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Back to work after Covid-19 a full guide

Written by Allison Cooper

When can you return to work if you have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19)? The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has the answers you need. 

When I test positive for COVID-19, how long do I have to stay in isolation?

People who test positive for COVID-19, but don’t have any symptoms, must remain in isolation at home or in a government isolation facility for 10 days, from the day they receive their positive test result.

Those who have mild symptoms must remain in isolation at home or in a government isolation facility for 10 days, from the day their symptoms start.

Those who have severe disease, who have to go to hospital, must remain in isolation for 10 days, from when they are stable and don’t need oxygen anymore.

How can a COVID-19 positive people transfer the disease to others?

According to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, most people who have a mild infection can spread the virus for between seven to 12 days. However, people who become very sick could be infectious and be able to transmit the virus to others for a longer period of time.

Do I have to have another COVID-19 test, proving that I am negative, before I return to work?

No. Re-testing people who have experienced mild illness and have recovered is not recommended. 

A person is considered safe to return to work and come out of isolation if they are no longer infectious. This means they developed their first symptoms more than 10 days ago and have not had any symptoms for at least three days.

In most cases, employees can return to work without testing again if:

  • They have completed 10 days of mandatory quarantine or self-isolation.
  • Those who had moderate or severe symptoms undergo a medical evaluation.
  • They continue to practice personal hygiene and social distancing.
  • The employer monitors the worker to ensure they do not regress.
  • They wear a mask, from the date of diagnosis for at least 21 days.

I have tested negative but I still have symptoms. What now?

It is possible to get a false negative test result. This means that your first test could be negative, but you could test positive at a later stage. If you continue to have COVID-19 symptoms contact your healthcare professional.

What if I am still showing symptoms after 10 days?

It is common for patients to continue to have symptoms for longer than 10 days. Full recovery may take several weeks. If you still have symptoms, seek advice from your healthcare professional.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ website at www.nicd.ac.za, the COVID-19 free website at coronavirus.datafree.co, call the COVID-19 Hotline Number at 0800 029 999 or send a WhatsApp to 0600 12 3456.