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8 Covid-19 terms you need to know

20 March 2020 - 06:08 By Cebelihle Bhengu
In the past two weeks over 100 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in SA.
In the past two weeks over 100 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in SA.
Image: Jozef Polc/123rf.com

Thousands of people about the world have died due to Covid-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. The city of Wuhan, in China, was the first to be hit by the virus in December 2019, making it the initial epicentre.

The coronavirus hit SA two weeks ago and there are now 150 cases of individuals who have been diagnosed with Covid-19. In most of these cases, the people had travelled to countries such as Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the US.

The department of health, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are regularly raising awareness on how people can protect themselves from the virus, with terms like “self-quarantine” and “social distancing” dominating reports.

Here are eight Covid-19-related terms you must know:


This the term for the disease caused by the coronavirus. It was first reported in China in December 2019, hence its name Covid-19 (coronavirus disease of 2019). It is a pneumonia of an unknown cause, according to the WHO.


This is the family name of viruses that cause a number of diseases, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars-CoV), according to the NICD.


This term is used to describe a new disease whose spread has affected a large number of people across a whole country, continent or even the whole world. The WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, saying the term should not be used lightly as doing so can cause fear and loss of hope among those affected.

Social distancing

This means keeping a distance from people when in social settings to slow or prevent the spread of the virus. The WHO encourages people to practice social distancing.


This means limiting people who may have been exposed to the virus from interacting with the general population. In SA, 114 locals were repatriated from Wuhan, China and are under quarantine in Limpopo for 21 days.

Close or direct contact

This term refers to a person who has been in proximity to an individual who had a positive diagnosis of Covid-19. The department of health tracks close or direct contacts with all new cases to minimise the spread of the virus.

Local transmission

This refers to a transmission of a disease between people who did not travel to countries identified as high risk. In SA, there are eight cases of local transmissions of Covid-19 by Wednesday, TimesLIVE reported.


Remaining indoors except to buy food or other essential items such as medication is known as self-isolation. Generally, this is a precautionary measure if you show coronavirus symptoms. If you live with people, everyone in the house should undergo self-isolation if they also show similar symptoms. Self-isolation generally lasts for a 14-day period.