The new 10-day recommendation would be on condition that the patient did not have a fever and their symptoms had begun to improve.
The recommended isolation
period for patients with a confirmed Covid-19 infection has been reduced from 14 to 10 days, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Friday evening.
Mkhize was holding a briefing to discuss the government’s new approach to tracking and tracing Covid-19 patients and those they come into contact with, and also to provide an update on the revised guidelines for patients to deisolate.
He said the department has considered advice that quarantine periods could be as short as eight days, but this is still under consideration. The new 10-day recommendation would be on condition that the patient did not have a fever and their symptoms had begun to improve.
The guidelines apply to healthcare workers as well and are being implemented with immediate effect.
Mhize said: “In mild cases, virus cultures are generally only positive for eight tot nine days after the symptoms onset. The duration of infections in patients with severe disease that is requiring admission due to clinical instability is less well established.
“In general, patients with severe disease may continue to share the virus at higher levels for longer periods than patients with mild diseases.
“To provide a buffer, it’s recommended that such patients deisolate 10 days after clinical stability has been achieved rather than 10 days of symptoms onset.
“If a patient was admitted and placed on oxygen, we advise that when oxygen supplementations are discontinued, the patient must remain in isolation for another 10 days. This continued isolation provides clinical comfort until the patient is no longer infectious.
“Asymptomatic patients represent a conceptual challenge, since it is 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 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 organisation.
“The Ministerial Advisory Committee has also submitted an advisory in this regard. Their advisory proposed that the isolation period should be reduced to 8 days.
“After considering this advice and the guidelines by the WHO (World Health Organisation), the National Coronavirus Command Council, on recommendation by Health, resolved to adopt the WHO guidelines.”
Commenting on the Health Track and Trace
System, Mkhize said: “In the past few weeks, some members of the public may have received SMSes
from the Department of Health giving them vital information, which may have
included receiving their test results or an alert that they have been identified
as a contact of a Covid-19 positive patient.
“These messages also prompt the
user to provide further information on their condition in order to determine
what clinical assistance and attention they require.
“One of the critical aspects of combatting Covid-19 is the ability to detect
positive cases early, track and trace their contacts, and refer them for
appropriate management, whether it is immediate testing, isolation or
“The digital system that the Department of Health is currently using, called
COVIDConnect, brings an easy-to-use self-service portal to your cellular
phone. It is freely accessible through WhatsApp and SMS.
“What also makes it
more accessible is that it does not require for a user to have a smartphone
but it works on any mobile phone.
This system enhances the physical effort of contact tracking and tracing which
is done by our community health workers and volunteers.
“It automates this
traditional process and continuously engages with the affected user.
To explain the process further the system works as follows:
When a patient tests for coronavirus, the information is picked up from the lab
form and informs the patients of the test result, whether positive or negative,
“If the result is positive, the system prompts the patient for further
information in order to identify their contacts. The system then immediately
dispatches alerts via SMS to those contacts without disclosing the index
patient’s details and prompts them on the next steps to take.
“The nondisclosure of the patient’s name is to ensure that their privacy is protected and
also to make sure that after a contact details are made available that person’s
privacy is also protected.
“In addition, the system can geo-locate the nearest quarantine and isolation
facility for the user and the nearest health-care facility for patients or their
contacts who are experiencing symptoms requiring medical attention.
“Users can also get the latest Covid-19 news and information, prevention tips
and wellness advice at the touch of a button. There is also a simple risk assessment tool which will screen users for Covid-19 symptoms and give
them advice on whether they should self-isolate or seek professional clinical
“We are pleased to announce that since the system went live in June, it has
yielded some positive results. Between June 28 and July 15, it has dispatched
674 380 SMSes to users nationwide and relayed 326 522 test results.
users have engaged with the service, but this is not enough. The surge
of this pandemic requires all citizens to participate in such innovations.
individual, at home or at work, once you receive this SMS we urge that you
take it upon yourself to appropriately respond as prompted. We believe that
this method will significantly enhance contact tracing and allow for us to
quickly identify cases that we would not easily trace.
“We also want to inform the public that this track and trace service will not
infringe people’s privacy or data. In fact, one of the reasons we delayed to
implement the system was to ensure that that it passes the legal muster and
adheres to legal prescripts relating to personal information, confidentiality and
individual and data privacy.
“To access COVIDConnect, just add ‘0600123456’ to your phonebook and say
‘hello’ to us on WhatsApp. If you do not have a smartphone, just dial
*134*832# and follow the prompts.
“When you test for Covid-19, supply your healthcare worker with your correct
date of birth, physical address and cellphone number. You can then use
COVIDConnect to retrieve your test results via your cellphone or you will
receive an SMS once your test results are ready.
“To receive your results on WhatsApp, just add ‘LetsTalk’ to your phonebook on
‘0820468553’. Type in ‘Results’ on WhatsApp and follow the prompts.”