The isolation period for people who have contracted Covid-19 has been reduced from 14 days to 10 days. Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says evidence shows that in mild cases the infection is only present for about eight days, and the decision is led by World Health Organisation (WHO) research.
“This recommendation is based on evidence that most patients with a mild Covid-19 infection continue to shed the virus from their upper airways for approximately seven to 12 days,” he states.
“Furthermore, the presence of detectable virus when testing does not necessarily imply infectiousness. It has been proven that in mild cases, virus cultures are generally only positive for eight to nine days after symptom onset.”
Severe cases isolate longer
However, in severe cases where patients were in hospital and on oxygen, isolation is mandated for a further 10 days after no longer needing ventilation, Mkhize says.
“This continued isolation provides clinical comfort that the patient is no longer infectious” he explains.
Asymptomatic patients provide a challenge as it is impossible to estimate where the in the course of viral shedding they are when they test positive. For this reason, these patients must remain in isolation for 10 days after testing positive.
“I must mention that these guidelines have been provided by the World Health Organisation. The Ministerial Advisory Committee has also submitted an advisory in this regard. Their advisory proposed that the isolation period should be reduced to eight days,” Mkhize says.
“After considering this advice and the guidelines by the WHO, the National Coronavirus Command Council, on recommendation by Health, resolved to adopt the WHO guidelines.”
Infectiousness in isolation period
He clarified that the recommended isolation time is the period during which a patient is still considered infectious.
“This should be distinguished from the point at which a patient is medically well enough to return to work. Some patients, especially those who have had severe disease, may require to be booked off sick for longer than the above isolation periods. “
The minister also introduced a new track–and–trace method. COVIDConnect is available on all mobile phones via WhatsApp and SMS, and will alert patients of their Covid-19 test results by SMS.
According to a press release by the health department, if the results are positive, the system prompts the patient to identify any direct contacts, and then sends SMS’s to those contacts without disclosing the index patient’s details.
“One of the critical aspects of combatting Covid-19 is the ability to detect positive cases early, track and trace their contacts, and refer them for appropriate management, whether it is immediate testing, isolation or quarantine,” the Health Minister says of the Covid-19 service portal.
To access CovidConnect, just add ‘0600123456’ to your phonebook and say ‘hello’ on WhatsApp. If you do not have a smartphone, just dial *134*832# and follow the prompts. – Health-e News