All you need to know about COVID-19

What is COVID-19/Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called Coronavirus. There are many different corona viruses in animals but only a small number of these can cause disease in humans. Everybody is at risk of Coronavirus infection no matter their age, race or gender. Most people who are infected will feel like they have the flu and get better after a week or so, but for some people, Coronavirus can be life-threatening. People at the most risk of getting very sick with Coronavirus are:


  • A person may have the virus and not know, and in that time s/he may infect many other people.
  • Anyone who has symptoms (see below) should isolate themselves immediately.
  • We all have a duty to protect ourselves and the people we love by doing everything we can to prevent the spread of Coronavirus infection. 
  • Over 65  
  • Living with a chronic illness like diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, asthma, cancer, or high blood pressure  
  • Living with TB and not taking medication  
  • Living with HIV and not taking medication 

How is Coronavirus transmitted?

  • Whenever we cough, sneeze or speak we produce little droplets of fluid.
  • If someone has Coronavirus the disease is present in these droplets, which will fall on anyone standing close-by as well as surfaces like chairs or tables.
  • If those droplets are on your hands or face and you then touch your eyes, mouth or nose, the droplets will enter your body and you could be infected.
  • If a person infected with Coronavirus, who has droplets on his or her hands, touches anything, then the next person who touches that surface can pick up the droplets and become infected.
  • Droplets sit on door handles, TV remote controls, ATMs, mobile phones, pots and pans, plates, knives and forks, tables, chairs, kitchen surfaces, supermarket basket handles, toilet seats, taps, food etc.
  • The virus can also survive in poo. To prevent infection, you must clean the toilet before and after you use it if you are sharing it with anybody.

How to prevent the spread of Coronavirus

  • Support the lockdown. Stay at home and only go out to get food or medical care. This means no visits from friends and family. People over 60 or living with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease or untreated HIV or TB should avoid going out at all.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds as often as possible, and every time you go out and come home. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • It is best to stay at least two meters (three big steps) away from all people, especially in a queue.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or use your elbow (never your hands) when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands straight afterwards.
  • Use bleach to clean all door handles, tables, surfaces and phones and TV remotes in your house regularly. Avoid sharing plates, knives and forks.
  • If you are sharing a bathroom with someone in your home who has Coronavirus symptoms, it must be cleaned every time they use it to wash or go to the toilet.
  • If you are sharing a toilet with a lot of people, it is possible to control infection if you co-operate with each other. Try and do the following:
    • Stand at least three steps away from other people when you queue for a toilet or tap and open the door with your foot or elbow, never your hands.
    • Don’t touch the tap, toilet or door handle with your bare hands. Use newspaper or something you can wash or throw away afterwards
    • Disinfect the toilet seat and tap before and after you use it
    • Do not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth until you wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Wear a non-medical mask whenever you leave your house.
  • If you are dependent on public transport, wash your hands or use sanitizer before you leave home. Stand at least three big steps apart from other people if you must queue. The taxi rank stewards should sanitize your hands before you enter the taxi. If they don’t avoid touching the door or seats with your hands. If you can, use tissues to touch the handle or seats and put them straight into a plastic bag. Avoid passing money in a taxi; try and carry the correct amount. The taxi industry should carry eight per vehicle so people can keep their distance from each other. Avoid full taxis.
  • When you are shopping stay three steps away from other people in queues. Disinfect the handles of shopping baskets and trollies and only touch the things you want to buy.

There is a shortage of medical masks in the country. A medical mask should ONLY be used by the following groups of people:

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called Coronavirus. There are many different corona viruses in animals but only a small number of these can cause disease in humans. Everybody is at risk of Coronavirus infection no matter their age, race or gender. Most people who are infected will feel like they have the flu and get better after a week or so, but for some people, Coronavirus can be life-threatening. People at the most risk of getting very sick with Coronavirus are:

  • healthcare workers
  • caregivers of those with Coronavirus
  • people who have Coronavirus or are showing symptoms.

Making a homemade mask

If you are wearing a home-made mask, please ensure the following:

  • The mask should be made of at least two layers of fabric. If you hold the fabric up to the light and you see a lot of light through the fabric, it is not ideal as a mask.
  • You need to make sure that you can breathe comfortably through the material.
  • Make sure the mask sits close to the sides of your face so that no air and droplets can enter behind the mask
  • The mask should be held securely behind the ears with cloth ties or elastic.
  • Be careful when you remove the mask because it can have droplets of the virus on it. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing it and wash your hands immediately.
  • Wash and iron the mask each time you use it as soon as you take it off.

Making a bleach solution for cleaning surfaces

How to make a bleach solution for cleaning surfaces and bathrooms:

  • Mix 1 litre of water with 4 teaspoons of bleach such as JIK.
  • Remember to keep this away from children.
  • DO NOT use this on your hands.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

Some of the symptoms are the same for the seasonal flu and they can vary between people. Most people who test positive for Coronavirus have some or all these symptoms:

  • A high temperature: you feel hot if you touch your forehead, chest or back. You may also have the chills: you can feel abnormally cold and then warm. If you take your temperature with a thermometer it might be high (over 38 degrees C).
  • A cough: If you usually have a cough, the virus will make it worse than usual.
  • Tiredness: You are likely to feel much more tired than usual.
  • Difficulty with breathing or shortness of breath: You may find it hard to talk or to do anything physical.
  • No sense of smell and taste: You won’t be able to taste food properly or smell anything.
  • Diarrhoea: A number of people have this if they are infected with Coronavirus.

