COVID-19 Update: What To Do If You Start Experiencing Symptoms

Common symptoms are a fever, dry cough, shortness of breath.


Yamkela Mdaka |

With about 173 344 confirmed cases of COVID-19, aka the novel coronavirus, and about 7 019 confirmed deaths across the globe (according to the World Health Organization as of 00:00am, 17 March) — ‘Coronavirus’ is probably all you’ve been hearing about, reading about, tweeting about, posting about, annoyed about… but still talking about.

In South Africa, there are currently 64 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (at the time of publishing this article) and no recorded deaths. Following the President’s speech on Sunday (15 March, 2020) where he declared a national state of disaster and imposed travel bans and other domestic restrictions, many people have been on edge and in a pre-panic state about the possible consequences the virus could see the country and its people facing.

READ MORE: What Are The Symptoms Of The Novel Coronavirus? 4 Signs You Should Be Aware Of

What has become important and highlighted across the globe is the concept of social distancing. This is one of the best ways to keep yourself protected from contracting the virus (along with washing your hands with soap regularly and not touching your face — which you’ve probably heard about a million times at this point). So, what’s the most effective way to do this?

Social distancing

One of the most important rules to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to avoid (by every means necessary) contact with any persons — whether they display symptoms or not.

Following the President’s restrictions, many schools (public and private), universities, places of worship and sporting and cultural institutions have shut down indefinitely, as gatherings of 100 or more people were prohibited. But outside of this, what are the extra precautions you can take to further protect yourself?

READ MORE: Is It Safe To Go To The Gym To Work Out During The Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?

The South African Department of Health has offered further precautionary measures to effectively implement social distancing and to keep you protected.

These have been placed into three different categories: what to avoid, when to take caution and what’s safe to do. Let’s have a look:

What to avoid:

  • Group gatherings
  • Sleepovers
  • Play-dates
  • Concerts
  • Theatre events
  • Athletic events
  • Crowded retail malls
  • Group workouts and gyms
  • Non-essential workers in your house
  • Mass transit systems

Be extremely cautious when:

  • Visiting a local restaurant
  • Visiting a grocery store
  • Getting takeout
  • Picking up medication
  • Visiting the library
  • Attending religious services
  • Travelling

It’s safe to:

  • Take a walk
  • Go for a hike
  • Do gardening
  • Play in your garden
  • Have a family game night
  • Go for a drive
  • Have group video chats
  • Check on elderly neighbours (at a distance)

What if I’m experiencing symptoms?

One of the most unclear courses of action now is centred around the steps to take if you start suspecting you might have COVID-19. We know that the most common symptoms are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Uncommon symptoms include headaches, aches and pains, sore throat and fatigue.

The big questions: “What do I do if I experience any of these and how soon should I act?” Well, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you seek medical attention, but before you seek it physically, start off with a call.

READ MORE: How Long Do Novel Coronavirus Symptoms Last?

“Before going to the doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them your symptoms. They will tell you what to do,” the CDC says.

“If possible, put on a face mask before you enter the building. If you can’t put on a face mask, try to keep a safe distance from other people (at least 1.8m).”

The Department of Health (SA) also recommends calling their hotline number (which is the same one for the National Institute of Communicable Diseases) on 0800 029 999 to be assisted regarding a way forward for you.

How to self-quarantine effectively

If you know that you have been directly exposed to the virus, then the department recommends that you self-quarantine immediately. Here are the steps they outline on how to correctly self-quarantine:

  • Stay home and only go out if you need medical care.
  • Monitor your symptoms (highlighted above).
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible if you become ill.
  • Make sure you know, and follow, the steps to seeking care.
  • Do not go to work, school or public areas and avoid using public transportation.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home. If you can, use a separate bathroom.
  • Face masks should be used to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. Cough or sneeze into the fold of your elbow and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

READ MORE: What Does Social Distancing To Prevent The Spread Of The New Coronavirus *Actually* Mean?

Quick reminder

We probably all know this already, but there’s nothing lost in just a quick reminder of what we need to be doing as the virus continues to spread.

  • Clean your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains 60 to 95% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean surfaces like counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables every day.

Quick news update related to COVID-19 in South Africa:

  • The Economic Freedom Front (EFF) has joined other organisations in cancelling all planned events.
  • One of SA’s biggest racing events, Simola Hillclimb 2020, has been postponed indefinitely.
  • Virgin Active has halved group classes and is now offering online workouts indefinitely.
  • The Comrades Marathon Association’s Board has come out to say that they will not cancel the Comrades Marathon yet, but will make a final decision on 17 April.
  • Auto giant Volkswagen is currently preparing to shut down most of its European plants for the next two to three weeks.
  • E-hailing services Uber and Bolt will continue to operate with strict hygiene protocols.
  • MSC Cruises in South Africa will be cancelling all remaining trips for the season.
  • Actor and musician Idris Elba recently took to social media to share that he has tested positive for COVID-19 but says that he is “okay”.
  • American scientists have embarked on their first trial towards developing a vaccine for the COVID-19.

READ MORE ON: Coronavirus Health Health Advice Health Conditions

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