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South Africa Ended COVID-19 Quarantines And Contact Tracing – Should Malta Do The Same?

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With new data showing developing trends in the way COVID-19 spreads, the South African government has decided to change its approach to the virus.

“Containment strategies are no longer appropriate — mitigation is the only viable strategy,” a new government notice said.

Their new mitigation methods will see quarantine restrictions dropped for everyone but symptomatic people – including people who have tested positive, but show no symptoms, as long as they wear a mask and social distance in public.

Anyone showing mild symptoms –  fever, cough, loss of taste or smell – will need to isolate for eight days. Workers will no longer need to show a negative COVID-19 test when returning to work. Contact tracing will also be dropped in most cases.

The new approach comes as infections from the Omicron variant aren’t as severe as previously expected, though the variant is believed to be more contagious than previous variants.

As to why South Africa would take this approach, a top health official pointed out that since it is so contagious, the chances are that infected people were already socialising in public – and it just didn’t make sense to quarantine only those who actually got tested.

The move is seen as a progressive step towards an acceptance of COVID-19 into everyday life, and a push towards “normality”, where the country has decided to live with the virus, and not try to avoid it.

Some experts are urging a renewed focus on vaccinations, while leaving concepts like contact tracing and quarantining for select circumstances, as opposed to the standard across the board.

“There is greater recognition that, in the face of a hyper-contagious variant like this, quarantining and isolation are no longer effective as public health containment measures to contain the virus,” said Professor Francois Venter, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

And it’s not just South Africa – the UK recently reduced its quarantine period to a week for vaccinated people, so long as they test negative on day six and day seven. 

South Africa has a vaccination rate of 45%, whereas Malta’s is over double that at 90%, with a further 42% having taken the booster dose. 

This means that though there are a sizeable amount of daily new cases, hospitalisations remain relatively low. Even more importantly, serious treatment for those in hospital is even lower.

On Christmas Eve this year, Malta saw a record rise in numbers, recording 955 new cases in 24 hours. There were 4,469 active cases that day – only 70 were being treated in hospital, and of those, only five people were being treated in the ITU.

On the worst day for new cases since the outbreak of the pandemic, hospitalisations accounted for just 1.56% of all active cases; severe cases accounted for 0.11% of all actives cases.

These percentages are significantly less when compared to other spikes in cases due to other variants.

New mitigation measures come into affect today in Malta, including the end of standing events for the foreseeable future ahead of new measures coming into affect from January.

With other countries at the centre of a renewed fight against COVID-19 taking new approaches based on modern data, nation may want to keep abreast on modern approaches, update outdated ones and ensure their country returns to normality as soon as it possibly can.

Do you think practices like quarantining and contact tracing should be removed?

READ NEXT: 18+ Can Apply For COVID-19 Booster As Of Today

Johnathan is interested in the weird, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities late capitalist society forces upon us all. He also likes food and music. Follow him at @supreofficialmt on Instagram, and send him news, food and music stories at [email protected]

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