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SES COVID-19 FAQ
COVID-19 TESTING AND TREATMENT PROTOCOLS IN ZAMBIA
SES COVID-19-related questions and answers for our Zambian members.
Updated January 2021
WHAT IS A NOVEL CORONAVIRUS?
A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
Why is the disease being called coronavirus. disease 2019, COVID-19?
On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.
How does the virus spread?
- The virus that causes COVID-19 most commonly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet, or 2 arm’s lengths).
- It spreads through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes.
- These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways, and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- Droplets can also land on surfaces and objects and be transferred by touch. A person may get COVID-19 by touching the surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.
- COVID-19 is spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in many affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
WHERE CAN I GET A COVID-19 TEST?
All suspected COVID-19 cases are required, by law, to be reported to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI).The MOH is currently performing tests free of charge. These tests are run centrally in Lusaka.
Medlands Hospital, CIDRZ Laboratory, Lancet Laboratory, and Victoria Hospital are also performing COVID-19 tests; please note that these facilities are charging fees for testing.
WILL SES PAY FOR MY COVID-19 TEST?
This a question with different answers, depending on the circumstances and the reasons why you may need a COVID-19 test.
These are the circumstances in which SES will pay for a test:
- Symptomatic for COVID-19. If you, our member, or any of your dependents, are showing COVID-19 symptoms, your test will be covered by SES if requested by a registered doctor.
- In-patient procedure. If you, our member, or any of your dependents, have been admitted to a medical facility and require a COVID-19 test prior to a medical procedure, your test will be covered by SES.
These are the circumstances in which SES will not pay for a test:
- SES will not pay for a COVID-19 test for travelling/visa purposes.
- Contact tracing. SES will not pay for a COVID-19 test if done as a precautionary measure where the member has been in contact with someone who has tested positive and is not symptomatic.
- Elective/out-patient procedure appointment. SES will not pay for a COVID-19 test if it is required by a medical facility prior to an elective or out-patient procedure or appointment. If a member chooses to go to a facility requiring a COVID-19 testing prior to an elective or out-patient procedure or appointment, the cost of the test will be the responsibility of the member and will not be reimbursed by SES.
IF YOU THINK YOU NEED A TEST, PLEASE USE THIS ONLINE TOOL TO ASSESS YOUR SYMPTOMS AND RISK PROFILE:
If you are an SES member and you think you qualify for a test, stay at home and wear a mask. Contact our dedicated SES COVID-19 Hotline and a medic will advise you on what next steps to take. Call +260 76 203 1802 if it’s an emergency, or if it’s not urgent, please send a WhatsApp to that number with your name and membership number and we will call you back.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TYPES OF TESTS AVAILABLE?
Nose and Throat swabs are PCR tests that test for the virus in your respiratory tract. These are the gold standard in COVID testing. However, there is a chance of a false negative (2 – 29%). Rates of false positives are extremely low.
Two types of “rapid test” are available. A drop of blood is used for this test, like a rapid malaria test.
The Antigen Rapid test is available in MOH and some Private clinics. It is testing for the Virus Antigen in your blood. It is a useful mass screening tool but is not as accurate as the PCR test (above).
The second rapid test is an Antibody test. (IgG and IgM). This test is looking for your anti-bodies (immune reaction) to the virus. This test is not helpful in diagnosis but may give you an idea if you have already been exposed to COVID.
CAN SOMEONE TEST NEGATIVE AND THEN POSITIVE ON A VIRAL TEST FOR COVID-19?
Yes, it is possible. You may test negative if the sample was collected early in your infection and test positive later during this illness. You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and get infected then. Even if you test negative, you still should take steps to protect yourself and others. See Testing for Current Infection for more information.
Remember there are high rates of False negative tests even with PCR testing, this is the reason we advise that you continue to isolate if you have any symptoms even if you have a negative test result.
I AM NOT FEELING WELL. SHOULD I SELF-ISOLATE? WHICH SYMPTOMS WARRANT SELF-ISOLATION?
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you are in doubt, please self-isolate. You may be positive for COVID-19 and displaying mild symptoms. By staying at home and self-isolating, you are aiding your recovery and reducing the risk of potentially spreading the infection to others, thus protecting the vulnerable citizens in our society. If you have to go out for essential medical appointments, please use a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands regularly with water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
If you are an SES member, contact our dedicated SES COVID-19 Hotline and a medic will advise you on what next steps to take. Call +260 76 203 1802 if it’s an emergency, or if it’s not urgent, please send a WhatsApp to that number with your name and membership number and we will call you back.
WHAT DOES SELF-ISOLATION MEAN?
Self-isolation is when you and your whole household stay at home and limit contact with others. You can, of course, continue to work and study at home if you are well enough to do so.
