NICD answers COVID-19 and returning to work FAQs


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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has published its responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to COVID-19 and returning to work.


Found on the NICD website (https://www.nicd.ac.za/), the document includes the institute’s recommendation that re-testing people who have experienced mild illness and have recovered from COVID-19 is not advised.


The document states: “A person is considered safe to return to the workplace and discontinue self-isolation if they are no longer infectious. This means they developed their first symptoms more than 10 days prior and have not experienced any symptoms for at least 3 days (72 hours). However, returning to work is dependent on the patient’s clinical state of health.”


In response to a question about whether you can still transfer the virus after 10 days, the NICD states: “The most infectious period is thought to be 1 to 3 days before symptoms start, and in the first 7 days after symptoms begin. But some people may remain infectious for longer and this is because typically with viruses, the higher the viral load (the more virus circulating in the body), the higher the risk of transmission through known transmission pathways. So the more severe the illness and the higher the viral load, the longer you continue to shed the virus and are infectious.”


The NICD document also outlines the conditions for how a worker, who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and isolated in accordance with the guidelines, may be allowed by an employer to return to work.


NICD notes that patients can remain PCR positive even after they are no longer infectious. States the document: “A positive PCR test does not equate to an infectious, viable virus. Patients may be de-isolated without the need for repeat PCR tests provided the patient’s fever has resolved and their symptoms have improved. Those with mild disease may be de-isolated 10 days after symptom onset, while those with severe disease may be de-isolated 10 days after achieving clinical stability (e.g. once supplemental oxygen is discontinued).


“It is common for patients to continue to have symptoms for longer than the above time periods (10 days). Full recovery may take several weeks. Patients who are still symptomatic at the end of their isolation period can be de-isolated provided that their fever has resolved (without the use of antipyretics) and their symptoms have improved.”


To read the full NICD document click here https://www.nicd.ac.za/covid-19-and-returning-back-to-work-frequently-asked-questions/


For any additional workplace issues around COVID-19, please contact the National Institute for Occupational Health hotline at 0800 212 175 or email at info@nioh.ac.za