FAQs about Covid-19 and lockdown

24 March 2020 - 17:06
By Claire Keeton
Unless you have Covid-19 or are working on the frontline, like doctors and nurses, you do not need to wear a mask
Image: Esa Alexander Unless you have Covid-19 or are working on the frontline, like doctors and nurses, you do not need to wear a mask

Here are 10 key questions about life under the impending lockdown:

1. Must I test for coronavirus if I am coughing and have a sore throat?

If you have the common symptoms of Covid-19 (sore throat, coughing, fever and shortness of breath) and if you have had a potentially high-risk exposure (for example, an international flight), then yes — you must have a coronavirus test.

But if you have no symptoms, you do not yet need to test. The testing criteria could change by next week.

2. What is the coronavirus test like?

The test involves a swab down the back of your throat and your nose, and it is uncomfortable. A doctor advises people to try not to move their heads during the test, to limit the watering of their eyes with the nasopharyngeal swab and a possible slight gag with the throat swab.

3. Can I visit elderly relatives who need help during lockdown?

No visiting will be allowed under lockdown, but old-age homes will get the food and support they need, along with children’s homes and youth homes, the social cluster promised on Tuesday. Social workers will be listed under essential services, as will others working in social services.

4. What happens if I break the rules during lockdown — for example, driving on the freeway without a valid reason?

You could be punished, with a fine or up to one month in prison.

5. Can I drink alcohol during the lockdown?

Drinking alcohol is discouraged because it lowers the immune system. Bottle stores and shebeens will be closed during lockdown.

What you can do under full lockdown
Image: Supplied What you can do under full lockdown

6. When must I wear a mask?

You need to wear a mask only if (a) you are a health care worker or you work on the front line, where you may be at high-risk of infection, or (b) you have the coronavirus, to stop spreading infection to others. If needed, cloth or material masks are better than no barrier. Do not buy or wear masks if you do not need them — because other people do!

7. When must I wear gloves?

Gloves are needed only in clinical health settings, by health care workers. Otherwise you get a false sense of security and typically don’t wash hands in gloves as much as bare hands. If you are wearing gloves, wash or sanitise your hands with gloves on them.

The following questions can only be answered on Wednesday by the security cluster briefing, but the examples of other countries may give an indication of what’s coming.

8. How do I prove to police or army that I have a valid reason to be out during lockdown?

What’s known is that buying groceries and petrol, getting social grants, banking and seeking medical care are allowed during lockdown — one person at a time, keeping the required distance.

The security cluster is expected to give details on what (if any) documents will be proof of a valid reason to be on the road or outside.

In France, people are allowed to carry a sworn statement (downloaded from a government ministry) about their “essential reasons” for leaving home. Tradespeople like electricians and plumbers are allowed to do house calls to fix urgent problems like leaks.

9. Can I drive my minor child to be with his mother or father if we share joint custody?

If SA follows the guidelines of countries like France and Spain, shared parenting may be possible with the appropriate documents.

10. Can I walk my dog in a remote or secluded spot, or go for a solo hike, walk or run?

Everybody must stay indoors, unless they work in essential services. Outdoor exercise is not considered an essential activity so try indoor options instead, such as skipping, weights, yoga and dancing.

Until the security cluster briefing, there are no details on dog-walking, but some countries, like France, have allowed people to walk alone with their dogs in their immediate neighbourhoods.