Thursday night published revisions to contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols.

According to the amended protocols, all contact tracing would be stopped with immediate effect, except in congregate settings such as prisons and old age homes where a number of people reside in close proximity.

ALSO READ: Here’s why the MAC says SA should stop tracing, quarantining of Covid contacts

All contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases must not be tested unless if they develop symptoms.

A circular released by the department stated: “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.”

Quarantining

With regards to the quarantining protocols, all quarantine is to be stopped with immediate effect for both vaccinated and unvaccinated contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19.

No testing for Covid-19 is required irrespective of the risk exposure, unless the contact becomes symptomatic.

Isolation

Isolation rules are still applicable for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who have been exposed to Covid-19.

Workers can return to work after 10 days and employers were encouraged to take into consideration the individual’s
clinical status before allowing them to return to work.

“Only those patients well enough to work should do so,” the health department said.

Last week, the MAC on Covid-19 wrote to Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla advising him to stop contact tracing and quarantining, with immediate effect, for contacts of cases of coronavirus.

The MAC said it made the recommendations due to the high proportion of people with immunity to Covid-19 in South Africa due to either infection or vaccination.

The committee said quarantining of contacts should be stopped as it was no longer viable in South Africa’s current social and economic climate.

“As current testing only identifies a small minority of all Covid-19 cases, quarantining contacts of these cases serves no demonstrable general public health purpose.

“Furthermore, quarantining is not feasible in many social settings, and is associated with both significant strain on staffing levels and costs to the individual and to the broader society,” the committee said in its advisory.

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