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COVID-19 – Isolation and Quarantine

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving disease. Information may change as management of this disease develops and improves. Medinformer aims to bring you up-to-date information from verified sources.
Last revised: 27 June 2021.


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What is Isolation?

Isolation, or self-isolation, refers to the time that you need to stay away from others after being diagnosed with COVID-19, to prevent spreading the disease.

This means not going out of your home, or allowing visitors into your home, for any reason, unless it is a medical emergency.

How do I isolate at home?

During this time, you should stay home for at least 10 days and, where possible:

  • Isolate within the home i.e., stay in one, well-ventilated, room and do not share rooms. Keep the door into the rest of the house closed.
  • Use one bathroom, that is not used by others.
  • Whenever possible, open windows and doors for good ventilation, while keeping the door of the bedroom in which the sick person is, closed.
  • Minimise all unnecessary contact with others.
  • Leave meals, medications and laundry at the door, to minimise contact.
  • Ensure that you always wear masks, correctly, and stay 2 m apart, when contact is unavoidable.
  • Strict handwashing and home hygiene protocols:
    • Have separate crockery and cutlery and wash well with soapy water.
    • Use separate towels/bedding and wash well with soapy water.

It is especially important that high-risk people – the elderly, those with co-morbidities – should stay away from a person with COVID-19.

What do I need to watch out for during isolation?

It is important that people who are self-isolating at home, and those caring for them, are aware of danger signs to watch for, which would require emergency medical care:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • Confusion, loss of speech or movement.
  • Inability to wake up or to stay awake.
  • Pale, grey, or blue-coloured skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

How long should isolation last?

People with COVID-19, whether it is asymptomatic or symptomatic, must isolate for at least ten (10) days.

For symptomatic patients, you can be around others if:

  • Ten (10) days have passed since symptoms first appeared AND
  • It has been at least 3 days without symptoms*.

*Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​.

How long should isolation last if I was severely ill with COVID-19?

People who are severely ill with COVID-19 might need to stay home longer than 10 days and up to 20 days after symptoms first appeared. This should be discussed with the treating doctor.

Must I get another COVID-19 test before coming out of isolation?

No, most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others, they should just go by the above recommendations.


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 What is Quarantine?

Quarantine refers to the time that you need to stay away from others after being in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 in case you also get it.

This means not going out of your home, or allowing visitors into your home, for any reason, unless it is a medical emergency.

Who is considered a close contact?

A close contact is defined as a person having:

  • Had face-to-face contact (less than 1 metre) with a confirmed COVID-19 case OR
  • Been in a closed space with a confirmed COVID-19 case for at least 15 minutes.

How long must I be in quarantine after being in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case?

You can end your home quarantine 10 days after your last contact with a person with COVID-19, if you have not developed any symptoms/been diagnosed with COVID-19during the quarantine period.

Should I be tested for COVID-19 before coming out of quarantine?

No laboratory tests will be done at any time during your home quarantine period unless you develop symptoms.

For medical advice or further information,
please consult your healthcare provider.

24-hour COVID-19 Hotline number: 0800 029 999.

Medical References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When can you be around others after you’ve had or likely had COVID-19? (Updated 2021 March 12) Available at: Accessed 2021 June 27.
  2. National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). COVID-19 and returning to work frequently asked questions. Available at: covid-19-and-returning-back-to-work-frequently-asked-questions/. Accessed 2021 June 27.
  3. Knowledge Translation Unit, University of Cape Town. Information and advice for the home: COVID-19 at home. PACK 2021. Available at: file:///C:/Users/shiny/Downloads/PACK-Home-Volume-2-COVID-19-at-home-2021-05-21.pdf. Accessed 2021 June 27.
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