Explainer: Self-quarantine, a step-by-step guide

Tuesday March 24 2020

If you are told to self-quarantine, it means you are required to be at home and not go to work, school or any other public places. PHOTO | FILE


Self-quarantine is one of the measures being used to stop the spread of coronavirus across the world.

It is one of the public safety guidelines outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC).

The Health ministry defines self-quarantine as an act of individuals who may have been exposed to Covid-19 separating themselves for 14 days to monitor if they develop symptoms.

This is different from isolation which, according to the CDC, separates the sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

The idea of self-quarantine is old and started way back in the 14th Century. The aim was to shield coastal cities in Europe from epidemics.

The term is derived from an Italian word, quaranta giorni, which means 40 days. Laws around it were made but later the CDC assumed responsibility for Quarantine in 1967.


In 2003, the CDC, under the Executive Order of the US President, made a list of quarantine-able diseases which include cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, viral haemorrhage fevers ( such as Marbug, Ebola and Congo-Crimean) and severe acute respiratory syndromes.


Dr Marvin Omingo, a medical doctor at Ziwa Sub-County Hospital, Uasin Gishu County, says self-quarantine is recommended for people who might have been exposed to the virus.

In the case of Covid-19, it includes people with travel history to affected countries in Europe -- the current epicentre of the virus -- US and Asia.

Here is how to properly go about it.


If you are told to self-quarantine, it means you are required to be at home and not go to work, school or any other public places. You should not have any visitors.


If you live with other people, then you need to stay in a well-ventilated bedroom with the door closed.

If you are sharing a bathroom, use it after everyone else. Avoid sharing towels and toiletries.


If you live on your own, you can order shopping and food online or get your friends, family and relatives to help. They should, however, leave the deliveries at your doorstep.


During self-quarantine, if you develop mild symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever, then seek advice first by phone. Do not just leave your house and go to a hospital or clinic.


Put waste in a lined dustbin and, while disposing of it, put the liner inside another dustbin liner so that it is double-layered.

Should you test positive for Covid-19, the waste should be disposed of separately.


Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) causes mild illness in four out of five people. However, in some people, it can be more severe and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties.

In rare situations, the disease can be fatal.

Older people, as well as people with other medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, are said to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill.

Self-quarantine is meant to help these vulnerable groups of people from getting infected.