South Africa reinstates COVID contact tracing

A woman is tested for COVID-19 at Lenasia South Hospital near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, December 1, 1021. South African doctors say the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant mainly causes mild symptoms. (AP Photo/Shiraz Mohamed)
A woman is tested for COVID-19 at Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa, December 1, 2021. (Photo by Shiraaz Mohamed/AP)

South Africa said on Tuesday it would reinstate efforts to trace contacts of people infected with the coronavirus after a backlash over plans to drop the measure.

Last week, health authorities said they would halt contact tracing everywhere except places like prisons and schools because they believed most of the population had already been exposed to the virus through vaccination or infection.

“The Ministry of Health has been inundated with media, stakeholders and public inquiries and comments since the release of the revised protocols,” he said.

“The department has decided to put the implementation of the revised policy changes on hold while considering all comments and input received.”

Health authorities said a new “amended circular” would be reissued once all comments had been assessed.

Before the new changes, this meant that contact cases would only have to be tested if they started to develop symptoms. If they tested positive, they were to self-isolate for 10 days and then resume normal activities after recovery without further testing.

South Africa is officially the worst affected country in Africa, with nearly 3.4 million positive test results and more than 90,000 deaths among a population of 59 million.

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