latest: coronavirus in South Africa

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the Mail & Guardian will be updating this page several times a day with the latest information and advice from government and healthcare experts around the world.

We understand our readers’ need for accurate and timely information, and will be keeping our essential coronavirus coverage free for all (ie not protected by our paywall) throughout the crisis.

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When should you seek medical attention?

The NICD has advised that if a person develops symptoms of Covid-19, and they have reason to believe they have been in contact with someone who has the virus, they are to self-isolate immediately and implement measures to prevent transmission.

A toll-free public hotline (0800 029 999) has been set up for people who feel sick with a fever, cough or have difficulty breathing.

Tests are only available if you are referred by a health professional. In the first instance, you should contact your GP. Public sector testing is free of charge.

“In cases where it is difficult to assess the onset of symptoms, for example in young children or the elderly, self-quarantine for 14 days after return from international travel may be considered as a precautionary measure,” the NICD’s website notes.

Should you wear a mask?

The current regulations say that yes, you should wear a mask when you go outside of your home. You should, however, opt for a simple cloth mask and not an N95 medical mask, supplies of which should be reserved for health professionals.

The key purpose of wearing a mask is not to prevent you catching the disease: it’s to stop you spreading it. Studies are starting to show that infected people can spread the disease when they are asymptomatic – in other words, before they start coughing.

Why not make your own mask?

What’s it looking like in the rest of the world?

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases reached 50 million on 7 November. The number of known recoveries passed 35.5 million at the same time, and the number of known deaths is more than 1.2 million.

The US has the highest absolute number of cases, at 10 million. Although South Africa has the 13 highest number of overall reported infections in the world, our moretality rate is less than 400 per million people. In Belgium that number is over 1 000, and in the US it is nearly 800.

Data from Worldinfometers.

So how do you protect yourself?

On its website, the WHO notes that: “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. 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 one metre away from a person who is sick, the organisation advises.

WHO lists a number of measures that can be taken to reduce your risk of infection. These include:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water;
  • Maintain at least a one metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth;
  • 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; and
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.

People who are infected may show no symptoms, so it is advised that people avoid crowds during the outbreak.