In isolation, President Cyril Ramaphosa is supposed to have his own roll of toilet paper

Business Insider SA
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: GCIS
  • In terms of government guidance, President Cyril Ramaphosa is now supposed to have a personal roll of toilet paper.
  • He also shouldn't answer the door, even for someone carrying very sensitive documents.
  • By 8 November his chances of developing Covid-19 reduce sharply – though he won't be absolutely in the clear until late in the month.
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President Cyril Ramaphosa is in self-isolation, his office announced on Wednesday morning, after a guest he had attended a dinner with on Saturday tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday.

The guest started showing symptoms on Sunday, the Presidency said, after the 35-person fundraising event for the Adopt-a-School Foundation, a "partner entity" of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation.

"The event adhered stringently to Covid-19 protocols and directives on screening, social distancing and the wearing of masks. As was the case with all guests, the President himself removed his mask only when dining and addressing the guests," the Presidency said in statement.

"The President is showing no symptoms at this time and will, in line with Covid-19 health advice, be tested should symptoms manifest. 

"The President will perform his duties remotely and will observe the guidelines that apply to self-quarantine."

Here is what it means for President Cyril Ramaphosa to be in self-isolation.

Ramaphosa is supposed to stay in his own room as much as possible, and use his own roll of toilet paper

Government's educational messages on self-isolation, including for those who have not yet tested positive for the coronavirus, sets strict rules to avoid the spread of the virus within a home. These include:

  • Stay at home, in your own room if possible.
  • Minimise the time you spend in shared spaces, such as bathrooms, kitchens and sitting rooms and make sure everyone wears a mask, including you, at these times.
  • Take meals back to your room to eat.
  • Use your own roll of toilet paper, hand towels, toothpaste and other supplies.

He should not personally accept deliveries – even of very sensitive documents – or have visitors, even for critical meetings

According to government guidelines, those in self-isolation should limit their contact with others as much as possible, ideally to the extent of having just one caregiver they come into contact with.

That means ordinary people should not open the door for deliveries, if they can at all help it – and presidents shouldn't accept hand-to-hand transfer of very sensitive documents, or see anyone in person even for the most delicate of meetings.

Only on 8 November will Ramaphosa be considered at close to zero risk of getting Covid-19 – though new evidence suggests he could still develop it until nearly end November

The generally accepted median incubation rate for Covid-19 is between four and six days, which means that the President becomes a lot less likely to have the disease by the end of this weekend. But the accepted range of incubation is one to 14 days, which makes 8 November the all-clear date – for now.

New work, including one pre-print article not yet peer reviewed, seems to back up reports of incubation periods of more than a month. Though the data is limited, some scientists will be worried about Ramaphosa until later in November.

Ramaphosa won't have to test negative for the coronavirus before ending his self-isolation

South Africa's government advisors have signed off on a time-based end to self-isolation based on two sets of studies. One set showed that people with the coronavirus are no longer infectious within seven to nine days after the first onset of symptoms. The other set showed that people with Covid-19 may continue to show as positive, on PCR tests, for more than two weeks, even though there is zero evidence of viable virus.

"The virus may remain detectable for over weeks or even months, but a detectable virus does not equate to an infectious virus, and thus PCR is not the recommended modality to establish infectivity," a ministerial advisory committee told government in July.

As a matter of policy, South Africa prefers to have testing resources applied where they are really necessary, rather than using tests to determine if someone who has served their time can be let out of quarantine or self-isolation.

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