The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has published on its designated website for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak, the guidelines for self-quarantine, explaining its meaning, who should undergo the process, and how it should be done.
It said the process involves a transparent self-restriction of persons’ activities when they are not ill with COVID-19, for the purpose of protecting unexposed members of the community from contracting the disease should any at-risk person become sick.
The reason was that it facilitated early detection of the disease for rapid implementation of response measures, consequently, helping to prevent further spread to close friends, relatives and community members.
The guidelines said this was particularly important for individuals who had been in proximity of less than one meter to a person confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, from two days prior to symptom onset, and as long as the person was showing symptoms.
Close contacts were required to stay in their homes, hotel room or any identified accommodation without mixing with the general public or family members for 14 days since the last contact with the confirmed case.
The guidelines said self-quarantined individuals would be followed up by surveillance officers from the GHS either via phone or via physical visits (in appropriate PPEs) during the period of quarantine.
The guidelines explained that all travelers coming from countries, territories and areas with active transmission of COVID-19 as analysed and designated by the Ministry of Health and the GHS (over 200 active cases), as well as any individual who had been in close contact with a person confirmed to be infected should be self-quarantined for 14 days, since at arrival or the last contact with the confirmed case.
The GHS said to aid monitoring during self-quarantine, the persons involved would be required to provide their names, physical addresses and telephone contacts to the contact tracing team, as these details would guide their surveillance teams.
It explained that other members of the household were not required to self-quarantine unless they met the criteria for self-quarantine as provided by the GHS, however, should the individual or persons in self-isolation develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19, then the families ‘MAY’ be classified as close contacts depending on their interactions with them, therefore adherence to effective self-confinement was crucial.
To ensure effective self-quarantine, the GHS called for the observance of the preventive and control measures such as stay in an airy room away from other people like family members, preferably with separate bathroom and toilet facilities, however in cases where people would have to share these facilities, they must ensure regular disinfection using regular household disinfectants or soap and water after use.
It also advised a break from working, and staying at home for the entire duration of the 14 days of quarantine, (from last contact with the confirmed case), and ensure that they had adequate food, water, hygiene provisions like toiletries, handwashing facilities, hand sanitizers among other things, and appropriate medical treatment for existing medical conditions while in self-quarantine.
They must also ensure that they had the necessary communication facilities including mobile telephone to communicate with family members and other people while in quarantine, to always cover their nose and mouth with a single use tissue when coughing and sneezing, and properly dispose-off used tissues immediately into a dustbin, and wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
They were also to stay away from pets, as there was the possibility of humans transmission of the virus onto animals, “avoid sharing toothbrushes, utensils, dishes, drinks, towels, clothes or bed linen with anybody in your home, while ensuring frequent cleaning and disinfecting touched surfaces such as doorknobs and handles, bedside tables, bedframes, and other bedroom furniture daily with regular household disinfectant.
Also ensure the regular cleaning and disinfection bathroom and toilet surfaces at least once a day with regular household disinfectant, and if the person develop symptoms of acute respiratory infection, including fever, cough, sore throat and difficulty in breathing, should immediately call: 050 949 7700, 055 843 9868 for swift response.
It said if a person was suspected to have breached the guidelines they had voluntarily agreed to follow, the surveillance team would work closely with the individual or persons, to ensure that they understood their obligations, and would also be helped to appreciate the importance and seriousness of self- quarantine under the current global COVID-19 threat, and would be placed under mandatory quarantine.
The guidelines provided some psychological support for persons under self-quarantine to keep their spirit up, allay their fears, and encouraged frequent telephone, internet or social media platform conversations about COVID-19, to understand the disease to reduce anxiety, ensuring the use of age-appropriate languages for young children.
For example “think about how you have coped with difficult situations in the past and reassure yourself that you will cope with this situation too, remember that quarantine won’t last for long, keep in touch with family members and friends via telephone, email or social media, stock plenty of materials to read to keep your mind occupied, and exercise regularly from your quarantine area,” it said.
It also encouraged regular drinking of water (at least 8 glasses a day), for hydration, and eating all meals in a timely manner.
The GHS guidelines indicated that upon the completion of the assigned days of self-quarantine without any symptoms, the surveillance team and health authorities would formally discharge persons from follow up and they would be free to go about your usual activities, while a medical certificate of completion of self-quarantine would be issued to them.
Should person develop symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and difficulty in breathing, during the 14 days of self-quarantine they should seek medical attention immediately by calling the GHS designated surveillance officer.