Individuals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection need to (self-)isolate for as long as they are infectious. Infectiousness peaks around symptom onset. Patients are considered safe to discontinue (self-)isolation (in other words, to “de-isolate”) and return to the workplace once they’re no longer infectious. The isolation period is ten days (SA Department of Health, ref. 2020/07/17Covid/01), provided the patient is fever-free without the use of antipyretics (fever medication).
Motivation: In cases of mild COVID-19, virus isolation as a marker of infectiousness is generally only possible for eight to nine days after symptom onset. The duration of infectiousness in severe cases of COVID-19 is longer, and such patients must remain isolated for another ten days after achieving clinical stability (for instance no longer needing supplemental oxygen). For safety’s sake, asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2-infected patients should isolate for ten days following the date of their positive test. For individuals with severe immunodeficiency, expert advice should be sought before de-isolation.
Therefore, please note the following:
Asymptomatic De-isolate ten days after COVID-19-positive sample was taken
Mild disease De-isolate ten days after symptom onset
Severe disease De-isolate ten days after clinical stability is achieved
De-isolation does not require re-testing. Tests may continue to give positive results, even though the patient is no longer infectious. De-isolation should be distinguished from being medically well enough to resume work. In particular, patients who have had severe COVID-19 may require sick leave for longer than the isolation period.
All individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 must continue to adhere to the usual non-pharmaceutical measures. These include maintaining a distance of at least 1,5 m from others, hand sanitising, wearing a mask correctly as described, and practising cough hygiene, as immunity may not be reliable or long-lasting.
(Updated 1 February 2021)
(Sources: SA Department of Health, NICD, NIOH, sacoronavirus.co.za )