The Department of Health announced that COVID-19 contact tracing will be stopped with immediate effect, except where infections are picked up in cluster outbreaks and congregate settings, which includes prisons, old age homes and children’s homes.
The department updated a memorandum which stated that there was new information about COVID-19 such as the high number of asymptomatic cases and that only a small proportion of infections were diagnosed through lab testing.
“Containment strategies are no longer appropriate” and contacts must not be tested unless they develop symptoms the department said, but must continue with heightened monitoring strategies, such as daily temperature testing and symptom screening.
The quarantine requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated people who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should also be stopped with immediate effect, the department expressed, 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 department said in its advisory.
But if someone has tested positive, they will still be required to isolate, and won’t have to be tested again after their isolation period ends.
For individuals who are asymptomatic, no isolation period is required, but the advised that people do self-observation for 5-7 days for the development of symptoms should they appear.