What must I do if I have Coronavirus symptoms?

If you are worried that you have any Coronavirus symptoms stay at home and contact the free hotline (National Coronavirus Hotline 0800 029 999). They are getting a lot of calls so keep trying if you can’t get through. You will be told whether or not you should test for the virus and where to go. Only go to your nearest health facility if you are struggling to breathe, have bad chest pains or cannot cope with your symptoms. If you are living with someone in a high-risk category and they show symptoms and you are concerned about them go straight to your nearest hospital or clinic.

Call centre numbers:

  • National Coronavirus Hotline: 0800 029 999.
  • Mpumalanga MEC Hotline: 0800111151
  • Right to Care Helpline: 0106120114
  • Coronavirus WhatsApp Helpline: +27 600 123 456. Add the number to your phone and type the word ‘Hi’ and you will get a response.

Managing Coronavirus at home

The majority of people who have Coronavirus will have mild to bad flu and will get better as their immune system develops the ability to fight the virus. The Department of Health is setting up isolation facilities around the country. If you live in a crowded environment, you can call the National Coronavirus Hotline 0800 029 999 to arrange access to a facility near you. If you are staying at home, the following advice can help:

  • Tell the hotline the details of everyone you have been in contact with over the last 14 days so that they can contact them to avoid them infecting others. This will save many others from getting the disease and can save lives.
  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds as often as possible.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Drink a lot of water so that your pee is pale and clear.
  • Eat what you can
  • Take paracetamol pain killers to ease the symptoms. The best Paracetamol brand available is Panado. Avoid Grandpa and Nurofen.
  • Stay two metres (3 steps) away from everyone in your house if you can.
  • Wear a mask when you are close to others.
  • Open windows if you have to share spaces.
  • Avoid using shared spaces, such as kitchens or bathrooms, at the same time as each other.
  • Clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, by wiping all surfaces you have touched with a disinfectant or soapy water.
  • Clean objects and surfaces you often touch (like door handles, TV remotes, kettles, pots and pans and your phone) using disinfectant or soapy water.
  • Wash and dry all plates, dishes and cutlery thoroughly after you have used them
  • Everybody should wash their own clothes in very hot water with soap.
  • If possible, do not share a bed, and wash bedding frequently with very hot water and soap.
  • Sleep as far away as you can from others if you have to share a room.
  • Do not share towels, including hand towels and dish cloths. Wash all towels with very hot water and soap.

Coronavirus and other diseases

If you are living with any chronic disease you are at risk of becoming very sick if you are infected with Coronavirus if the disease is not under control. If you are taking medication it is vital to continue treatment. People with diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, asthma, cancer, or high blood pressure should protect themselves as much as possible from catching Coronavirus, and call the hotline if they are worried.

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB attacks the lungs and people living with TB who are not on treatment are at great risk of becoming very ill if they are infected with Coronavirus.  If you have TB, or you think you may have TB or have a close contact who is living with TB call the Coronavirus Helpline or go to your nearest hospital or clinic to have a test. Start medication immediately if you are positive. Taking TB medication gives you the best chance of beating Coronavirus if you are infected.


Remember: if anyone in your household has a chronic disease please support them to take their medication and make sure that they do not run out.


If you know you are living with HIV, take your ARVs every day. This will strengthen your immune system and empower you to fight Coronavirus if you are infected.

If you are virally suppressed, which means you have a very small amount of HIV in your blood, you may be able to pick up your ARVs from Collect + Go in your community. Ask if you qualify for Collect + Go next time you go to the clinic. Please call the AIDS Helpline 0800 012 322 if you need more information.

If you have stopped your ARVS for any reason, please go to the clinic immediately and start again. This could make the difference between life and death for you, because your immune system will be weak if you are infected with Coronavirus and you may not be able to fight it.

If you don’t know your status and think you may be at risk of HIV, please test immediately and start ARVS if you are positive. You are at risk of HIV is you have more than one sexual partner and don’t always use a condom.

Living under lockdown

Lockdown is a new situation for all of us and most of us are fearful and worried about money. Many of us are struggling to stay at home in the required times but we have to if we want to stop the spread of Coronavirus.  The best way to manage lockdown is:

  • Try and structure your day, especially if you have children. Spend time reading, playing and doing lessons if you can.
  • Be patient with children – this is a big change for them too.
  • Try and give everyone in the house time out.
  • Stay informed and avoid fake news. The South African government is providing daily briefings to keep us up-to-date.
  • Stay in touch with people you care about.
  • If you can, exercise in the house. There are a lot of good You Tube videos offering exercise for people under lockdown, and the government website has a good exercise link.
  • Learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing to stay calm.
  • There is a list of numbers below that offer financial or food support.
  • The South African Anxiety and Depression Group is particularly useful at this time. Their 24hr Helpline number is 0800 456 789.

Facts and myths about coronavirus

There are so many myths and misconceptions about coronavirus at the moment. It’s necessary to sort facts from fiction during this outbreak so we have compiled a list of some of the most common fake news 

Further resources







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