The number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the country continues to climb. The World Health Organisation has declared its spread a pandemic and the South African Government has declared a State of Disaster. While this all sounds scary, EssentialMED encourages our members to remain calm and instead educate themselves on how to prevent contracting the disease.

To help, here are the answers to some of the most common questions we have been receiving:

How does the virus spread?
COVID-19 spreads quickly, through:

  • Coughing or sneezing: People could catch COVID-19 if they are standing within one metre of a person who has the illness, by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by the ill person;
  • Close personal contact, such as when shaking hands or touching others; and
  • Touching the mouth, nose, or eyes after touching an object or surface on which the virus is found (after an ill person coughs or exhales close to these objects or surfaces such as desks, tables or telephones).

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection?
The primary symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Other symptoms may include muscle aches, nasal congestion, sore throat and diarrhoea.

What steps can you take to minimise your risk of transmission?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid business meetings where practical and favour teleconferencing.
  • Avoid or postpone any unnecessary international or local travel.

What should you do if you suspect that you have contracted COVID-19?
Please remember that unless you have been travelling or have had contact with people with known infection, your risk for COVID is very low, almost negligible.

However, if you suspect that you might have contracted the virus and are showing signs of respiratory illness then:

  • Call a doctor, who will assess you and see whether you qualify as a "person under investigation" (PUI)
  • Self isolate yourself at home and avoid social contact for at least 14 days.
  • Wear a mask if you have to be around other people in your home and wash your hands regularly.
  • Doctors have been informed and trained on how and from whom they should collect specimens. When you visit the doctor, clinic or hospital, you will be asked certain questions, examined and informed whether you should be tested. Various laboratories across the country have been set up and trained on testing for the virus and are working closely with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID)

Please call the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) helpline on 0800 029 999 if you have:

  • Been in contact with someone who has COVID-19;
  • Travelled to a country where you have a high risk of getting infected (namely China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Italy and Iran);
  • Worked in or been to a healthcare facility treating people with COVID-19; or
  • Are experiencing a severe case of pneumonia with an unknown cause.

They will advise you on where the closest facility is for you to go for a test and how to access the facility. Testing is free at public facilities.

EssentialMED is monitoring the situation and taking the necessary steps to ensure service continuity and to keep our employees safe. All operations and services continue as normal.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us on either 0861 70 70 70 or [email protected].