South Africa reinstates COVID contact tracing

A woman is tested for COVID-19 at the Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1021. South African doctors say the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant is resulting in mostly mild symptoms. (AP Photo/ Shiraaz Mohamed)
A woman is tested for COVID-19 at the Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa on December 1, 2021. (Photo by Shiraaz Mohamed /AP)

South Africa said Tuesday it would reinstate efforts to trace the contacts of people infected with coronavirus after a backlash over plans to scrap the measure.

The health authorities last week said they would stop contact tracing everywhere except places like prisons and schools, as they believed most of the population had already been exposed to the virus through vaccination or infection.

“The department of health has been inundated with media, stakeholders, and public enquiries and comments since the release of the revised protocols,” it said.

“The department has decided to put the implementation of the revised policy changes on hold while taking all… comments and inputs received into consideration.”

The health authorities said a new “amended circular” would be re-issued once all comments had been assessed.

Before the new changes, it meant contact cases would only have to do a test if they started developing symptoms. If they tested positive, they were to isolate for 10 days then resume their activities as normal after recovery without another test.

South Africa is officially the most affected country in Africa, with nearly 3.4 million positive test results and more than 90,000 deaths from a population of 59 million.