Health Ministry reduces quarantine time for recovered coronavirus patients
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Health Ministry reduces quarantine time for recovered coronavirus patients

Adopting WHO stance, those infected can be presumed cured after 10-13 days, without further testing; self-isolation after exposure to virus carriers still 14 days

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Medical workers test local residents at a temporary site to collect samples for coronavirus, in south Tel Aviv on July 16, 2020.(Flash90)
Medical workers test local residents at a temporary site to collect samples for coronavirus, in south Tel Aviv on July 16, 2020.(Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Wednesday said it was easing the quarantine terms for recovering coronavirus patients, some of whom can leave home 10 days after diagnosis.

The guidelines on self-isolation for those exposed to virus carriers and those who arrive in the country from abroad remained the same, at a mandatory 14 days.

The recommendations came as infections continued to climb with a record 1,977 people diagnosed on Tuesday.

Under the new rules, patients who were diagnosed with the virus will be considered cured after spending 10 days in quarantine from the moment they first showed symptoms, plus an additional three days during which they must show no symptoms — typically a high fever and coughing or breathing difficulties.

Patients who do not know exactly when they began experiencing symptoms will be required to spend 10 days in quarantine from the moment they were informed of a positive test result for the virus, and then can leave isolation after three more days without symptoms.

Those who are diagnosed with the virus but are asymptomatic can leave quarantine after 10 days, the ministry said.

In all cases, no further test for the virus is necessary, although the ministry noted that a doctor’s authorization is still required to indicate that the patients do not have virus symptoms.

Medical workers in the coronavirus ward at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, on July 20, 2020. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Those who have been exposed to a coronavirus patient or return from trips abroad are still required to isolate for 14 days, the ministry stressed.

Previously, quarantine for those confirmed to have the coronavirus was at least 14 days and required a second test to confirm the patients no longer have the virus.

The country’s health maintenance organizations have been alerted to the change in policy.

Nachman Ash, director of medicine at the Maccabi HMO, told the Ynet website the shift is “dramatic.”

He said the new quarantine orders would save the medical centers virus tests that could be used instead to identify new patients, and would also reduce the need for home visits to test quarantined patients.

“Those tests are very expensive and require manpower,” he explained. A Maccabi source told Ynet that some 2,500 out of the HMO’s 7,000 recovering patients could be released from quarantine as a result of the revised requirements.

Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at Leumit Health Care Services branch in Or Yehuda, on July 14, 2020 (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The ministry said the change in policy adopted World Health Organization recommendations. The WHO has determined that patients stop being infectious nine days after first showing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and in late May updated its quarantine recommendation to 10 days. The US Center for Disease Control also currently recommends just 10 days of isolation.

Infection rates have soared to close to 1,000 a day in recent months Israel lifted lockdown measures introduced in mid-May and that had brought down daily infections to low double figures. The numbers have prompted criticism of government policies in handling the crisis that at times has seen it in conflict with a Knesset panel oversight committee.

Health Ministry data on Wednesday showed there were 1,104 newly diagnosed cases since the previous tally was released the evening before, with the total number of active patients at 31,313. It said 259 were in serious condition, 82 of whom were on ventilators; 128 have moderate symptoms and the rest were showing light symptoms.

According to the Health Ministry, six more people died of the virus since the day before, bringing the national toll to 430. So far 22,920 people have recovered from the disease.

In total, 1,977 were diagnosed with the disease on Tuesday, the highest number ever for a 24-hour period.

The ministry also said 29,079 coronavirus tests were processed on Tuesday, up from the 27,299 the day before.

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