Patient Resources

The World Health Organisation (WHO) was informed about a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown aetiology in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China on 31 December 2019. On the 7th of January 2020, a Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the causative virus by the Chinese authorities.

The Novel Coronavirus is formally named SARS-CoV-2. The disease caused by the virus is now referred to as COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of the novel Coronavirus infection?

A person infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus may have no symptoms, mild symptoms or severe symptoms. These symptoms typically develop around 5-7 days up to 14 days after being infected with the virus. A fever, cough, sore throat, and a flu-like illness are the most common initial symptoms of COVID-19.

What is the current COVID-19 case definition?

As of 9th April 2020, the current case definition that puts a person in the category of “at risk of COVID infection”, is someone who has recently travelled to a country where there is local transmission of the virus AND who has symptoms of an acute respiratory illness: cough, fever and a sore throat being the most common initial symptoms. A person at risk of infection should be tested for the infection and should also self-isolate at home to prevent the possible spread to others.

Persons with acute respiratory illness with a sudden onset of symptoms such as cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever [≥ 38°C (measured) or history of fever (subjective)] irrespective of admission status.


In the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms, met at least one of the following epidemiological


Were in close contact 1 with a confirmed 2 or probable 3 case of SARS-CoV-2 infection;


Had a history of travel outside of South Africa (highest risk to countries with local

transmission of the virus)


Worked in, or attended a health care facility where patients with SARS-CoV-2 infections were

being treated


Admitted with severe pneumonia of unknown aetiology or ARDS

1 Close contact: A person having had face-to-face contact or was in a closed environment with a COVID-19 case; this includes, amongst others, all persons living in the same household as a COVID-19 case and, people working closely in the same environment as a case. A healthcare worker or other person providing direct care for a COVID-19 case, while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment or PPE (e.g., gowns, gloves, NIOSH-certified disposable N95 respirator, eye protection). A contact in an aircraft sitting within two seats (in any direction) of the COVID-19 case, travel companions or persons providing care, and crew members serving in the section of the aircraft where the index case was seated.

2 Confirmed case: A person with laboratory confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 infection, irrespective of clinical signs

and symptoms.

3 Probable case: A PUI for whom testing for SARS-CoV-2 is inconclusive (the result of the test reported by the laboratory) or for whom testing was positive on a pan-coronavirus assay.

When should I be tested?

If you have travelled to an affected country or have had contact with a person with a suspected or confirmed COVID infection and you have a flu-like illness, then stay at home for 14 days– “Self Isolate” and get a COVID-19 laboratory test. If you are very sick then go to your local hospital’s casualty department as you may need to be admitted to hospital.

Why do we not test healthy people for COVID-19?

The current testing guidelines are developed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), and the South African Department of Health, in alignment with the World Health Organization protocols. Private laboratories that perform the test are legally required to follow these guidelines. As the situation evolves in South Africa, these guidelines will change and so will the testing protocols of the laboratories

There are a few reasons why testing of healthy people (i.e. with no symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and a flu-like illness) who may have been exposed to COVID-19 is not recommended.Click here to read more.

Where can I be tested for COVID-19?

Ampath has assigned a number of Ampath sites country-wide as designated COVID-19 collection centres. Some of these are drive-through type of collection facilities and some are temporary sites. The purpose of these is to give you easy access to a safe facility where you can been seen with minimal risk of spreading the infection to other patients. Please do not go to any laboratory located in a hospital unless you are very ill and need to be seen by a Doctor in the hospital’s casualty department.

Click here to view Ampath’s designated COVID-19 collection centres.

Do I need to have visited my Doctor to get a COVID-19 test?

Ideally yes, it is preferable to see your Doctor first if you are unwell to determine what is wrong with you and to see if you should be tested for COVID-19. However your Doctor may not have time to see you and in addition, visiting your Doctor’s room may put you, your Doctor and others at risk of spreading the infection. Should you not see your Doctor in person then you need to telephonically consult with your Doctor and inform him/her of your symptoms and that you are going to Ampath for a COVID-19 test. You will need to supply your Doctor’s name and contact details on the request form so that we can contact your Doctor should you test positive.

What do I need to bring with me when I come for a test?

