On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. The number of cases globally has continued to increase with the WHO declaring the outbreak a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

Coronavirus Disease or COVID-19 is caused by a Coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2. Corona viruses are responsible for the common cold, and usually cause self-limited upper respiratory tract infections.

Limiting the spread of Coronavirus infection and transmission requires the collective effort of everyone in a community; scroll down for further information and useful downloads relating to COVID-19.

Frequently asked questions about the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

What is Coronavirus and how does it relate to COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the abbreviation for Coronavirus disease and is a disease or illness caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, one of many in the family of coronaviruses.

Other viruses in the family of Coronaviruses are responsible for causing the common cold or other respiratory infections. It is important to note that the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a new or novel strain of the virus and as such the effects of the infection on the population have been more widespread.

What symptoms will I have with COVID-19?

Most people who get this disease will have very mild symptoms, like having a cold.

People who develop COVID-19 generally have the following symptoms:

·       Fever

·       Headache

·       Sore throat

·       Cough

·       Muscle aches

·       Loss of the sense of taste (dysgeusia)

·       Loss of the sense of smell (anosmia)

·       With or without other symptoms (diarrhoea, weakness)


In the minority of cases an individual may develop severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, difficulty rousing amongst others. If this happens, it is imperative that medical attention is sought and that you go to the hospital.

How does it spread?

Person to person contact is the main way the virus spreads. This is either through close contact or by the spread of droplets when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes on you. Generally if you are more than 2 meters away, the droplets won’t reach you however very small particles may travel longer distances. Being in outdoor areas or rooms with good fresh airflow (and wearing a mask) and being vaccinated will reduce the risk of becoming infected.

Droplets can land on surfaces, such as tables, door handles, or any other surface and if  cleaned adequately before touching  that contaminated surface  and then  your face, especially your eyes, mouth or nose, you could become infected. You cannot become infected through your skin.

Can I have contracted the virus but have no symptoms?

As noted by the CDC, the coronavirus has a window period, which means that after ‘catching the virus’ there will be a short period where you can still be infected but not show any symptoms.

If for some reason you are tested for COVID-19, despite being symptom free, and receive a positive result, it is possible that you may remain asymptomatic. It is then advised that you take precautions by wearing a mask, avoid socialising and stay away from susceptible individuals (e.g. elderly, those with chronic illness) and consult with your healthcare provider.

What tests are done to diagnose COVID-19?

Diagnosis is made by analysing a respiratory sample that is collected by testing a swab that is inserted into the nose and throat. The South African NICD and private laboratories have the capability to perform this test.

There are certain indications for testing which relate to the clinical symptoms that have developed and certain circumstantial risks. If you are concerned, do the Mediclinic screening assessment.

Additional blood specimens might also be tested, as well as sputum.

The test takes about 24 – 48 hours to process. Your treating doctor will inform you about the results.

How do I prevent myself from getting it?

Having oneself vaccinated against COVID-19  is an individual’s best defence against developing severe disease and hospitalisation.

Risk of infection and transmission can be reduced by:

  • Staying at home when you are sick and keep you distance from others
  • Reducing close personal contact
  • Cleaning your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your cough of sneeze with a flexed elbow or or tissue   and discard it.
  • Properly cleaning your hands after coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean frequently touched areas and surfaces

Do I need to routinely use a face mask?

Yes, you do need to wear a cloth mask when in public and also when you visit a healthcare facility.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Symptomatic treatment may be given, for example to reduce fever, muscle aches and sore throats.

If symptoms are severe (e.g. if an individual requires oxygen due to difficulties breathing) treatment should not be managed at home and will need to take place in hospital.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and should not be used to treat a viral illness like COVID-19. Antibiotics would only be necessary if there were a secondary bacterial infection present.

What do I do if I’m worried I have COVID-19?

If your symptoms are mild, you can stay at home and manage your symptoms – focusing specifically on getting plenty of rest, and staying hydrated. Currently the recommended period of time to stay at home is 7for mild, symptomatic infection that does not require hospitalisation. Ensure you practise good hand hygiene at home, stay away from others and wear a mask when in the same area, and clean any touched surfaces frequently.

Should I get tested for the virus?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should be tested if possible. The following categories of people should be tested in both the public and private health sectors

  1. Hospitalised patients
    a. Symptomatic patients will be tested to reduce the risk to other patients and ensure that their condition is managed according to the diagnosis
  2. If a patient develops any symptoms after admission .

If your specialist determines that you need to be tested (e.g. if you are going for planned surgery)        

Active contact tracing has been stopped.


Read the updated prioritised COVID-19 testing Guidelines here 

What do I do if I have been in contact with someone with a coronavirus infection?

If you have been in contact with somebody with COVID-19:

·       Monitor yourself for onset of symptoms  

·       Practise good cough etiquette when coughing or sneezing.

·       Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing.

·       If you develop symptoms, you should be tested if possible.

·       If you do develop symptoms, you must self-isolate for an additional 7 days after the onset of symptoms.


If you feel short of breath, or have difficulty breathing, go to the nearest hospital.

Will I be treated if I come to a Mediclinic hospital?

Yes. Mediclinic has standardised processes in place, which have been enhanced in the pandemic, to deal with the developing local and international COVID-19 circumstance.

How does COVID-19 affect the visiting hours at Mediclinic hospitals?

Due to the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic Mediclinic will continue to review the visiting policy for our hospitals and make adjustments as we believe is best for the safety of our patients, staff and doctors. Please contact your local hospital to understand their current visiting hour arrangements. For more information on visiting hours, please click here.

What can be done to protect yourself

Hand hygiene steps

Expert mask advice from Dr Darren Green