Question NW1654 to the Minister of Health

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21 August 2020 - NW1654

Profile picture: Ngwenya, Ms DB

Ngwenya, Ms DB to ask the Minister of Health

What (a) informed his decision to lower the days of isolation for those who tested positive for Covid-19 from 14 to 10 days and (b) is the scientific basis for the specified decision?


a) The initial recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for persons that tested positive for COVID-19 was 14 days.

Recent evidence has shown that this isolation period can be safely shortened.

The WHO, the United States Centre for Disease Control (US-CDC), Public Health England (PHE) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) have recommended shorter isolation periods.

These bodies recommend the following:








(27 May 2020)

10 (+3) days after onset of symptoms

10 days after +ve test


(05 May 2020)

10 days after onset of symptoms


(8 April 2020)

8 days after onset of symptoms

14 days after onset of symptoms



(14 June 2020)

7 days after onset of symptoms

7 days after +ve test (or 7 days after onset of symptoms if symptoms develop)

The National Department of Health has taken the cautious approach and adopted the WHO’s recommendation on isolation duration.

b) The decision was based on the best available scientific evidence. The evidence shows that the median time for viral shedding is approximately 8 days.[1],[2],[3],[4] These studies use in vitro cell cultures as a surrogate measure for viral shedding, however have relatively small sample sizes.

These studies were also used to inform the recommendation made by the WHO, US-CDC, ECDC, and PHE.


  1. Wolfel R, Corman VM, Guggemos W, Seilmaier M, Zange S, Muller MA, et al. Virological assessment of hospitalized patients with COVID-2019. Nature. 2020.

  2. Bullard J, Dust K, Funk D, Strong JE, Alexander D, Garnett L, et al. Predicting infectious SARS-CoV-2 from diagnostic samples. Clin Infect Dis. 2020.

  3. Arons MM, Hatfield KM, Reddy SC, Kimball A, James A, Jacobs JR, et al. Presymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infections and Transmission in a Skilled Nursing Facility. N Engl J Med. 2020;382(22):2081-90.

  4. Van Kampen JJA, van de Vijver DAMC, Fraaii PLA, Shedding infectious virus in hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19):duration and key determinants. medRxiv. 2020;2019:2020.06.08.20125310. doi: 10.1101/2020.06.08.20125310. (Pre-print)

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