Aug 2020 1st edition

Self-isolation in a nutshell

What does it mean when you have to self-isolate? Vuk’uzenzele helps with all you need to know. 

As coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise across the country, people who test positivae for the virus, those who have been in close contact with them and those with COVID-19 symptoms must isolate themselves from other people for 14 days.

You can either isolate at home, which is called self-isolation, or at a designated isolation facility.

Self-isolation is a way to keep yourself from possibly infecting others if you think you might be infected. It involves limiting contact with public places, relatives, friends colleagues, and public transport.

A person who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive must also self-isolate, even if they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, you have been in close contact if you had face-to-face contact, within one metre, or were in a closed space, for more than 15 minutes, with a person with COVID-19.

In addition, this contact happened while the person with COVID-19 was still infectious, which is from two days before their symptoms began to 14 days after.

Why must I self-isolate?

If you have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive person, you could have the virus too. Even if you are not sick and have no symptoms at all, you can still infect other people with the virus. Those people who become infected, can infect others.

Staying at home in self-isolation will thus help to control the possible spread of the virus to your friends, relatives and wider community, especially those who are more vulnerable to severe illness.

Anyone who may have been in close contact with a known positive case and who is awaiting their test results must self-isolate as a precaution until the test results become available. If that person tested positive, you must self-isolate for 14 days.

If anyone in the household develops symptoms during the 14-day isolation period, they should be tested and the isolation period should be followed, starting from the day their symptoms started.

If someone cannot safely isolate at home, the health department can refer you to an isolation facility, where you will receive temporary care away from home.

If you are self-isolating with mild symptoms and start to feel worse, talk to a healthcare provider immediately. Symptoms that may require you to go to hospital include shortness of breath and pain in your chest.

Self-isolation dos and don’ts

When self-isolating you must:

  • Stay at home, in your own room if possible.
  • Do not share a bed.
  • Limit contact with people, other than those you are self-isolating with.
  • Wash your hands frequently, with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before drying them with a clean single-use towel; or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Use a cloth face mask if you leave the room in which you are self-isolating, or if someone enters to, for example, bring you food.
  • If you do not have a mask, make one from clothing.
  • Make sure other people in the home wear a cloth mask.
  • Throw used tissues in a lined trash can and immediately wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Use your own toothbrush.
  • Use your own eating and drinking utensils.
  • Use your own towels, washcloths and bed linen.
  • Wash your clothing and dishes separately.
  • Minimise the time you spend in shared spaces, such as bathrooms, kitchens and sitting rooms and make sure everyone wears a mask, including you, at these times.
  • Keep shared spaces well ventilated.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces like kitchen benches and sink tops after you use them.
  • If you share a toilet or bathroom, clean and disinfect them every time you use them.
  • Use your own roll of toilet paper, hand towels, toothpaste and other supplies.
  • Take meals back to your room to eat.
  • Avoid contact with the elderly and people with co-morbidities.
  • Reduce contact with children, if possible.

When self-isolating, you must not:

  • Leave your home.
  • Use public transport.
  • Visit any public place.
  • Have visitors come to your home.
  • Share food or drink with anyone else.
  • Prepare food for others.

COVID-19 contact resources:

  • National Department of Health:
  • National Institute for Communicable Diseases:
  • COVID-19 Hotline Number: 0800 029 999
  • COVID-19 WhatsApp Number: 0600 12 3456
  • COVID-19 free website:
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