I HAVE BEEN SELF-ISOLATING AT HOME. WHEN IS IT FINE TO STOP SELF-ISOLATING?
If you have been unwell, you should stay at home and self-isolate until you are well. By well, that means that at least 14 days should have passed from when your symptoms started and at least 24 hours should have passed with no fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving.
If you are self-isolating due to having had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, you need to stay at home for at least 14 days from the last contact you had some a confirmed COVID-19 case.
If you are self-isolating due to travelling, please follow the relevant country guidelines for your destination.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19?
- If a patient tests positive for COVID-19 and they require medical treatment and/or support, they will be taken to and treated at a MOH-designated isolation facility. At this time, no private facilities have been designated as COVID-19 isolation facilities. In the case of our members, SES will help in all ways possible in terms of liaising with local authorities. SES will also, with the authorities’ permission, provide medication, consumables, equipment and our hands-on clinical expertise.
- If a person is admitted at an isolation centre, SES insurance will cover all of the costs associated with treatment in line with the member’s level of cover.
- We anticipate that private resources will be mobilised too, but this will be under the directive of the MOH.
- If a patient tests positive for COVID-19 and does not require medical treatment and/or support, they can stay home and self-isolate. If the patient is a member, we will do remote check-ins, advise on the appropriate treatment of their symptoms and prescribe medication if necessary.
HOW CAN I MANAGE MILD COVID-19 AT HOME?
- This downloadable guide can assist you in keeping track of your symptoms. It also gives and advice on when further tests and/or treatment may be needed:
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SYMPTOMS ARE SEVERE?
If you’re displaying any of the emergency warning signs for COVID-19 (below), please get medical attention immediately. You can call SES on 737.
Emergency warning signs include:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
If you’re displaying mild cold symptoms (such as a runny nose, sore throat, a mild cough, and no fever), please send a WhatsApp to our dedicated SES COVID-19 Hotline with your name and membership number and we will call you back.
WHO IS AT HIGHER RISK OF SEVERE COVID-19 SYMPTOMS AND WHAT SHOULD THEY DO TO LIMIT THIS RISK?
Elderly patients, as well as those with uncontrolled underlying health problems such as COPD, Severe Asthma, Diabetes, Hypertension, HIV or other causes of immune suppression are at risk of more severe symptoms.
We strongly encourage anyone in this category to practice self-isolation with their entire household.
Please WhatsApp our dedicated COVID-19 Hotline +260 76 203 1802 if we have not contacted you yet. We will contact you to establish the following:
- Whether you have enough supply of your chronic medication. If you do not, we will work to access the medication you require.
- Whether your condition is optimally controlled. If it is not, we encourage a face-to-face clinic appointment to optimize your management.
I HAVE BEEN IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WITH COVID-19, WHAT MUST I DO?
You need to self-isolate at home for 14 days. Please see the self-isolation section for further information. Please also call 909 to inform the MOH as they are carrying out contact tracing.
CAN SOMEONE GET COVID-19 MORE THAN ONCE?
Yes, current literature supports the fact that it is unlikely that you will get it within 3 months of a previous infection, but there is a small chance that your immunity will decrease after the three months, putting you at risk again.
DO I HAVE TO WEAR A MASK? (WHEN OUT IN PUBLIC AND/OR WHEN ENTERING A SES CLINIC?)
The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) recommend that everyone aged 2 years and older wear a cloth face mask or covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and who do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to wear cloth face coverings in public settings and to practise social distancing (this means standing at least 2 metres away from other people, especially in enclosed spaces).
PLEASE NOTE THAT NO ONE (STAFF, PATIENT, OR VISITORS) WILL BE PERMITTED TO ENTER ANY SES PREMISES UNLESS THEY ARE WEARING A MASK.
For more information on when and why it’s advisable to wear a face mask or covering, please consult this link from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html.
CAN SES PROVIDE MEMBERS WITH MASKS?
Unfortunately not. We need to keep our masks to protect our clinic staff and for sick patients entering the clinic.
WILL SES BE ABLE TO EVACUATE ME IF I GET COVID-19?
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 and require a domestic evacuation, we endeavour to get permission from the MOH and ZNPHI for the transfer.
Please note that, as per all previous epidemics and the new SI’s in place, all suspected COVID-19 cases are required by law to be managed by MOH and ZNPHI.
Should a member of ours require international evacuation, we will try our utmost to get clearance from the relevant authorities in both Zambia and South Africa, but the ultimate decision will lie with these government bodies.
WILL SES BE ABLE TO EVACUATE ME FOR A CONDITION NOT RELATED TO COVID-19?
At this time, domestic medivacs will continue.
Patients will be brought to Lusaka for treatment. Should a member of ours require international evacuation we will try our utmost to get clearance from the relevant authorities in both Zambia and South Africa, but the ultimate decision will lie with these government bodies.
