ISLAMABAD: The Nat­ional Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Sunday officially reduced the quarantine period for Covid-19 patients from the erstwhile nine days to five days in case of no fever for 24 hours without medication.

The decision has been taken nearly a month after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had shortened the recommended time for isolation to five days. The change in the quarantine period was based on the studies that the majority of SARS-COV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally within a couple of days before and two to three days after the onset of symptoms.

While the quarantine period has been slashed in Pakistan, the number of cases detected across the country on a daily basis has been on the rise with a whopping increase of more than a thousand cases last day. NCOC data on Sunday showed that 7,586 more people contracted the virus in past 24 hours, while the tally was 6,540 the previous day, with the national positivity rate rising to 13 per cent.

According to amended guidelines for Covid-19 patients available with Dawn, the quarantine/isolation period has been reduced to five days. Initially, the recommended quarantine period in Pakistan was 14 days and it was reduced to nine days last year.

The goal of new guidelines is to provide Covid-19 patients, their attendants and health care providers with the latest information regarding home isolation (and discharge) when they or more of the household members get infected. To limit the spread of a Covid-19, the guidelines provide evidence-based care measures, which can help to ensure infection prevention control (IPC) while keeping low the unnecessary burden on health care facilities.

While suggesting the duration of isolation and its discontinuation, new guidelines suggest that people with Covid-19 should isolate for five days if they are ‘asymptomatic’ or their ‘symptoms are resolving’ (without fever for 24 hours). “This should be followed by strictly wearing a mask for five days when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter,” it stated.

For those who have exposure to those tested positive, it has been stated that people who are unvaccinated or are over six months out from their second vaccine dose and have not yet received their booster dose, should quarantine after exposure for five days, followed by strict mask use for an additional five days.

“If a five-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.

“Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to Covid-19,” it stated.

While talking to Dawn, Health Services Academy Vice Chancellor Dr Shahzad Ali Khan said the CDC had also reduced the quarantine period to five days. “Currently majority of people are vaccinated and they either face mild symptoms for a few days or they remain asymptomatic due to which it has been decided that the quarantine period will be just for five days and after that people will be allowed to start their normal working life. However, they will have to wear masks for another five days,” he said.

He said the decision would benefit mostly students and healthcare workers. “I believe that the Omicron-driven fifth wave will decline in the month of March and if 100 per cent population is vaccinated, we may not get a virulent variant of Covid-19 in future,” he added.

According to the NCOC, 20 more patients died in past one day while the number of patients in critical care surged to 1,083. While the positivity rate in Karachi climbed down to 42.31 per cent, the national positivity rate increased to 13pc. According to a document available with Dawn, on Sunday, Muzaffarabad reported 22.73pc positivity, Rawalpindi 19.79pc, Peshawar 19.04pc, Hyderabad 18.62pc, Islamabad 17.52pc, Lahore 14.35pc and Swabi 10pc.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2022

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