The health ministry announced that the duration of isolation and quarantine periods for people who are asymptomatic or have a mild Covid disease has been reduced to five days, respectively.
The quarantine period for contact cases and suspected cases come down from seven, while the isolation was 10 days. The rules have not changed for the following individuals who are not required to quarantine: fully vaccinated, if there are no symptoms, recovered from Covid-19 infection within the past three months, as well as contacts of contacts.
The executive director of the line ministry Ben Nangombe said the country’s preparedness and response to Covid-19 has and continues to be guided by evolving scientific evidence as well as the epidemiological situation in the country.
“In line with these guiding principles, as well as recommendations from international authorities such as the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the health ministry has revised the guidelines on Covid-19 isolation and quarantine,” he stated.
Nangombe said mild cases would be expected to de-isolate at least five days after a positive test for Covid-19 (Day 0 is the date of testing), and symptoms are improving, and after fever ends for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. The patient should wear a well-fitted mask indoors while around others for five more days after the five- day isolation period.
He advised: “Persons with Covid-19 infection should not de-isolate if fever persists and there is no improvement of other symptoms. As per current practice, all confirmed asymptomatic or mild Covid-19 cases could be managed at home if home facilities allow for proper isolation. These individuals need to be closely monitored. This is to identify danger signs and intervene quickly.”
Designated non-healthcare isolation facilities identified by the MoHSS are available for mild cases, as needed.
Epidemiologist and case management focal person at the World Health Organisation, Catherine Muwonge, said isolation and quarantine are two attempts which have sometimes been used interchangeably and to mean the same thing, yet they are different.
“Isolation and quarantine as public health measures are used in public health situations to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, sometimes also referred to as contagious diseases,” she noted.
She said isolation is a measure that is used to separate those who are sick from those who are not infected by whatever causative agent it is. On quarantine, Muwonge said it’s a separation of those who may have the disease because of being in contact with someone who might have the disease.
“The goal is to keep them away, separate them and restrict movements so that we see whether they will develop the disease. We tend to separate them from the general public so that in case they are infected with a virus, they do not spread it to those who are not infected,” she clarified.
Muwonge said: “These two measures are different: isolation means that we isolate the sick, whereas quarantine is separating those who may develop the disease because they have been in contact with the cases of the sick to prevent transmission.”
Furthermore, if a person who is in quarantine is able to deliver his/her duty while in quarantine, the quarantine period can be regarded as work from home, if the employer is satisfied. The workplace should consider granting special leave during the quarantine period if work from home is not possible. If special leave cannot be granted, the labour law rule on sick leave should apply.