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COVID-19 – All you need to know.

What is COVID-19?

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, China. ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2’ (SARS-CoV-2) was confirmed as the causative agent of what we now know as ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’ (COVID-19). Since then, the virus has spread to more than 100 countries, including South Africa.

  • Fever (a temperature of 38°C or higher)
  • ongoing coughing and sore throat
  • fatigue
  • difficulty breathing
  • ongoing diarrhoea
  • ongoing vomiting
  • skin rash
  • bruising or bleeding without injury
  • looking obviously unwell
  • confusion.
How the virus spreads:

The virus is most likely to spread from person to person through:

  • direct contact with a person while they are infectious
  • contact with droplets when a person with a confirmed infection coughs or sneezes
  • touching objects or surfaces that were contaminated by droplets (like those from a cough or sneeze) from a person with a confirmed infection and then touching your mouth or face.

The length of time that a person is infectious (that is, can spread the infection to others) is not yet known. However, there is evidence of people without any symptoms or with minimal symptoms transmitting the infection to others. It is therefore likely that a person can spread the infection from before the time they first develop symptoms until up to 48 hours after symptoms stop.

Therefore, the Ministry of Health is currently recommending an isolation period of 14 days for people who have been overseas and for anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed case.

High-risk populations

Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily and others may become very ill, very quickly.

From previous experience with other coronaviruses, the people at highest risk of serious infection are:

  • people with compromised immune systems
  • elderly people
  • pregnant women
  • very young children and babies
  • people with diagnosed heart and lung conditions.
Self-isolation guidelines

If you have been overseas or had contact with a confirmed case, you should isolate yourself for 14 days.

If you go on to develop symptoms:

  • immediately isolate yourself from others in your home
  • seek medical advice by first phoning Healthline’s dedicated COVID-19 number (see below) or contacting your GP or emergency health centre by phoning ahead of your visit
  • when you get to the doctor’s clinic or hospital, tell them again that you may have COVID-19 infection
  • as soon as possible, please call your employer and or family to notify them that you have developed symptoms and will be tested for COVID-19.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing:

  • call for an ambulance
  • tell the ambulance officers that you may have COVID-19 infection.

Your doctor will consider testing you for COVID-19 and provide advice on your care. You may also be contacted by public health officers who will provide you with more information.

Preventing the spread of the virus

Practising good hand hygiene and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses. You should:

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water and dry them well, before and after eating and after going to the toilet
  • avoid contact with others (touching, kissing, hugging and other intimate contact)
  • cover coughs and sneezes with clean tissues or your elbow and dispose of tissues
  • use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if you aren’t able to wash and dry your hands.

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For the latest information in South Africa and abroad, please find alerts and updates here: 

South Africa

For the latest information in South Africa, please find alerts and updates here: 


Please follow the below links to the following countries official sites:

CountryNational authorities and public health agenciesWebsiteNational helplines
AustriaFederal Ministry Republic of Austria: Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection Federal 800 555 621
BelgiumFederal Public Service: Health, Food Chain Safety and 800 14689
BulgariaMinistry of 2 807 87 57
CroatiaCroatian Institute of Public 91 468 30 32;  +385 99 468 30 01
CyprusMinistry of 1420
Czech RepublicMinistry of 724 810 106; +420 725 191 367
DenmarkDanish Health 72 22 74 59
EstoniaMinistry of Social +372 634 6630; 1220*, 1247*
FinlandFinnish institute for health and 295 535 535
FranceGovernment of the French 800 130 000
GermanyFederal Ministry of 30 346 465 100
GreeceNational Public Health Institute of 210 521 2054
HungaryHungarian 6 80 277 455; +36 6 80 277 456
IcelandDirectorate of 544 4113, 1700
IrelandHealth Service Executive 1850 24 1850* 
ItalyMinistry of 1500
LatviaCentre for the Prevention and Control of Diseases 67387661
LiechtensteinGovernment of 230 30 30
LithuaniaMinistry of 8 618 79984
LuxembourgMinistry of 8002 8080
MaltaGovernment of 21324086
NetherlandsNational Institute for Public Health and the 800-1351
NorwayNorwegian Institute of Public 815 55 015
PolandGovernment of (PL) (EN)
+48 800 190 590
PortugalMinistry of 808 24 24 24  
RomaniaMinistry of 800 800 358
SlovakiaPublic Health Authority of the Slovak 917 222 682
SloveniaGovernment of 31 646 617; 080 1404*
SpainGovernment of Spainmscbs.gob.esRegional numbers are found here
SwedenPublic Health Agency of 113 13
SwitzerlandFederal Office of Public 58 463 00 00
UKGovernment of UKgov.uk111* (dialled from UK)
USAGovernment of
911* (dialled from USA)
AustraliaGovernment of Coronavirus Line 1800 020 080
New ZealandPublic Health Agency of New team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international