Never before have we had to deal with something like Covid-19.

Never before have we had to deal with something like Covid-19. That is why it is important to know as much as we can about this illness – what it is, how one gets infected, how to prevent infection and what to do if you think you are infected.

Covid-19 is an extremely infectious illness which can easily spread from one person to another. It is caused by a virus (the SARS CoV-2 virus) that enters our bodies and infects our lungs and can affect other organs. The level of infection will differ from person to person, depending on your health condition. There is not yet a vaccination that will prevent a person from getting infected with the virus.

The virus is spread by an infected person when they talk, cough or sneeze. We can get infected by breathing in the virus from the air or through touching surfaces and then touching our mouth, nose or eyes.

Bigger particles from an infected person will settle more quickly onto nearby surfaces, but smaller particles can float in the air for some time. That is why you have to protect yourself when you are in a place where there are many other people, such as in a queue at the shop. Or doing things like using an ATM, or touching food boxes, packets, cans or bottles in the shops. Or when you handle any money.

Someone who may not even be in the same room or area anymore can still

have left virus particles floating in the air before you get there.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

If we become infected with the virus there may not be any signs of it for many days. Sometimes it can take as long as 14 days before we experience the first signs. So someone who may look healthy could still be infected and can infect others, without knowing they are doing so. This means you have to be careful when others are around.

Persons who become infected with the virus usually have one or more of these signs (symptoms) when they do show: cough, sore throat, fever or shortness of breath.

How To Prevent Infection

Personal

The best way to prevent getting infected or passing on the infection is to stay at home and not have physical contact with any outside people. This means NO VISITORS!

Avoid touching our faces! The virus enters our bodies through the mouth, nose and eyes. Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands afterwards.

The most basic protection against infection is to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water. We should do  this each time we touch or handle things that others may have touched. A hand sanitizer works well too but it must have at least 60% alcohol.

At home

We should also keep our homes free of germs. A bleach and water mix is good for cleaning door handles and surfaces. You can even use soap and water. We should keep windows open for as much of the day as we can. No sharing of towels, clothing, crockery (plates, cups and saucers), cutlery (knives, forks, spoons) or household items like buckets, cooking pots and pans without first washing them.

Outside the home

When leaving the home, we should try to avoid crowded spaces such as taxi ranks, shopping malls, queues and church services. We should at all times keep a good physical distance between ourselves and other persons. This is known as social distancing.

Try to keep at least 3 metres between yourself and other persons, but definitely not less than 2 metres.

If you have to meet someone, do so in an open space away from other people. Of course, NO

greeting by hugging or shaking hands! The virus can easily be spread that way. The closer you get to others, the more you put yourself at risk.

Masks

The Department of Health advises that everyone should wear a cloth face mask when in public to prevent the spread of the virus. The mask will work better if it has 3 layers of cloth – one layer on the inside on your face, another in the middle, and the third layer on the outside.

When it is worn, the mask must cover our mouth and nose completely. Avoid fiddling with it and never lower it when talking, coughing or sneezing.

The mask must be washed in warm, soapy water. Leave it in the sun to dry, and then iron it once it’s dried. The washing, drying and ironing will help to destroy germs.

This means you will need at least two masks. Medical masks should not be used because they are needed by health care workers.

Make a mask:

  1. Fold square cloth in half
  2. Fold top down, bottom up
  3. Put rubberbands +-15cm apart; fold sides to middle, and tuck in. Done!

Source: South African Government, www.gov.za

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK I HAVE BEEN INFECTED?

If you have one or more of the symptoms, you should immediately self-isolate. This means you must keep well away from other persons. If you think you may have become infected with the virus, immediately go to your local clinic or community health centre. You will be screened. The health worker may refer you to a hospital to be tested. This test will confirm whether or not you are infected.

Most people who are infected will recover at home but if the infection worsens you may need hospital care.

STAY SAFE AND STAY HEALTHY

We should try to keep as healthy as possible to maintain our immune system and to keep feeling strong and positive. It is also necessary to eat healthy foods, exercise and get plenty of rest.

Elderly persons and persons who have serious diseases like diabetes (sugar), asthma, other lung problems or high blood pressure should ask their local clinic or community health centre about getting a flu vaccination. The vaccination is not a cure for Covid-19 but it can strengthen the immune system. This gives the body a better chance to fight off infection.

Maybe it will not be possible for some of us to do all of the things that are suggested. Many of us do not have running water where we live. Some families have to share toilets and washing places with many others. And some of our homes are too small for all of us who live there. It may be hard but we must stick to all of the safety guidelines as best we can, even if it means changing the way we are used to doing things.

SUPPORT AND USEFUL INFORMATION

There is a lot of information available from many sources. Much of this can be found on the internet but it may cost you data. Most of the useful telephone helplines are free with no data needed.

Information about social grants, food parcels and other support for people who are affected by the national lockdown can be obtained from clinics and community health centres, and from government offices. Other organisations like churches and charities also offer information and support.

SASSA Social Relief of Distress (SRD) food parcels0800 601 011 (free – no data needed)Very busy so be patient.
SASSA Social Relief of Distress (SRD) R350 grants
Government Covid-19 WhatsApp number0600 123 456 (free – no data needed)For Covid-19 news, updates and information send a ‘Hi’ text message to this number and then follow the instruction. Very easy to use.
Gender-based Violence080 428 428Report Gender-based Violence
(GBV) is on the rise in(free – no data needed) 
this time of Covid-190800 150 150 (free – no data needed)  For counselling and support
National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD)0800 029 999 (free – no data needed)To find a screening and/or testing centre close to you
COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portalhttps://coronavirus.datafree. co (free – no data needed)Department of Health Covid-19 information website
National Consumer Commission0800 014 880 (free – no data needed)Report price spikes and unjusti- fied price increases
Department of Water and Sanitation0800 200 200Report problems with water and sanitation issues

Issued by Bench Marks Foundation, 11th Floor Khotso House, 62 Marshall Street, Marshalltown, 2001P O Box 62538, Marshalltown, 2107 Tel: 011 832-1743/2 ● E-mail: info@bench-marks.org.za