The Department of Health has published guidelines that should be followed if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are at risk of exposing others. These include quarantine and isolation.
What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation?
Quarantine is for people who might be infected with COVID-19 as they have come into contact with someone that has tested positive for the virus, as well as those with symptoms who either require testing or who have been tested but are awaiting their results. It helps to keep these people away from others, so they don’t unknowingly infect them.
While isolation serves the same purpose as quarantine, it is reserved for those who are already sick and/or have tested positive for COVID-19 infections, but do not require hospital admission for medical care. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, you will also need to self-isolate. As long as you test positive, you are contagious.
What does self-quarantine or self-isolation involve?
To self-quarantine or self-isolate, you will need access to a separate room where no-one else will sleep or spend time. You must also be able to contact and/or return to a health facility if your condition worsens. If these requirements can’t be met, you will need to quarantine or isolate in a designated facility.
How long should I self-quarantine or self-isolate for?
It is recommended that you quarantine yourself for 10 days from the time you are exposed to COVID-19. If you remain well during the quarantine period, you will not need to be tested during or at the end of the 10 days. However, if you do develop symptoms testing is recommended.
The self-isolation period is also 10 days. If you are asymptomatic but have tested positive, this must be 10 days from the time of your test. Should you experience mild symptoms, the 10-day self-isolation period starts from the onset of these symptoms. If you are affected moderately or severely by the disease, you will need to isolate for 10 days following clinical stabilisation (when you no longer require oxygen). People in isolation need to be closely monitored for worsening symptoms which require admission to hospital. There is no need to test or retest at the end of the isolation period.
Once you are discharged from quarantine or isolation, you should self-monitor for a further 10 days and report the development of any symptoms to your GP, the NICD hotline or your local health facility.
If you have to quarantine or self-isolate, make sure you practice good hygiene at home:
- Protect yourself and the people you live with by washing your hands frequently throughout the day.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- All members of your household should use a cloth facemask.
- Throw used tissues in a lined trash can and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, making sure you dry them thoroughly, preferably with a clean single-use towel.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- While you should avoid having visitors over, friends, family or delivery drivers can drop off food and other essential supplies. Maintain a distance of 1 to 2 metres during these deliveries.
- If you live with others who aren’t self-isolating, minimise close contact with them.
- Use your own toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, eating and drinking utensils, dishes, towels, washcloths or bed linen.
- Don’t share food and drinks or prepare food for others.
- Wash your clothing and dishes separately to those of others in your home.
- Minimise the time you spend in shared spaces such as bathrooms, kitchens and lounges as much as possible and keep these spaces well ventilated.
- Clean surfaces you have come into contact with and try to avoid touching them after you have cleaned them.
- Eat meals in your room.
At EssentialMED, we understand that having to quarantine or self-isolate can be scary, stressful and lonely. You can contact us anytime on 0861 911 011 for advice, general information or just to chat about how you are feeling. These are difficult times and the team at EssentialMED want you to know that we are here for you.