Government initiatives are calling on the public to understand the facts about COVID-19 transmission, being aware of screening facilities, as well as adhering to national programs and protocol. Hospitals are currently flooded with requests from panicking residents, people who are asymptomatic, have not been in touch with a suspected or confirmed infected individual, and/or who have no recent travel history.
UAE health guidelines emphasize calling COVID-19 hotlines and self-isolation, so as to avoid overwhelming the country’s medical infrastructure. In order to do so, understanding what steps to follow if you suspect you have symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed to COVID-19 is vital to flattening the curve.
What is the difference between self-quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing?
Social Distancing: Measures taken by the government which involve people staying at home with limited external movement to limit possible transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Any movement outside is restricted, and distance from other people should be maintained at all times. Refrain from intimate human actions such as shaking hands and hugging.
Self-Quarantine: If you have come in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, you have to stay at home for 14 days. If your home is not compatible with the standards of quarantine, you will be shifted to a quarantine hotel (a facility that works directly with hospitals) for 14 days.
Self-Isolation: If you start showing signs of COVID-19 but are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you have to isolate yourself within the home from other family members/ roommates.
*Note: UAE authorities enforce strict quarantine compliance, and you will be monitored through an electronic wristband, the Al Hosn app and/or the Stay Home app. This applies for both self-quarantine and self-isolation.
What are the steps for Self-Isolation?
Avoid Contact with Others
- Self-isolation means staying at home with minimum contact with people, especially with seniors and people with chronic medical conditions.
- If you have a garden, you can sit outside. But there should be no contact with anyone.
- If you are living with family or roommates, isolate yourself from the others in a separate room.
- Preferably choose a room with a window for self-isolation. Fresh air and sunlight play a major role in providing positive vibes.
- If you have to share a room, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Maintain a distance of 2 meters and make sure the room is well-ventilated (eg. windows).
- Always wear a face mask in common areas and/or in the presence of other people.
- Do not share anything including toothbrushes, towels, crockery, cutlery, sheets, pillows and blankets during self-isolation.
- Regularly disinfect common touch surfaces such as handrails and doorknobs.
- Assign one bathroom for the infected person. If this option is not available, disinfect all surfaces after every use. That includes sinks, faucets, countertops, toilet flush and door knobs.
- Designate one person in your home to be your caregiver. This person should not be elderly, having a chronic medical condition or at risk for severe illness.
Practice hand washing. Touching your eyes, nose and mouth as well as common surfaces and objects can spread the COVID-19 virus to other members of your household.
Hence, washing your hands regularly with soap and water is crucial even if you are in self-isolation. Make sure you dry your hands with a paper towel or with a cloth towel that no one else is using.
- Do not cough or sneeze into your hand.
- You can cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
- Throw the used tissues in a lined wastebasket and wash your hands with soap and water.
- During self-isolation, the wastebasket should preferably have a liner for safer waste disposal. Always wash your hands with soap and water after emptying the wastebasket.
Eating nutritious meals and having a balanced diet is a key part of recovery. Follow these simple rules for food preparation during self-isolation:
- Keep your home well-stocked with basic necessities and kitchen essentials.
- If you are using online delivery, have them leave the food at the door. Most deliveries in the UAE are contactless.
- If your friends are cooking for you, have them leave the food at the door.
- If your family or roommates are cooking for you, have them leave the food outside your room.
- If you are cooking your food, make sure no one else is in the kitchen. Take the food back with you to your room.
- Avoid using a launderette/ laundromat/external laundry during self-isolation.
- Wear disposable gloves when touching dirty laundry, and wash hands with soap and water afterwards.
- Dirty laundry from an infected person can be washed with other people’s laundry.
- All washing must be done above 60 degrees celsius.
- Don’t forget to clean and disinfect clothes hampers. Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.
While a small number of pets have been reported to be infected, these cases are mostly of pets who had interacted with people infected with COVID-19. There is no significant evidence of animals transmitting the virus to humans, and the risk is considered low.
Regardless, people in self-isolation should have minimum contact with pets. If you must care for your pet, take the following precautions:
- Wear a face mask.
- Wash your hands before and after touching your pets.
One of the crucial steps of self-isolation is to avoid public facilities. That includes public transportation like metros, buses, taxis and ride-sharing. This prevents the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Designate a member of your household to run errands and other non-essential work. This person should not be elderly, having a chronic medical condition or at risk for severe illness.