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Managing COVID-19: At home and at a dedicated facility

Written by: Allison Cooper

It’s extremely important to separate yourself from others, either at home or at a free isolation facility, if you have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Many South Africans who test positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) cannot self-isolate because their home is too small for them to live and sleep in a room that’s not shared by anyone else.

Government has ensured that dedicated isolation facilities are available for people who have tested positive, and dedicated quarantine facilities are available for people who are still waiting for their test results. Both services are free.

According to Dr Marlin McCay, a general practitioner based in Florida on the West Rand, the first thing you need to do when diagnosed with COVID-19 is to limit the spread of the infection. “You want to protect your family,” he says. To do this, you need to go into isolation – either at home or at an isolation facility. 

“If you are self-isolating it means you have to find a part of the house where you are totally cut off from the rest of the family. No one should come within three metres of you. You must eat on your own; use your own cutlery and crockery; use your own bathroom, if possible; and make sure there’s no contact with anyone else in the family.

“Your doctor or primary care giver should help you with certain basic medications to ease most of the symptoms, especially things like body aches and pains, headache and fever. There are also some good vitamins one can use to stay healthy,” he says.

It’s also important to get enough rest and drink enough water or clear fluids to make sure that your urine stays a pale clear colour. Most people with mild illness will start feeling better within a week of the first symptoms, but it’s important to monitor your symptoms carefully. 

If you develop any emergency warning signs, such as trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure in your chest that does not go away, coughing up blood, becoming confused, severe sleepiness or blue lips or face you must call an ambulance or go to hospital immediately.

For those who are not able to keep themselves away from others living in the home, government has setup free quarantine facilities around the country to keep you and your loved ones safe.

The Western Cape Government recently published some comments from patients about its isolation facilities.

Marie Jantjies from Witzenberg decided to follow healthcare workers’ advice and go to the isolation facility because her 97-year-old mother lives with her and her children and she wanted to protect them. “I was treated very well. The food was nice – even nicer than at home. I realised I just had to stay positive. I was anxious, but I prayed and tried to relax,” she said.

“That place can save lives! It really is the best,” said John Arnoldus, who recovered from COVID-19 at an isolation facility in Drakenstein. “One of my friends was in quarantine at home and he struggled to recover on his own. I told him to contact the people who cared for me – that is the way to get better. The support of the medical staff and the manager there – that pulls you through,” he said.

Arnoldus was initially hesitant to go to the isolation facility because of the wrong perception that if you go to a facility like this you will get sicker and die. “I expected the worst, but I was received so well. Hats off to the staff! They explained to me that as I already have COVID-19, no one at the facility could make me sick,” he said.

What can you expect from a quarantine facility?

According to the Western Cape Government, all of your needs are taken of. You will receive regular meals, health monitoring by a healthcare worker, laundry services, comfort and quiet while you recover and free transport to and from the facility.

If you are not able to self-isolate, call the National Coronavirus Hotline at 0800 029 999 for more information about your closest isolation or quarantine facility.