Frequently asked questions about Covid-19
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are large groups of viruses that are common amongst animals. These viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to flu. A new coronavirus called Covid-19 was identified in China and is associated with an outbreak of viral pneumonia.
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19 is the new infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
What are the symptoms of Covid-19?
Mild to severe respiratory illness with
- cough – usually dry
- myalgia (sore muscles/ body)
- difficulty breathing
Note that a sore throat and runny nose tend to be less common in Covid-19 than in flu or other upper respiratory tract infections.
When am I considered to have Covid-19?
You will be suspected to have the Covid-19 virus if you have flu-like symptoms and in the last 14 days:
- have travelled internationally to an area where Covid-19 is spreading from person-to-person in the community OR Been in close contact (e.g. face-to-face contact, been in a closed room, transport) with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 OR
- Have a household member or someone at work who has tested positive for Covid-19 OR
- Have worked in a facility where a Covid-19 case/s has been diagnosed and was not wearing personal protective equipment OR
- Have travelled to an area where Covid-19 is spreading from person-to-person in the community.
If you suspect you might have Covid-19, then take our self-assessment test to determine your risk profile.
Plain Language Definition: If should suspect you have Covid-19 or if you have a flu-like illness and have travelled to an area where Covid-19 is spreading from person-to-person in the community OR had close contact with a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19.
How does Covid-19 spread?
The Covid-19 spreads mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets are then transferred through close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, or touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Because the virus is spread through the air it is important to stay more than 1-2 meters away from a person who is sick.
What is the incubation period for Covid-19 and how long is it?
The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for Covid-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.
How do I prevent being infected, or spreading Covid-19?
You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading Covid-19 by taking some simple precautions:
- Stay at home.
- Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub for at least 20 seconds. Wash hands often, especially before handling food/ after using toilet or coughing/ sneezing.
- Cover your cough or sneeze in the bend of elbow or with a tissue, once used throw away and wash your hands.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Wearing a mask is unlikely to protect you if you are well. People who are coughing and sneezing who wear a mask (surgical mask fine, N95 not necessary) are less likely to infect others.
How do I go about getting a test?
Should you develop flu-like symptoms after visiting a country or area where Covid-19 is spreading from person-to-person in the community OR had close contact with a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19 stay calm. Remember even if you do have Covid-19 most people have a mild illness. It’s important to seek care in a way that prevents you from spreading it to others:
- If you have access to private healthcare call your general doctor/ local health facility or NICD Hotline on 0800 029 999 or the Provincial Hotline on 021 928 4102. Explain your symptoms and where you have travelled or with whom you have had contact.
- If you use public healthcare call your local health facility or NICD Hotline on 0800 029 999 or the Provincial Hotline on 021 928 4102. You will receive advice on what to do. If you are unable to make a call, go to your local facility. Before you enter the facility alert staff that you are concerned you have Covid-19. Expect to be asked to put on a face mask. You will be asked to wait separately from other patients until a health worker can help you.
Should you develop difficulty breathing seek care urgently. If possible, call ahead to your local health facility to inform them you are en route.
Who is at risk of developing severe illness?
While we are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people, older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as lung disease, heart disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.
Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for Covid-19?
Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat Covid-2019. However, those affected would receive appropriate care to relieve symptoms.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the Covid-19?
No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. Covid-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of Covid-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.
Should I wear a mask to protect myself from Covid-19?
Only wear a mask if you are ill with Covid-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have Covid-19.
Disposable face masks can only be used once.
The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against Covid-19 are to stay at home, frequently wash your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1-2 meters from people who are coughing or sneezing.
Can I breastfeed if I have Covid-19?
There is currently no clinical evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through breast milk.
Infection can be spread to the baby in the same way as to anyone in close contact with you. The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of the virus through breast milk or by being in close contact with your child.
If you wish to breastfeed, take precautions to limit the potential spread of Covid-19 to the baby by:
• washing your hands before touching the baby, breast pump or bottles
• avoiding coughing or sneezing on the baby while feeding at the breast
• cleaning any breast pump as recommended by the manufacturer after each use
• considering asking someone who is well to feed your expressed breast milk to the baby.
If you are feeding with formula or expressed milk, sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You should not share bottles or a breast pump with someone else.
How long does the Covid-19 virus survive on surfaces?
It is not certain how long the virus that causes Covid-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
What is the Western Cape Government doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 on public transport?
We have engaged with public transport operators, such as PRASA, Golden Arrow Bus Service, City of Cape Town and the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO), and have put a number of measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 on public transport.
We have provided advice on hygiene and cleaning practises, and are embarking on an educational campaign with public transport operators, including taxi operators, to stop the spread of COVID-19. Read more about the measures the City of Cape Town have taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 on public transport.