What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are large groups of viruses that are common amongst animals. These viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to flu. A new coronavirus called Covid-19 was identified in China and is associated with an outbreak of viral pneumonia.

What is Covid-19?

Covid-19 is the new infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

Mild to severe respiratory illness with

  • fever
  • cough – usually dry
  • fatigue
  • myalgia (sore muscles/ body)
  • difficulty breathing

Note that a sore throat and runny nose tend to be less common in Covid-19 than in flu or other upper respiratory tract infections.
* Loss of taste and/or smell can be experienced by some persons.

 

How does Covid-19 spread?

The Covid-19 spreads mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets are then transferred through close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, or touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Because the virus is spread through the air it is important to stay more than 1-2 meters away from a person who is sick.

What is the incubation period for Covid-19 and how long is it?

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for Covid-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.

When am I considered to have Covid-19?

If you suspect you might have Covid-19, then take our self-assessment test to determine your risk profile.

What must I do if I suspect I have Covid-19?

If you suspect that you have Covid-19 please DO NOT leave your home to get tested as you risk being infected, or infecting others.

Instead, take our self-assessment test to determine your risk profile.

If the results of the self-assessment test indicate that you may be at risk of Covid-19 then please self-isolate and contact a health professional immediately.

It’s important to seek care in a way that prevents you from spreading Covid-19 to others:

  • If you have access to private healthcare call your general doctor/ local health facility or NICD Hotline on 0800 029 999 or the Provincial Hotline on 021 928 4102. Explain your symptoms and where you have travelled or with whom you have had contact.
  • If you use public healthcare call your local health facility or NICD Hotline on 0800 029 999 or the Provincial Hotline on 021 928 4102. You will receive advice on what to do. If you are unable to make a call, go to your local facility.

Before you enter the facility alert staff that you are concerned you have Covid-19. Expect to be asked to put on a face mask. You will be asked to wait separately from other patients until a health worker can help you. Should you develop difficulty breathing seek care urgently. If possible, call ahead to your local health facility to inform them you are en route.

How do I prevent being infected, or spreading Covid-19?

You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading Covid-19 by taking some simple precautions:

  • Most importantly, if you can, stay at home.
  • Avoid gatherings.
  • Wear a mask whenever you need to leave your home.
  • Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub for at least 20 seconds. Wash hands often, especially before handling food/ after using toilet or coughing/ sneezing.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze in the bend of elbow or with a tissue, once used throw away and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Can you tell us in which areas those who have been tested positive for Covid-19 are living?

It is important that we respect patient confidentiality and the safety of the patient, and so we will only be releasing infection numbers by sub-district.

Please remember that in this difficult time we need to be kind to each other, especially those who have been infected with Covid-19 as this can be a very upsetting and difficult time for them and their loved ones.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and others from infection is to stay at home.

How do I get tested for Covid-19, and how much does it cost?

If you suspect that you have Covid-19 please DO NOT leave your home to get tested as you risk being infected, or infecting others.

Instead take our self-assessment test to determine your risk profile. If the results of the self-assessment test indicate that you may be at risk of Covid-19 then please contact a health professional immediately.

If the results of the self-assessment test indicate that you may be at risk of Covid-19 then please contact a health professional immediately.

The Metro and Rural are in two separate phases of the pandemic, thus following different testing strategies. While two separate approaches, both are focused on saving the lives of the vulnerable.

Metro

All persons accessing a health facility will be screened (asked questions) but only those who have symptoms and fall into one of these categories will be tested.

  1. You are admitted to hospital and have coronavirus symptoms
  2. You are over 55 years and have coronavirus symptoms
  3. You are of any age, have coronavirus symptoms and have one or more of these conditions:
    • Diabetes, hypertension or heart disease on treatment
    • Cancer on treatment
    • TB on treatment
    • HIV with poor adherence to ARVs
    • Chronic lung disease on treatment (e.g. asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis)
  4. You live in a care or old age home and have coronavirus symptoms
  5. You are a health worker and have coronavirus symptoms
     

Rural

While in-community screening and testing continue, there is also an increased focus on screening of essential workers and workplaces. Those members of the community showing symptoms will be tested while close contacts will be asked to quarantine and monitor themselves and if they develop symptoms will be tested.

