Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the recommended isolation period for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients has been reduced from 14 to 10 days on condition that the patient does not have a fever and the symptoms are improving.

Mkhize made the announced just before the Department of Health confirmed 13 373 new COVID-19 cases, which brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases to 337 594.

The country has also recorded 135 COVID-19 related cases, bring the death toll to 4 804, with 178 183 recoveries.

Below is the breakdown of the numbers as of Friday, 17 July:

Announcing the reduced isolation period Mkhize says, β€œIn general, patients with severe disease may continue to shed the virus at higher levels for longer periods than patients with mild diseases. To provide a buffer, it is recommended that such patients be de-isolated 10 days after clinical stability has achieved rather than 10 days after symptoms onset. We, therefore, advice that asymptomatic patient must remain in isolation for a period of 10 days following the date of the positive results.”

Mkhize was briefing the media in an online presentation about revised guidelines and the track and trace system.

The minister has also released details about the SMS track and trace system.

He says it is important for people who test for coronavirus to provide a correct cellphone number when they go for the test.

A person who has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 may receive an SMS alerting them of this. Mkhize says the message will provide simple screening questions and will then be advised on whether to take further action.

The digital system that the Department of Health is currently using is called COVID Connect. It is freely accessible through WhatsApp and SMS. It works on any mobile phone.

This system enhances the physical effort of contact tracing and tracking.

If the result is positive, the system prompts the patient for further information in order to identify their contacts. The system then immediately dispatches alerts via SMS to those contacts without disclosing the index patient’s details and prompts them on the next steps to take.

Dr Mkhize has also announced that people can check if they may have COVID-19 via WhatsApp or the USSD service by dialing *134*832# or send the word “check” to 0600123456 on WhatsApp to see if your symptoms correspond with those of COVID-19.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows that South Africa now registers the most COVID-19 related deaths on the continent, in addition to topping the list of confirmed infections.

In total, African countries have registered over 663 000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 343 000 recoveries and 14 000 COVID-19 related deaths.

Globally, as the number of infections nears 14 million, South Africa ranks sixth in terms of overall infections surpassing the UK, Spain, Chile and Mexico, some of the worst affected nations.

However, in terms of the global death toll, South Africa ranks much lower than other nations.

In the video below, Mkhize briefs the media on revised de-isolation guidelines, and track and trace system: