Fear and anxiety are inevitable as South Africans grapple with the realities of the coronavirus. Not only are people worried about their own health, but the safety of loved ones is a great concern.
Daily, we are bombarded with warnings and information, locally and internationally, and it’s safe to say we are already overwhelmed by the overload.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national state of disaster, the closing of schools and tertiary institutions, travel bans and rising infection numbers have South Africans in a tailspin, driven by panic to stockpile like the apocalypse is nigh.
However, to protect yourself and your family, a cool head is needed, say the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation, which are trying hard to raise more awareness of how to self-quarantine, and give guidance on social distancing and how to protect from infection.
Here are some suggestions that you should keep in mind.
1. Take breaks
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Try to avoid creating unnecessary panic and fear.
2. Have a plan
Talk with people who need to be included in your plan. Meet with household members, other relatives and friends to discuss what to do if a covid-19 outbreak occurs in your community and what the needs of each person will be.
Every time you go to the shops, ask your neighbours if you can fetch them anything. Consider cooking meals for the vulnerable to keep in their freezer. Do not stockpile or engage in panic buying.
There are grocery shops that have online shopping options. Set up an account and help others to do the same. Make sure that the store delivers in your area.
Children base their responses on those of the adults in their lives. Be aware of your own reactions and fears. Children notice our anxiety through verbal and non-verbal cues. Model healthy self-care by continuing to exercise, get adequate sleep and eat a nutritious diet.
Get to know your neighbours. Talk with them about emergency planning. If your neighbourhood has a website or social media page, consider joining it to maintain access to neighbours, information and resources.
7. Emergency contact
Create an emergency contact list. Ensure your household has a current list of emergency contacts for family, friends, neighbours, health- care providers, employers, the local public health department and other community resources.
8. Social distancing
Stay home as much as possible. Keep away from crowds of people to reduce your risk of infection. Cut back on face-to-face contact.
9. Be responsible
Stay home if you are sick. Stay home if you have covid-19 symptoms. If a member of your household is sick, stay home from work to avoid spreading the virus.
10. Stay in touch
Stay in touch with others by phone or e-mail. If you live alone and become sick during the outbreak, you may need help.
If you have a chronic medical condition and live alone, ask family, friends and health-care providers to check on you. Stay in touch with family and friends with chronic medical conditions. It’s important to note that if you recently travelled or have common signs of infection, that include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Phone the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on 0800029999 for directions on where to be tested. You can also use the official WhatsApp platform for information and advice, by sending “hi” to 0600123456.