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COVID-19 Survivor Story: ‘We need to talk to each other to break the stigma of COVID-19’

South Africa has a 69% recovery rate (as at 4 August), which is an encouraging number. This survivor tells his story.

Name: Alex

Job title: Hospital manager, Life St George’s Hospital and Life Hunterscraig Private Hospital, Eastern Cape

Positive diagnosis: 22 May

Returned to work: 8 June

Self-isolation: At home

Time in hospital: 4 hours


When you test positive for coronavirus

‘My advice is to take a deep breath and think about a plan of action: How do I approach this with my family? How do I communicate this to my colleagues? It’s important that you remember that you don’t have to keep this a secret.’

Learning to lean on others

‘The number of messages I received was incredible and it was amazing to feel the support, but it can become overwhelming. You have to protect your mental wellbeing. What helped me was to set up chat groups so that I could still keep in contact without responding to each individual message.

‘Ask friends and family to take on the role of keeping everyone updated so you can focus on your recovery.’

 Staying safe

‘During the height of the infection, I would encourage people to notice the small changes in their bodies. While many of us fear getting ill, we are sometimes unaware that we can spread the virus without experiencing symptoms.

 ‘It started when I had a strange feeling in my lungs. My doctor said I was low-risk, but I decided to test just to be safe…

 ‘There were five of us in our management team that took time off at the same time – two of us hardly had any symptoms.

 ‘Before I became infected, I had followed the hygiene rules to a T: I came home from work, didn’t greet anyone until I’d had a shower and then only interacted with my family – and I still managed to test positive for COVID-19.

 ‘You can get this virus from anywhere: in your community or at your workplace. You need to be vigilant and aware, no matter where you go – you can never drop your guard.’

 Breaking the stigma

‘On day one of my return to work, I was concerned that people might be scared of me and afraid to be in my presence.

 ‘I was quite surprised that there were very few people who were concerned about being in my space.

 ‘We have all learnt so much about COVID-19 over the last few months, but the only way to continue to break the stigma around this virus is to talk to each other about our personal experience.’