Once a person has been diagnosed with Covid -19, has had mild symptoms only, and has been in isolation for 10 days, no follow-up test is needed. The person is then considered as recovered, and may return to work.

It’s important to seek care in a way that prevents you from spreading Covid-19 to others:

  • If you have access to private healthcare call your general doctor/ local health facility or NICD Hotline on 0800 029 999 or the Provincial Hotline on 021 928 4102. Explain your symptoms and where you have travelled or with whom you have had contact.
  • If you use public healthcare call your local health facility or NICD Hotline on 0800 029 999 or the Provincial Hotline on 021 928 4102. You will receive advice on what to do. If you are unable to make a call, go to your local facility.

Before you enter the facility alert staff that you are concerned you have Covid-19. Expect to be asked to put on a face mask. You will be asked to wait separately from other patients until a health worker can help you.

Should you develop difficulty breathing seek care urgently. If possible, call ahead to your local health facility to inform them you are en-route.

Can I refuse to be tested for Covid-19, or put into quarantine or isolation? 

If you have tested positive for Covid-19, either as a clinical case or as a laboratory confirmed case, or if you are suspected of having contracted Covid-19, or who if you have been in contact with a person who is a carrier of Covid-19, it is illegal to refuse consent to the following:

  • a medical examination, including but not limited to the taking of any bodily sample by a person authorised in law to do so;
  • admission to a health establishment or a quarantine or isolation site; or
  • submission of that person to mandatory prophylaxis, treatment, isolation or quarantine, or isolation in order to prevent transmission. Should you choose to isolate or quarantine at home, you will be followed up regularly to make sure you do not leave your house

If you do not comply with the instruction or order of the enforcement officer, you will be placed in isolation or quarantine for a period of 48 hours, as the case may be, pending a warrant being issued by a competent Court, on application by an enforcement officer for the medical examination.

Can you tell us where the isolation and quarantine facilities will be for Covid-19? 

This will be communicated to you by the case management team in your area as all efforts are made to accommodate you in a facility nearest to where you live.

Who is at risk of developing severe illness from Covid-19?

Some members of our community are more vulnerable to Covid-19.

While we are still learning about how Covid-19 affects people, those who are at risk include: older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as lung disease, heart disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.

Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for Covid-19?

Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat Covid-19.

If you are ill with Covid-19, you can relieve your symptoms by taking medicine such as paracetamol. It's also important to stay hydrated.

Should your condition worsen, please contact the provincial hotline for further assistance: 021 928 4102

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the Covid-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. Covid-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of Covid-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

Can I access my chronic medication during the lockdown? 

Ahead of the lockdown stable patients on chronic medication were given two month’s supply where possible and follow up appointments.

Alternative off-site collection of medication parcels will be identified and patients informed.

Community Health Workers will also be able to deliver these medication parcels to the homes of chronic patients.

Diabetic patients are encouraged to stay home and access the Pocket Clinic WhatsApp channel to ensure their medications are delivered to their homes. Patients are encouraged to send ‘Hi’ to 087 240 6122 to ensure we are able to deliver their medication at home.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself from Covid-19?

Yes, you must wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth when in a public place, or another appropriate item to cover the nose and mouth.

You will not be allowed to use any form of public transport, or enter a building, place or premises, if you don't wear a cloth face mask or a homemade item that covers your nose and mouth when in a public place, or another appropriate item to cover the nose and mouth.

Your employer must provide every employee who may come into direct contact with members of the public as part of their duties with a cloth face mask to cover their nose and mouth or a homemade item that covers the nose and mouth when in a public place, or another appropriate item to cover the nose and mouth.

Disposable face masks can only be used once.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against Covid-19 are to stay at home, frequently wash your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1-2 meters from people who are coughing or sneezing.

I live in an informal settlement and use shared taps and toilets - what's the best way to prevent infection of Covid-19?

