South Africa loosens the self-isolation restrictions as Omicron fades from the Province where it first appeared

  • It has reduced contact-tracing requirements and required people to self-isolate.
  • Except in certain situations, contact tracing efforts may be abandoned
  • Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the move was ‘based on advice from our scientists’

South Africa has cut back on contact-tracing as well as the requirement for individuals to isolate themselves in order to move towards living with Covid and not trying to contain it.

On Friday, the government made a series of announcements. People who are in direct contact with confirmed Covid cases will no longer be required to isolate themselves if they don’t show symptoms. 

You should only monitor your health for 5 to 7 days, and try to avoid large social gatherings.

The home will stop all quarantine and contact tracing. However, it may be necessary to track cluster outbreaks or other situations.

Deputy health minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo told broadcaster SABC the move was ‘based on advice from our scientists that it is not really having an impact any more’.

Harry Moultrie, of the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, welcomed the changes. 

He tweeted: ‘South Africa cancels contact tracing and quarantining and pivots to mitigation. Good decision.’

South Africa’s health department cited the emergence of the highly infectious, but milder Omicron strain as one of the reasons for the change. 

The above graphs show how Covid cases are falling in South Africa compared to when the Delta variant took hold. Both waves were set to begin the first time a case of the variant was reported, which was May 8 for Delta and November 25 for Omicron. It reveals that hospitalisations are also dropping earlier than they did when Delta took hold. Deaths are still rising, but this is a lagging indicator because of the time taken for someone infected with the virus to become seriously ill

These graphs illustrate how South Africa’s Covid cases have fallen since the introduction of the Delta variant. Each wave was to start the moment a new case was reported for the variant. Omicron was November 25 and Delta was May 8. The data shows that hospitalisations are falling earlier than before Delta became established. Although deaths are rising, this indicator is not as accurate due to the length of time it takes for an infected person with the virus become serious ill.

The other reasons are that minimum 60% of the population is protected from vaccines, or have been previously infected.

Daily Covid cases in Gauteng province, where Omicron first exploded, have been in retreat for more than a week despite the lack of strict social-distancing laws, leading to hopes that the variant’s natural course is a sharp but short wave of infection.

South Africa, which has 60 million people compared to the UK’s 68 million, has recorded almost 91,000 Covid-related deaths while the UK’s figure is just under 148,000.