COVID-19 Questions and Answers

As Masked Heroes, you are known and loved by your communities. People trust you and that’s why it is important you protect that trust by empowering yourself with the correct information. At times, you might be asked questions about COVID-19 that are difficult to answer. Together we pulled these into a list of commonly asked questions to help you answer with confidence, not to mention the correct information!

Tough Questions

COVID-19 is the 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. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally.

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease spreads primarily from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or speaks. People can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in these droplets from a person infected with the virus. That is why it is important to stay at least 1 metre away from others. These droplets can also land on objects and surfaces around the person such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. People can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. That is why it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub.

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 diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) 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 or diabetes – are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Maintain at least 1 metre distance between yourself and others. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands.

Practising hand and breathing hygiene is important at ALL times and is the best way to protect others and yourself. When possible, maintain at least a 1 metre distance between yourself and others. This is especially important if you are standing by someone who is coughing or sneezing. Since some infected people may not yet be showing any symptoms or their symptoms may be mild, maintaining a physical distance with everyone is a good idea, especially if you are in an area where COVID-19 is circulating.

If you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you may be infected. In these cases, it is best to stay at home. However, if you live in an area with malaria it is important that you do not ignore symptoms of fever. Seek medical help. When you attend the health facility wear a mask, keep at least 1-metre distance from other people and do not touch surfaces with your hands. If it is a child who is sick, help the child stick to this advice.

If you do not live in an area with malaria please do the following:

  • If you become ill, even with very mild symptoms you must self-isolate
  • Even if you don’t think you have been exposed to COVID-19 but develop symptoms, then self-isolate and monitor yourself
  • You are more likely to infect others in the early stages of the disease when you just have mild symptoms, therefore early self-isolation is very important.
  • If you do not have symptoms, but have been exposed to an infected person, self-quarantine for 14 days.

If you have definitely had COVID-19 (confirmed by a test) self-isolate for 14 days even after symptoms have disappeared as a precautionary measure – it is not yet known exactly how long people remain infectious after they have recovered. Follow national advice on self-isolation.

The time between exposure to COVID-19 and the moment when symptoms start is commonly around five to six days but can range from 1 – 14 days.

Self-isolation is a way to keep yourself from possibly infecting others if you think you might be infected. It involves limiting contact with public places, relatives, friends, colleagues, and public transport.

Quarantine means restricting activities or separating people who are not ill themselves but may have been exposed to COVID-19. The goal is to prevent the spread of the disease at the time when people just develop symptoms.

Isolation means separating people who are ill with symptoms of COVID-19 and may be infectious to prevent the spread of the disease.

Physical distancing means being physically apart. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping at least 1-metre distance from others. This is a general measure that everyone should take even if they are well with no known exposure to COVID-19.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. However, these are also symptoms of the flu. The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) recommends that you should only get tested if you display symptoms plus:

  • Have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Travelled to a high-risk country
  • Worked in or been to a healthcare facility treating people with Covid-19
  • Have a severe case of pneumonia with an unknown cause.

However, one should consult your medical practitioner immediately if you display symptoms.

If you think you might have contracted the virus, you can call the NICD helpline (0800 029 999) and you will be advised on possible testing facilities.

Anyone who tests positive will immediately be notified and put into quarantine at home or at a facility designated to manage the outbreak. You will then remain in quarantine until repeat testing shows you no longer have the virus.

Public sector testing is free of charge. Private laboratories such as Lancet, Ampath and Pathcare can also test for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Enquiry should be done with the respective laboratory for their costings of the test.

There is no specific treatment available for SARS-CoV-2. Treatment is supportive (e.g. providing oxygen for patients with shortness of breath or managing a fever). Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. However, antibiotics may be required if a secondary bacterial infection develops. Currently there is a vaccine being developed.

Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicines against COVID-19. However, people, particularly those with serious illness, may need to be hospitalised so that they can receive life-saving treatment for complications. Most patients recover thanks to such care. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are currently under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials.

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses; they only work on bacterial infections.

The following hospitals have also been identified as centres for isolation and treatment of people infected with coronavirus:

Polokwane Hospital in LimpopoKlerksdorp Hospital in the North WestLivingstone Hospital in the Eastern Cape
Rob Ferreira Hospital in MpumalangaKimberly Hospital in the Northern CapeGrace Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal
Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Steve Biko Hospital and Tembisa Hospitals in GautengPelonomi Hospital in the Free StateTygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape

Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard. The most important thing to know about coronavirus on surfaces is that the surfaces can easily be cleaned with common household disinfectants that will kill the virus.

Research shows that children and adolescents are just as likely to become infected as any other age group and can spread the disease. However, evidence to date suggests that children and young adults are less likely to get severe disease, although severe cases can still happen in these age groups. Children and adults should follow the same guidance on self-quarantine and self-isolation if there is a risk they have been exposed or are showing symptoms. It is particularly important that children avoid contact with older people and others who are at risk of more severe disease.

There is no evidence that pets can transmit the disease to humans or play a role in spreading COVID-19.

Anyone who is sick or displaying symptoms should not go to school or work. If you have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, you should self-isolate for 14 days from the date of close contact.

When grocery shopping, keep at least 1-metre distance from others and avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose. If possible, sanitise the handles of shopping trolleys or baskets before shopping. Once home, wash your hands thoroughly and again after handling and storing your purchased products.

Fruits and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. Wash them the same way you should do under any circumstance: before handling them, wash your hands with soap and water. Then, wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean water, especially if you eat them raw.

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Thank you for your bravery and courage!