South Africa on Wednesday brought back the requirements of contact tracing and quarantine under certain circumstances amid rising Covid-19 cases, less than a week after it announced to do away with them.
The health department had issued a circular on December 23 instructing all provincial authorities to stop contact tracing and some quarantine conditions.
The Department said it has been inundated with media, stakeholders and public enquiries and comments since the release of the revised Protocols on Contact Tracing, Quarantine and Isolation that it had issued.
The decision then was that asymptomatic individuals who had come into contact with a Covid-19 case no longer had to isolate, but should monitor any symptoms for five to seven days and avoid attending large gatherings.
It also required only people who developed symptoms to be tested, while contact tracing efforts was to be stopped except for cluster outbreaks.
“In line with the principles of transparency and openness, the department has decided to put the implementation of the revised policy changes on hold, while taking all additional comments and inputs received into consideration,” the health department said.
“This means the status quo remains, and all prior existing regulations with regards to contact tracing, quarantine and isolation remain applicable,” it said in a statement.
The department said the original reason for the revision was based on a number of scientific factors, including the fact that most people have vaccinated with at least one vaccine dose and developed some level of immunity.
It added that this had contributed to the current low hospitalisation and high recovery rates during the fourth wave, which is largely driven by the Omicron variant.
Another reason cited was that many people do not show any symptoms, and only a small percentage of them are diagnosed.
There was also concern about people without symptoms losing their income during isolation periods at home and children losing valuable school time under similar conditions.
“An amended circular will be re-issued once all additional inputs and comments have been considered,” the department said as it tendered apologies for any confusion and inconvenience caused by the earlier decision.
Meanwhile, hundreds of South Africans who had planned to go to Mauritius in early January have had their holiday dreams dashed after the island nation announced on Wednesday that it would extend a travel ban for the entire month of January to nine states in southern Africa.
“Any person having been physically present in the Republic of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia within the past 14 days preceding the date of arrival in Mauritius will not be allowed entry or transit in the Republic of Mauritius with immediate effect,” the Mauritian government said in a statement.
South African Airways, the most popular airline for the four-hour flight to the holiday island, said it would cancel all its outward and inbound flights to Mauritius for the month of January.
The airline said it would allow customers to rebook their flights to a date after 1 February at no additional cost.