South Africa to stop quarantines, shifts focus to COVID-19 mitigation effort

A man receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Jabulani Mall Mobile Vaccination Site on July 06, 2021 in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo by Papi Morake/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

South Africa will stop contact tracing and won’t quarantine people as it shifts focus on COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

Authorities in Africa’s most-industrialized nation will conduct contact tracing only in case of a cluster outbreak, the nation’s Director General of Health said in a circular dated Thursday, which was confirmed by department spokesman, Foster Mohale. As many as 80 percent of the nation’s population has past infections providing some immunity, the department said.

What this means is that South Africans without symptoms of COVID-19 will no longer need to isolate or test if they have been in contact with a positive case. However, those individuals should monitor for symptoms for 5-7 days and avoid attending large gatherings.

Only those people who developed symptoms needed to get tested, the statement continued, adding that those with mild symptoms should isolate for eight days and severe cases for 10 days.

“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 on their schooling,” according to the circular. “We never identify most high-risk patients.”

Deputy Health Minister Sbiongiseni Dhlomo told South Africa-based broadcaster SABC that the move was “based on advice from scientists that quarantining is not really having an impact anymore”, adding the decision to stop quarantines did not replace existing guidance on things like social distancing and mask-wearing.

South Africa’s recovery from its deepest economic contraction in almost three decades risks stalling due to the fallout from a fourth wave of coronavirus infections driven by the omicron variant.


Story compiled with assistance from wire reports