If you use shared taps and toilets in an informal settlement then here is some advice on how to stop the spread of Covid-19:

  • Don’t touch the tap, toilet or door handle with your bare hands.
  • Hold the tap, door handle or toilet lid with newspaper.
  • You can also use your foot or shoulder to open the toilet door and lift the lid.
  • Stand at least 6 steps away from other people when you queue for a toilet or tap.
  • After using the toilet or tap – do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth until you wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Clean the toilet or tap with 1 litre of water mixed with 4 teaspoons of Jik™/bleach (but keep this bleach mixture away from children).

Can I breastfeed if I have Covid-19?

There is currently no clinical evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through breast milk. Infection can be spread to the baby in the same way as to anyone in close contact with you. The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of the virus through breast milk or by being in close contact with your child.

If you wish to breastfeed, take precautions to limit the potential spread of Covid-19 to the baby by:

  • washing your hands before touching the baby, breast pump or bottles
  • avoiding coughing or sneezing on the baby while feeding at the breast
  • cleaning any breast pump as recommended by the manufacturer after each use
  • considering asking someone who is well to feed your expressed breast milk to the baby.

If you are feeding with formula or expressed milk, sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You should not share bottles or a breast pump with someone else.

How long does the Covid-19 virus survive on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes Covid-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.  

What is the correct and safe way to dispose of the latex gloves and face masks to limit the exposure to refuse collectors?

In a hospital or clinic, it will be part of the healthcare risk waste (medical waste) that gets removed under contract.

In your household or workplace you can dispose of gloves and masks in your normal refuse, but you can wrap the gloves and masks in newspaper before putting it in the bag.

If you have been in contact with an infected person, then your domestic waste must be double-bagged and stored in the sun for a period of 3 to 5 days before placing it in the general waste bin for collection by the municipality.

What is the Western Cape Government doing to stop the spread of Covid-19 in informal settlements?

With the national lockdown in place we are asking everyone in the Western Cape to stay at home.

Each and every one confirmed case, from Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain to Mossel Bay – is of very serious concern to us.

Our response teams are treating the development of cases in our informal areas with the urgency and seriousness it deserves, and are following up with every contact and ensuring isolation.

What is the Western Cape Government doing with regards to contact tracing?

The Department of Health tracing teams have been dramatically scaled up in a bid to ensure contacts of those testing positive are identified and isolated as quickly as possible. This is in line with guidelines from the World Health Organisation that countries should prioritise testing and tracing efforts.

What is the Western Cape Government doing to stop the spread of Covid-19 on public transport?

We have engaged with public transport operators, such as PRASA, Golden Arrow Bus Service, City of Cape Town and the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), and have put a number of measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 on public transport.

We have provided advice on hygiene and cleaning practises, and are embarking on an educational campaign with public transport operators, including taxi operators, to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Read more about the measures the City of Cape Town have taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 on public transport.

What additional measures have been put in place to protect healthcare workers from Covid-19?

We implore every staff member to comply with the golden rules of prevention (hand washing, social distancing, cough etiquette) and to use available protective gear appropriately. We have developed a clear policy guideline in this regard, relative to the risk profile of various working areas.

Read our guidelines for healthcare workers

Can you tell us where the quarantine facilities will be for Covid-19?

Not at this time as they are still being finalised.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing (sometimes known as ‘Physical distancing’) is about keeping a safe distance from others so that you reduce the transmission of Covid-19. Social distancing is also about reducing the number of social contacts one has with different people and so minimising your, and their, chances of being exposed to the virus

This is about physical distance. For your own mental health, you can, and should, keep in touch with friends and family via the phone, or online. Keep yourself out of any situation where you come into face-to-face contact with others closer than 1.5 metres away.

Physical distancing is an important way for anyone who doesn’t need to be in self-isolation to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Please refer to our guide on staying at home and self-isolation for more information. 

How do I socially distance myself from other people?

Measures for socially distancing include:

  • Avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
  • Avoiding non-essential use of public transport when possible
  • Working from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information
  • Avoiding large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that many restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather
  • Avoiding gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  • Using telephone or online services to contact your doctor or other essential services

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is practical.

Who should be socially distancing?

To stop the spread of Covid-19, the lockdown requires that everyone in South Africa must stay at home. If you must leave home then implement social distancing as much as possible to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family, particularly if you:

  • are over 70
  • have an underlying health condition
  • are pregnant