Saturday, 18 July 2020
Pretoria: Government has revised the recommended isolation period for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We wish to inform South Africans that the recommended isolation period for patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection is reduced from 14 to 10 days,” said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
The Minister said the recommendation to reduce the number of days in isolation 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.
“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 8-9 days after symptom onset,” said the Minister in a statement on Friday.
The Minister’s comments come as South Africa recorded 13 373 new COVID-19 cases bringing the cumulative total to 337 594 on Friday.
The country also reported a further 135 COVID-19 related deaths.
“The duration of infectiousness in patients with severe disease (i.e. requiring admission due to clinical instability) is less well established. In general, patients with severe disease may continue to shed [the] virus at higher levels for longer periods than patients with mild disease.”
To provide a buffer, it is recommended that such patients be de-isolated 10 days after clinical stability has been achieved, rather than 10 days after symptom onset.
“To illustrate this in simple terms, if a patient was admitted and placed on oxygen, we advise that when they oxygen supplementation is discontinued, the patient must remain in isolation for another 10 days. This continued isolation provides clinical comfort that the patient is no longer infectious.”
The Minister advised that asymptomatic patients must remain in isolation for a period of 10 days following the date of their positive results.
“I must mention that these guidelines have been provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). 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.”
“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.”
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.