Triage of suspected cases
Any patient who fulfils criteria for a suspected COVID-19 case should immediately have the following measures taken:

  • Give the patient a medical (surgical) mask (N95 respirators are NOT required for patients).

  • Direct the patient to a separate area, preferably an isolation room if available. Where an individual isolation room is not available, a 1-2 metre distance should be kept between suspected COVID-19 cases and other patients.

  • Instruct the patient to cover his/her nose and mouth during coughing or sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow. The patient should perform hand hygiene after contact with respiratory secretions (wash hands or use alcohol-based hand rub, which should be readily available at the point of triage). 

  • Limit the movement of the patient (e.g. use portable X-rays rather than sending the patient to the X-ray department). If the patient has to be moved, ensure that (s)he wears a mask.

  • The patient should have a dedicated bathroom (where this is possible).

Patients should be quickly triaged in terms of clinical severity. Routine emergency department triage systems may be used. In the context of COVID-19, triaging is essential because:

  • It allows for rapid initiation of supportive therapy (e.g. oxygen supplementation)

  • It has implications for whether or not the patient can be allowed home to await results of the COVID-19 testing (see Testing).

  • It protects both patients and staff.

Answers extracted from: Clinical management of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease (Version 3, 27th March 2020)

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