South Africa ends quarantine and contact tracing

South African government, cheered by encouraging data suggest that infections from the Omicron variant are not as severe as, has lifted isolation restrictions for all but those with symptoms.

That includes allowing people who have tested positive but have no symptoms to congregate with others, as long as they wear masks and keep social distance. A top health official explained that because the variant spreads so quickly, it is likely that many infected people are socializing with others, and that it no longer makes sense to isolate only those who have tested themselves.

The move is another step towards the slow acceptance that many countries around the world will likely need to find ways to live with Covid, rather than avoid it. The new measures follow recommendations from a panel of experts calling for a focus on vaccinations rather than contact tracing and quarantines.

Professor Francois Venter, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, said: “There is greater recognition that, in the face of a super-spreading variant like this, isolation and isolation are no longer effective because public health containment measures to contain the virus”. in Johannesburg and is a former member of the committee.

The health ministry said in a notice to local health department heads, the new protocols will take effect immediately. Data-based revisions show immunity from previous infections as high as 80%. That, together with a vaccination rate of nearly 45 percent among adults in the country, has resulted in lower hospital admissions, the South African government says.

A high percentage of cases in South Africa are asymptomatic, so quarantine measures have been tilted in favor of those with symptoms. That’s especially true in light of the recent wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant, in which cases rose sharply, but by just over 5%. lead to hospitalization.

“Containment strategies are no longer relevant – mitigation is the only viable strategy,” the statement said.

The ministry said the new regulations are intended to benefit essential services. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, nearly one-fifth of public health workers have contracted the coronavirus this month, the Ministry of Health said.

Under the new guidelines, people who test positive but have no symptoms will no longer need to be isolated. People with mild symptoms such as fever, cough and loss of taste or smell are still required to isolate for eight days. It is also no longer necessary to show a negative Covid-19 test before returning to work after quarantine.

Ramphelane Morewane, acting deputy director-general of the health department, said that “most people walking around are probably asymptomatic” and that people who test positive but have no symptoms should wear masks and Take other precautions to avoid spreading the virus. .

Testing for Covid-19 will be required if a person has symptoms. The ministry said anyone who came into contact with the person who tested positive would not need to be isolated, instead must perform “self-observation” for five to seven days and avoid large gatherings.

A booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be available starting Tuesday for people who received their first dose at least six months ago or who are at higher risk for severe illness. South African authorities also authorized booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson’s product launch follows a local study of its effectiveness on groundbreaking infections, including after the discovery of the Omicron variant. The study, which administered more than 230,000 booster shots, largely to healthcare workers, found that protection against hospitalization was “at least comparable to that of other vaccines”.

South African health authorities say they will not follow a recommendation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that priority should be given to non-Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccines amid growing There is strong evidence that this vaccine can cause a rare blood clotting disorder.

South African health authorities have issued a cautious response, saying the CDC’s warning comes as the US has “abundant vaccines”.

Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, one of the study’s lead researchers, said data from South Africa showed that “in low- and middle-income countries, this single-dose vaccine is effective. great use”.

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