WHAT IS SES DOING TO HELP MEMBERS DURING THIS PANDEMIC?
- We’re keeping our members up to date with information as we receive it via frequent newsletters and social media posts.
- We’re offering our members direct access to telephonic advice from our experienced medics. For this we’ve set up an SES dedicated COVID-19 Hotline: +260 76 203 1802. Members can call the number for emergencies and WhatsApp the number for non-urgent queries.
- We’re offering Chronic Disease Management for all members who are at a higher risk of serious symptoms. We’re doing everything within our power to ensure that all members on chronic medication have adequate supplies.
- Our SES Clinics and ambulance services are still open and available to service our members for suspected COVID-19 cases (via separate entrances, waiting areas and consulting rooms), as well as other illnesses and injuries.
- We’re offering telephonic consults at the clinics to limit face-to-face contact
- Gold members will have access to free consultations at our SES Clinics during the pandemic.
- Gold and Silver changes to benefits during this pandemic (please see the related section below).
- Should a member contract COVID-19 and require transfer or admission, our SES medics will liaise with District Health Doctors to optimise their care.
- Should a member contract COVID-19 and be well enough to stay at home, SES will do remote check-ins, advise on appropriate treatment of symptoms and prescribe medication if necessary.
I NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR OR NURSE FOR AN ISSUE UNRELATED TO COVID-19, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
- Please call your chosen facility first.
- At SES Clinics we are using a telephonic triage system to determine the best way forward depending on your current needs and your underlying health risks.
- We are conducting as many appointments as possible over the phone to protect our members and patients
- If your request is non-urgent but must be done face-to-face (for example routine wellness check-ups) we may recommend that you wait until the worst COVID peak is over.
WILL I BE COVERED ON MY GOLD OR SILVER COVER IN ZAMBIA DURING THIS PANDEMIC?
SES will be extending in-country benefits to Gold and Silver members, who will be fully covered in Zambia for acute life and limb threatening conditions that are unrelated to the Coronavirus if we are unable to evacuate the member during the COVID-19 outbreak due to closure of borders and international airspace. This means that SES will cover emergency response, emergency hospitalization and treatment until the member has been discharged.
Gold members can be attended to at the SES Clinics in Lusaka and Kitwe, free of charge for consultations. Medications and specialist treatment will need to be paid by the member on a fee-for-service basis.
Official notice will be sent out to all Gold and Silver members to inform members when the restrictions on international evacuations have been lifted and when SES can return to business-as-usual.
WHAT SHOULD I STOCK IN MY HOME FIRST AID BOX WITH AND WILL THIS BE COVERED BY SES?
Medications to have at home:
- Paracetamol tablets
- Calpol Syrup for Children
- Regular cold and flu medications (e.g. Coldrid)
- ACC 200 or other mucolytic (breaks up thick sputum)
- Any chronic medications (ensure you have an adequate supply)
HOW SHOULD I CLEAN/DISINFECT AT HOME?
It’s advisable to use a bleach/Jik solution for ‘high touch areas’ and wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Please browse the following CDC article for further information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html.
WHEN WILL THIS CURRENT SPIKE END?
We anticipate this spike to start to taper off in late March 2021, with a possible 2nd spike in July / August 2021.
HOW CAN I HELP TO END THIS SPIKE?
- We urge all of our members and patients to exercise self-responsibility. The level of panic and reduction in social gatherings we saw in March 2020 is what we need to see again now.
- Please stay at home as much as you can. Work from home if possible.
- Avoid social and religious gatherings
- Mask up when in public. Assume that anyone you meet may be an asymptomatic carrier or pre-symptomatic
- Educate your friends, family, and staff.
CAN SES PROVIDE ME WITH A COVID-19 VACCINATION?
The COVID-19 vaccine is currently unavailable in Zambia. As soon as it becomes available in the private sector SES will roll it out to our members in a systematic manner, with the highest risk members (elderly or underlying health conditions) first.
TIPS FOR STAYING INFORMED AND COPING WITH THE STRESS OF THE PANDEMIC
- Avoid social media account disseminating false news and scare mongering
- Do not disseminate false news yourself. Follow government bodies and health authorities for accurate, up-to-date information.
- Embrace the positives of quality time at home with family and connecting virtually with friends and family.
- Develop healthy routines at home, following an adequate exercise regime and eating a healthy, balanced diet with as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and if you smoke try to decrease or stop totally.
Browse these World Health Organization and CDC resources for more information:
SES is PACRA registered. SES is licensed to sell insurance policies through the Pensions and Insurance Authority (PIA) License Number: 1072. SES is registered with the Health Professions Council of Zambia (HPCZ) for Medical Services and Clinical operations.