Coronavirus advice from four Zimbabwean Physiotherapists

How to avoid catching and spreading Coronavirus (Covid-19)

  1. Wash hands often with soap for 20 seconds or more.
  2. Wash places people touch often, like door handles, toilet areas, light switches
  3. Cough or sneeze into your flexed elbow to prevent droplets going into the air. Then wash your clothing and arm.
  4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  5. Wear a mask or scarf around your nose and mouth in public places.
  6. Avoid touching people. Keep 2 meters away from people you do not live with.
  7. Separate the elderly (60+ years) and vulnerable (e.g. those with breathing, lung and heart problems, high blood pressure, TB and diabetes), from others wherever possible, especially from children. Help them feel connected to the community but at a distance.
  8. Help your immune system by sleeping and eating well: home ground maize, vegetables, eggs, fruit, edible berries and seeds rather than sugar or food from packets. Drink lots of plain water or tea. Exercise.
  9. Look after your lungs. Don’t smoke, cook food outside, avoid smoke from fires, spend time in the fresh air, keep windows and doors open.
  10. Help the elderly to do the above where necessary.

Caring for a sick person

  1. Isolation: keep the sick separated from all other people. Treat this virus like TB disease. When attending a sick person, you and they should cover your mouths and noses with a scarf. Afterwards, wash your hands, face and scarf with warm water and soap, and hang out your clothes in the sun. Keep their eating utensils separate. No visitors.
  2. Make sure the sick person and carers get good rest.
  3. Prepare boiled water for them. 2 litres per day is recommended. Remind them to drink each hour.
  4. Provide good nutritious food (see above), but don’t force the sick person to eat.
  5. For sore throat gargle with salty water several times a day.
  6. Keep body temperature comfortable.
  7. Paracetamol (also known as Panadol, Panado, and Calpol) is the only medicine they can take for this virus. See instructions and only give recommended dosage.
  8. Open windows/doors to allow fresh air circulation unless they get too cold.
  9. Breathing exercise: Breathe in deeply, hold the breath for 10 seconds (count slowly to 10), then very slowly breathe out, counting slowly to 10 again. Repeat 5 times.
  10. Any mucus coughed up must be spat into a tissue and burned, or cup to be washed out with soap and water and all contents buried.
  11. Keep moving, walking if possible. If they are too sick to sit up, they should be turned in bed every 3-4 hours. Lie them on their front, then on left side, then back on their front again, then right side, then front again, each for 3-4 hours.
  12. Breathless people should be 13 hours (not continuously) a day lying face down on their stomachs. When very short of breath they may find it easier to breathe sitting up in bed supported by cushions.
  13. Make sure that although you are keeping your distance, they know you are there for them. Pray for them, sing, read, talk to them, pass on well wishes.
  14. Avoid stress, such as moving a sick person unnecessarily.
  15. When should you move a person from home to hospital? Call the Village Health Care worker as soon as someone shows two or more symptoms of the coronavirus (COVID-19). These include: sore throat, hot body temperature, dry cough, diarrhoea, aching body, feeling weak, shortness of breath. The health worker can assess the person at home, and decide if they should be moved. Advise them of any underlying conditions such as previous problems with breathing or the lungs, heart problems, diabetes, TB, or HIV. Confirm arrangements for keeping you updated and transport.
  16. If a traditional healer is consulted his/her treatment can complement but not replace or change advice of a health care worker.
  17. Listen to radio and TV for updates as information can change and WhatsApp messages maybe false.

All that is contained in this article is only a guideline to help you look after a sick person. It may be that some will not survive this, but if you have done all these things you will know that you have given your loved one the best chance.

Download a longer, Shona version of this advice here (342KB PDF)

Source: Precious Madzimbe PhD (Physio), Sikhululekile Moyo Bsc (Physio), Jennifer Coltart BSc (Physio), Dalubuhle Nyoni BSc (Physio)

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