What to do if you’ve been diagnosed


To help contain the spread of COVID-19, we need to take proactive steps to prepare for an illness in the home. Here are practical guidelines on what to do if you get sick with COVID-19, basic supplies you’ll need, and how you can ready your house.

So far in our series of articles on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we have given you information on understanding the disease and its symptoms, preventive measures you can take and how to care for others if they get sick with COVID-19.

But what if it’s you? What if you have difficulty breathing, a cough and fever that worsens over time?

If you are feeling very ill and need care immediately:

  • Call emergency services the emergency department at your nearest healthcare facility.
  • Tell the emergency services or emergency department telephonically before your arrival that you have, suspect you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19.
  • Put on a face mask before you enter the emergency transport or healthcare facility.

Discovery Health’s Head of the Centre for Clinical Excellence, Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, says, “If your symptoms are mild, your condition can be safely managed in the home environment under your doctor’s guidance without requiring hospitalisation.”

What to do if you are sick with COVID-19

There is currently no approved treatment for COVID-19. The treatment we do have is supportive, targeted at alleviating symptoms and preventing the virus from spreading to others. Clinical trials are underway all over the world to try and find safe and effective treatments for COVID-19. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like COVID-19, and can only be used to treat secondary bacterial infections.

So, what can you do?

“Protect your family members by staying in a specific room and away from other people in your home, completely isolating yourself from them. Use a well-ventilated room,” Dr Nematswerani says.

“Do not share a bathroom (where feasible), eating utensils and other personal items like towels and bedding with other people in your household,” she adds.

What you will need at home

Here are a few things you can do to get your home ready in case you or a family member contracts the virus.

  • You will need soap and running water to use for regular handwashing. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser with 60% to 70% alcohol content.
  • A working thermometer to monitor your body temperature. Over 37.5 degrees Celsius is considered a fever.
  • Prepare your meals beforehand, such as soups and stews that you can freeze for later. Visit the Vitality Home-Cooking Channel for advice on how to eat healthily while staying home.
  • Make sure you have enough clear liquids to drink, like herbal tea or apple juice, but remember, water remains the best way to stay hydrated.
  • Medicine to alleviate any symptoms, such as paracetamol for managing a fever. Consult a doctor online to make sure you get the medicine that’s right for you.
  • A box of tissues and a lined bin for safe and easy disposal of used tissues. Use your tissues to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. There is no need to stock up on toilet paper as online shopping services are remaining open for you to replenish your basic supplies.
  • A box of latex disposable gloves and face masks. Please remember to wear your mask at all times when you are around your family to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • If you have a chronic condition, you can still pre-order your chronic medicine and get family to collect on your behalf. You can also get your medicine delivered at home.
  • Cleaning supplies, disinfectants, cleaning gloves and bin liners. Clean all surfaces that are touched often, like counters, tabletops and doorknobs. Use household cleaning sprays or wipes according to the label instructions.

Do I have medical scheme cover for my COVID-19 test?

All confirmed cases of COVID-19 are covered in accordance with Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB) regulations in line with the current National Institute of Communicable Diseases/ National Department of Health guidelines.

Cover will include:

  • Doctor consultations
  • All clinically appropriate diagnostic tests including the viral polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test
  • All clinically appropriate medicine
  • Costs of hospitalisation, including for all complications and rehabilitation

Reach out if you need help

While we are staying home to help contain the spread of COVID-19, we need to stay connected to stay informed, stay positive, and reduce the stigma around the virus.

We can also look to people who are dealing with the disease for inspiration, like Gary Sweidan, one of the first South Africans to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Read his inspiring story where he shares his journey from feeling a little ill to going into self-isolation.

If, at any point, you need to speak to someone who can help you deal with feelings of anxiety or depression, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group offers a helpline dedicated to Discovery clients: Call them toll-free on 0800 01 02 03.

All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to protect and empower all South Africans by promoting a better understanding of COVID-19.

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