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COVID-19: Everything You Need to Know

15 March 2020
Get all the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak in one place.
covid 19 WHO

This article was updated on 28 March 2020.


  • ALERT: There is currently a nationwide lockdown in place. You can access the Disaster Management Act, which contains all regulations pertaining to the lockdown, here.

  • Click here to download a simple graphic detailing the lockdown basics.


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been a hot topic in recent months as this new virus spreads across various parts of the world. First detected in Wuhan in Hubei Province, China in December 2019, the pneumonia outbreak has authorities and medical researchers working tirelessly to firstly understand the virus better and, secondly, develop a cure and vaccine.


For the latest verified information on COVID-19, keep an eye on the Department of Health, World Health Organisation and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ websites.

Government has also launched an online portal which is regularly updated with all the latest announcements and data. These announcements can also be accessed via WhatsApp. Simply add +27 060 012 3456 and type “Hi” to start the chat.

If you have any concerns or questions you can call the NICD’s dedicated Covid-19 hotline (see numbers below). If you suspect you may have been infected, don't leave home as you could further the spread of the virus. Rather phone the NICD or your doctor for guidance on what to do next. The Department of Health has also provided a helpful guide on proper self-isolation practices and what to expect.

0800 029 999

0800 111 131

0800 111 132



COVID-19 forms part of the coronavirus family. Coronaviruses are common throughout the world and mostly found in animals. However, in rare instances a coronavirus can lead to human infections, primarily resulting in cold- or flu-like symptoms. In instances where an animal coronavirus infects humans, we refer to it as a novel (new) coronavirus. In the case of COVID-19, virologists have found that the coronavirus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (or SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for COVID-19.

  • SARS-CoV-2 – the name of the virus that causes COVID-19
  • COVID-19 – The name of the diseases caused by SARS-CoV-2



The novel coronavirus doesn’t have any distinct symptoms that set it apart from the average flu. The World Health Organisation has advised persons who develop the below symptoms, and believe they could’ve been in contact with an infected person, to rather seek medical care early and undergo lab tests. These individuals are also required to self-isolate until testing has been concluded and persons have been give the all-clear.

Symptoms can present themselves as early as 2 days and as late as 14 days after infection.

Early Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties

More Severe Cases

  • Pneumonia
  • Kidney Failure

Unfortunately, with experts only now beginning to grasp the intricacies of COVID-19, a lot of false information has been shared far and wide across social platforms. We take a look at some of the biggest myths and give you the facts.


There is currently no vaccine. Experts urge people to wash their hands with regular soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, sneezing, coughing or before handling food. If you want to take extra precautions, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with an alcohol content of no less than 60%.

The South African government has also declared a state of disaster and has advised citizens to exercise social distancing. This requires individuals to not attend events, to work from home when possible and to keep social interactions to a minimum. For more info on various regulations and protocols, you can visit the official COVID-19 portal.

MYTH: High doses of vitamin C will protect you

There is currently no scientific evidence that any alternative medicines and supplements could prevent or cure COVID-19. In fact, taking high doses of vitamins could lead to kidney and liver problems. Consult your doctor before taking any medication or supplements.

MYTH: Everyone needs to wear a mask

Wearing a mask is only effective when a person is already infected or immunocompromised. The WHO also advises individuals who work with infected patients, such as medical staff and hospital staff, to wear a mask.

MYTH: There is a vaccine and/or cure

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) there is currently no vaccine or cure for COVID-19. Researchers from various countries are still working to develop a vaccine and, should they be successful, could take several months before it’s made available to the public.

MYTH: Current flu and pneumonia vaccines will protect you

Again, there are no known vaccines that will prevent COVID-19 infection. Authorities urge people to continue practicing basic hygiene by washing hands regularly with soap, staying home when you are sick and holding your hand(s) in front of your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.

MYTH: Pets can get infected and spread COVID-19

There is no evidence that pets can get infected with the novel coronavirus. The WHO still reminds people to continue washing their hands after contact with pets.

MYTH: Saline nasal rinses and mouthwash will stave off the infection

While saline rinses and mouthwash do have antimicrobial properties, these won’t do much in terms of preventing a COVID-19 infection.

MYTH: Items mailed from China could be infected

It’s still safe to accept packages from China. The novel coronavirus is fragile outside of the human body and won’t survive long on packages or other objects.

MYTH: Only the elderly get infected

People of all ages are vulnerable to infection. However, elderly and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart diseases or immunodeficiency will experience harsher symptoms.

MYTH: Antibiotics are effective in treating COVID-19

Antibiotics are only effective in treating bacterial infections, and Covid-19 is a viral infection. Infected individuals are currently given antibiotics for other bacterial co-infections that might develop along with COVID-19. Doctors are also administering oxygen to patients experiencing breathing difficulties.

MYTH: COVID-19 is spread from animal meat

While researchers believe the virus originated from an animal (either bats or snakes), the virus is only spread through coming into contact with respiratory droplets as a result of coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread through saliva and nasal discharge, while early research also shows a possible link to faecal matter.


Watch our previous stories on the COVID-19 outbreak below.

Coronavirus: Testing South Africa’s Readiness

Counting the Costs of COVID-19

South Africa’s Growing COVID-19 Numbers

Sources: The World Health Organisation | Lancet | National Institute for Communicable Diseases | Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention