South Africa says people who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms no longer need to isolate
- Asymptomatic people with COVID-19 no longer have to self-isolate, South Africa said Monday.
- COVID-19 cases have been dropping there after a huge surge of the Omicron variant in December.
People who test positive for COVID-19 in South Africa but have no symptoms will no longer have to self-isolate, the government announced Monday.
The change came after daily COVID-19 cases dropped in the country, one of the first to see a surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant late last year.
Isolation periods were also cut for people who do have symptoms after testing positives, from 10 days to seven, per the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The new rules also end compulsory isolation for contacts of those who test positive.
—Presidency | South Africa (@PresidencyZA) January 31, 2022
Many governments have shortened isolation periods for COVID-19 in light of higher vaccination rates and the predominance of the milder Omicron variant.
But South Africa is an outlier in allowing people to not isolate at all even while carrying the virus.
Officials in South Africa cited higher levels. The president's office said 60% to 80% of people had anti-coronavirus antibodies when tested, a level it said had "risen substantially."
The immunity appears mainly driven by people getting sick. Only 27% of the population received two doses of a vaccine, compared to 63% in the US and 73% in the UK, per Our World in Data.
Fewer than 1% of the population have received a booster dose. As noted in the Omicron surge there, South Africa's demographics skew much younger than those of Western nations, which means fewer people are in the highest risk groups.
The country's ministerial advisory committee previously highlighted the costs of isolation, Business Insider South Africa reported. They argued against isolation for those without symptoms, noting that their absence from work meant less income, understaffed hospitals, and children unable to go to school.
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