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. Coronaviruses 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.


Click below to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and South Africa's vaccination process. View frequently asked questions and guidelines from the National Department of Health.


If you suspect that you might have COVID-19 or require additional support, call any the following numbers:




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 disease on the population have been more widespread.

Who is at risk of getting COVID-19?

Currently, people who have travelled to high-risk countries, or have been in contact with somebody with COVID-19 are at higher risk of contracting the virus.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has noted that those at higher risk of severe illness are older adults and those with existing medical conditions such as chronic heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cancers, immune suppression or lung disease.  

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

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, and should not be able to infect you.

However, those droplets can land on surfaces, such as tables, door handles, or any other surface. The virus can survive on the surface for a long time (currently estimated to be between 7-9 days if not cleaned adequately and depending on the type of surface).

If you touch that contaminated surface with the virus and then touch your face, especially your eyes, mouth or nose, you could become infected.

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.

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 National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and private laboratories have the capability to perform this test.

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

The test normally takes about 24 – 48 hours to process. Tests done at government testing facilities may take a bit longer to process.

How do I prevent myself from getting it?

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent COVID-19.

Risk of infection and transmission can be reduced by:

  • Reducing personal contact (e.g. by no longer shaking hands)
  • Cleaning your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Properly cleaning your hands after coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid using handkerchiefs and rather use a tissue and discard it

Do I need to use a face mask routinely?

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

How can I help to reduce the spread of Coronavirus?

Limiting the spread of Coronavirus infection and transmission requires the collective effort of everyone in a community.

MHR recommends the following during lockdown:

  • Wear a cloth mask when in public
  • Avoid visiting hospitals unnecessarily
  • Avoid unnecessary visits to the Emergency Centre
  • When shopping for food or medicine, stay at least 1.5m away from everyone
  • Do online shopping or visit the grocery store less frequently and at quieter times
  • Practise good hand hygiene often. Proper handwashing is as effective as alcohol hand rub sanitiser
  • Use hand sanitiser when unable to wash with soap and water
  • Take reasonable precautions to protect your health and those of others
  • Work from home if possible and schedule online meetings instead of face-to-face
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue or the crook of your elbow

How is COVID-19 treated?

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. 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 a 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 14 days after the onset of your symptoms, as you would be infectious for this amount of time. Ensure you practise good hand hygiene at home, as well as cleaning any touched surfaces frequently as the virus could survive on them for a number of days.

Should I get tested for the virus?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should be tested if possible. 

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:

  • Stay at home and monitor yourself for the onset of symptoms – do not go into public
  • 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 14 days after the onset of symptoms

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


MHR understands that all the uncertainty around COVID-19 has naturally caused concern among pregnant women and those with young babies. Click below to view answers to frequently asked questions and other useful information.


Expert mask advice from Dr Darren Green (1min 51sec watch).

Three questions to ask yourself during COVID-19 that will help you keep calm, focus on what you can control and shift your focus by Executive Coach, Ora Shtull (1min 48sec watch).


Watch the following Hospital Association of South Africa (HASA) video clips in honour of our country's healthcare heroes.