If you come to an Ampath collection centre for a COVID test, please print out the required Contact Tracing Form and ask your doctor to complete it or you can fill in as much as you can before coming in for the test. Ampath is not able to perform the test unless you provide them with these completed forms. These forms can be accessed at this link.

What is the cost of the COVID-19 test?

There is now a single exit price of R850.00 incl. VAT in place for the PCR test which is the currently recommended test for diagnosing acute infections.

How long will the test take?

The COVID-19 test is a PCR test and the result will take about 24 hours to reach your Doctor. You can access your results via the Ampath Patient App. Click here to see how to obtain your results and register for electronic results.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

If you test positive for coronavirus, you will be contacted by your Doctor or laboratory to discuss your result and assist you with the next steps. You will also be contacted by the Department of Health who are required to ensure that you know what to do to limit spreading the infection to others and trace those who have had close contact with you.

If you are infected and have a mild or moderate infection, you must stay at home and self-isolate for at least 14 days since the start of your symptoms. In case of severe respiratory illness or with severe shortness of breath you need to see your Doctor or go to the nearest hospital’s casualty department.

  • Patients should stay in a specific room and use their own bathroom (if possible). Patients should avoid unnecessary travel and unnecessary contact with other people.
  • Where contact is unavoidable, the patient should wear a facemask, and maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (preferably 2 metres) from other people
  • Patients should clean their hands with soap and water frequently. Alcohol-based sanitizers may also be used, provided they contain at least 70% alcohol.
  • Patients should practice good cough and sneeze hygiene, by using a tissue, and then immediately discarding the tissue in a lined trash can, followed by washing hands immediately.
  • Patients should not have visitors in their home. Only those who live in their home should be allowed to stay.
  • At home, the patient should stay in a specific room and use his/her own bathroom (if possible). If they live in shared accommodation (university halls of residence or similar) with a communal kitchen, bathroom(s) and living area, they should stay in their room with the door closed, only coming out when necessary, wearing a facemask if they do so.
  • Patients should avoid sharing household items like dishes, cups, eating utensils and towels. After using any of these, the items should be thoroughly washed with soap and hot water.
  • All high-touch surfaces like table tops, counters, toilets, phones, computers, etc. should be appropriately and frequently cleaned. If patients need to wash laundry at home before the results are available, then they should wash all laundry at the highest temperature compatible for the fabric using laundry detergent. This should be above 60° C. If possible, they should tumble dry and iron using the highest setting compatible with the fabric. Disposable gloves and a plastic apron should be used when handling soiled materials if possible and all surfaces and the area around the washing machine should be cleaned. Laundry should not be taken to a laundrette. The patient should wash his/her hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling dirty laundry (remove gloves first if used).
  • Patients should know who to call if they develop any worsening symptoms, so that they can be safely reassessed.

What is meant by self-quarantine and self-isolation?

Self-quarantine for COVID-19 is recommended for individuals who have been directly exposed to the virus or who have travelled to areas where there are large numbers of people infected with the novel coronavirus. The purpose of self-quarantine is to order to prevent further transmission of the virus should you be infected.

Click here to read more.

Why are all these drastic measures necessary to contain the virus?

Globally, we are trying to “flatten the curve”, in other words, we want to prevent a sudden spike in the number of new cases in order to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. By doing this, we can avoid overloading the system, and ultimately reduce the number of people who become infected and who may develop a severe infection or who may die.

We can do this by keeping close human contact to the minimum (social distancing). Even though most patients will probably only have a mild disease or even be asymptomatic, they can pass on the virus to persons such as the elderly or those with chronic medical conditions who are at higher risk of developing a severe infection and needing hospitalisation.

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

The following simple measures will help protect you and your family from infection:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose
  • Wash your hand frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser (at least 60%)

Although wearing a mask has not been proven to prevent you from becoming infected, it is recommended that you wear a cloth mask to protect others should you be infected. Surgical and N95 masks are in limited supply and need to be reserved for healthcare workers to protect them from becoming infected from the patients they are managing

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

Preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus suggest that it may survive on surfaces for a few hours, possibly up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant or/ household cleaner to kill the virus. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

How can I explain the COVID-19 epidemic to my children?

Manuela Molina has created a short book to support and reassure children, under the age of 7, regarding COVID-19. Click here to read more.

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External Resources

  1. WHO - World Health Organisation
  2. NICD - National Institute for Communicable Diseases