Q&A: Health Dept explains reasoning behind level 1 adjustments

Some of the changes include asymptomatic people who have tested positive for the coronavirus no longer need to isolate and those who are symptomatic now required to isolate for only seven days compared to the initial 10 days.

Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG – The Presidency on Monday night announced that Cabinet had approved changes to the COVID-19 lockdown level 1 rules.

Some of the changes include asymptomatic people who've tested positive for the coronavirus no longer needing to isolate and those who are symptomatic now only required to isolate for seven days compared to the initial 10 days.

Cabinet has also ended rotational learning. Primary, secondary, and special schools will return to daily attendance. The regulatory provision for social distancing of one metre for learners in schools has also been removed.

Radio702’s Clement Manyathela on Tuesday morning spoke to Ramphelane Morewane, the deputy director-general for primary health at the Department of Health to explain the rationale behind the decisions taken by Cabinet.

Manyathela: “Let’s start with the decision on isolation, people who test positive with no symptoms do not have to isolate. Please explain the science behind this decision to people who think you may be implying that asymptomatic people can’t spread COVID-19?”

Morewane: “The decision is based on the advice from scientists. If you look at when we were dealing with the Omicron variant, we had a lot of people who were asymptomatic but had tested positive. So when people test positive and show no symptoms, they must not isolate. But people must be educated and remember to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions like wearing your masks and sanitising your hands. Those become very critical to everyone. Rather than overstretching the health system that is already stretched with something that cannot be easily monitored, we are saying let’s stick to the preventative measures.”

Government has amended the COVID-19 level 1 lockdown regulations after South Africa exited the fourth wave of the pandemic. Here's how the changes will affect you. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

Manyathela: “Sticking to these preventative measures, is it necessary for asymptomatic people to still test for COVID?”

Morewane: “People who want to test, are encouraged to. But if you don’t feel sick but still want to go back to work and you are wearing your mask and you regularly sanitise and there is proper ventilation, then you should carry on with your life. But those who do show symptoms after testing are dealt with in a different manner.”

Manyathela: “But is it necessary for me to test for COVID if I am asymptomatic?”

Morewane: “You will never know if you are positive until you are tested. If you feel that you have symptoms, then it means there is something wrong with you. People go get tested when they feel that they have some symptoms. But if you are not sick at all, then don’t go and test. But if you test for work purposes and travelling, for example, and your results come back positive, but you are asymptomatic, we are saying that there is no need to isolate."

Manyathela: So as government, the focus is no longer now on preventing the infections but rather now on preventing serious illness?

Morewane: No, that would be a wrong message to send out because one, non-pharmaceutical interventions are preventing the illness. But we are saying those that fall sick are the ones that must be managed differently and those who are asymptomatic must not isolate."