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Covid-19 contact tracing halted, health department announces

People with mild Covid-19 symptoms should isolate for eight days.
People with mild Covid-19 symptoms should isolate for eight days.
Image: EMILY ELCONIN / Bloomberg

The health department has said all Covid-19 contact tracing should be halted with immediate effect, except in “congregational settings and cluster outbreak situations” or self-contained settings.

It said containment strategies “are no longer appropriate” and “mitigation is the only viable strategy”.

This is according to an updated memorandum issued by the department and dated December 23.

Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale confirmed to TimesLIVE that the circular, which was being shared on social media, was legitimate.

The department said all contacts must not be tested unless they develop symptoms.

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

According to the department, quarantine for both vaccinated and unvaccinated contacts should be stopped.

The department said no testing for Covid-19 is required, irrespective of the risk exposure, unless the contact becomes symptomatic.

Isolation rules are applicable to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, including high and low-risk individuals, the department said.

“All people who have been infected and have been in isolation must be ready to return to work after completing a mandatory period of isolation and no further testing is required after either eight or 10 days of isolation,” said the department.

The department said there was no isolation period required for asymptomatic individuals, except “to do self-observation for five to seven days for the development of any symptoms, with enhanced precautions including avoiding attending settings where many people gather, mask-wearing and social distancing.”

The isolation period for individuals with severe disease is set at 10 days after they are clinically stable.

The department said the individuals must wear a face mask at all times for the duration of the 10 days of isolation.

“There is no need for a Covid-19 test, either PCR or antigen test, to be performed before returning to work after a 10-day isolation period. For severe cases, isolation beyond 10 days must be supported by the medical report.”

The department noted that there was a high number of asymptomatic cases and only a small proportion of infections were diagnosed through lab testing.

“The proportion of people with some immunity from infection and/or vaccination is high,  at 60% to 80% in several sero surveys.”


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