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Last Updated: 31 May 2020 - 19h13


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FAQ: Questions about Coronavirus Answered:

In January 2020 the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global health emergency.

On 11 March 2020 The World Health Organisation Officialy declared Coronavirus: COVID-19 a PANDEMIC.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus named COVID -19.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell.

About 80% of people recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, lung disease, cancer or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness.

Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.

People living with HIV with advanced disease, those with low CD4 and high viral load and those who are not taking antiretroviral treatment have an increased risk of infections and related complications in general.

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus.

The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.

These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person.
Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.

This is why it is important to stay more than 1 meter (3 feet) away from a person who is sick.

droplets from a person who coughs Photograph from 1940, taken for infectious research purposes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shows respiratory droplets released through sneezing.

COVID-19 is not an airborn virus.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.

Many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease.

It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.

Basic protective measures to protect against the new coronavirus

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the websites and social media of The National Department of Health, National Institute for Communicable Diseases and World Health Organization.

What does a positive labarotory test result mean?
tested pos for COVID-19
If I have a positive laboratory test result, am I at risk for more severe illness?
tested pos for COVID-19 risk
What does Isolation mean?
tested pos for COVID-19 isolation

For the general public, the use of face masks is not recommended, and the unwarranted purchase and inappropriate use of face masks could potentially deplete the availability of these resources for healthcare workers.

The following circumstances justify the use of face masks:

  • People who care for individuals who are confirmed to have COVID-19 should wear a mask
  • A mother breastfeeding a baby if she is confirmed to have COVID-19 should wear a mask
  • A person under investigation who is coughing should wear a mask to protect others
  • Healthcare workers caring for ill persons confirmed to have COVID-19 should wear a mask

The most important things the public can do is to practice good hand hygiene and cough etiquette.

The following can provide protection against infection from Coronaviruses and many other viruses that are more common in South Africa:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay at home when you are sick and try and keep a distance from others at home.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.