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Health Minister releases new rules for self-isolation and quarantine for COVID-19 patients

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Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkihize, has revised the recommended isolation period for South African who have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Dr Mkhize, the recommended isolation period for patients has been reduced from 14 to 10 days.

Dr Mkhize claims this recommendation is based on evidence that many patients with a mild COVID-19 infection, will 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,” the minister said in a statement.

Dr Mkhize explains the duration of infectiousness in patients with severe disease (i.e. requiring admission due to clinical instability) is less well established. He says in general, patients with severe disease may continue to shed 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 adds that asymptomatic patients represent a conceptual challenge. As it is apparently not possible to estimate where in the course of viral shedding, they are at the timepoint at which they test positive.

“We therefore advise that an asymptomatic patient must remain in isolation for a period of 10 days following the date of their positive results.”

Dr Mkhize emphasises these guidelines have been provided by the World Health Organisation.

Image sourced from www.gov.za

On Friday, July 17, Dr Mkhize also published a new directive, which details the cireteria for self-quarantine and self-isolation.

While the regulations focuses on people re-entering the country from abroad, it also provides clarity on what is expected of people who are self-isolating at home.

The criteria are as follows:

  • Separate well-ventilated bedroom with a bathroom and toilet. Or a residence that is not shared with persons who are not subject to quarantine.
  • Meals served in the room in disposable utensils or utensils that are separate and are washed properly; if there are persons who are not subject to quarantine.
  • Support from friends or family that can facilitate the drop off of food and medicine at the gate. This is if they are unable to make use of online shopping facilities and contactless deliveries.
  • Thermometer that will allow him or her to measure his or her temperature daily.
  • Access to the internet and a phone that allows the daily reporting of symptoms.
  • Access to a private physician that the patient can contact should they be in need of medical advice or care.
  • A contact number where he or she can be reached during the period of self-quarantine or self-isolation.

Read more: Local GP, Dr Francois van Niekerk discusses COVID-19 in Newcastle

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