Are dietitians regarded as essential services during the national lockdown period in response to the COVID-19 outbreak?

This question is addressed according to the sector of employment / practice.


The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, issued amended regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, on 18 March and 25 March 2020 respectively; with regards to the national lock-down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

These regulations detail the restrictions in terms of the movement of persons and goods during the national lockdown period and specifies that every person is confined to his or her place of residence, unless strictly for the purpose of essential services. Medical and health services are included in the list of essential services, but the list doesn’t explicitly mention dietitians. It is further prescribed that the head of an institution must determine essential services to be performed by his or her institution, and must determine the essential staff who will perform those services (Paragraph 11B(2) of Government Notice 398 of 2020, dated 25 March 2020).

Persons who have accordingly been identified to be performing essential services must be fully designated in writing by the head of an institution on a form as prescribed in Annexure C of the regulation.

As such, individual institutions will determine essential services. ADSA, together with SASPEN, has developed a statement and supporting document to demonstrate the importance of dietetic services during the lockdown period, specifically pertaining to hospital and critical care settings. These documents may assist individual dietitians to be recognised as essential services by their respective institutions.

With regards to dietitians in private practices outside of hospital settings, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) granted special approval for practitioners rendering essential services to remain accessible to their existing patients through the use of tele-health for managing clients remotely using virtual platforms. This approval only applies to the lock-down period and within prescribed guidelines. Please refer to Question 3 for further details.


According to the directive issued by the Department of Public Service and Administration on Wednesday 25 March 2020 (view here), respective national and provincial heads of departments will identify the minimum critical jobs necessary for service and business continuity and implement operational measures accordingly. Further guidance can be obtained from respective provincial health authorities in this regard.

National COVID-19 Restrictions Alert Level 3 – what are the implications for the dietitian?

The ADSA Executive Committee provides guidance on the implications for the dietitian as the country shifted from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 on 1 June 2020, as well as links to important documents on safety at work and self-care resources. Access the guidance document below:

How can I protect myself and my patients during the
COVID-19 pandemic?

How can I protect myself and my patients during the
COVID-19 pandemic?

  • Members are encouraged to use their professional judgement to assess all risks and deliver safe care in your places of work.

  • Familiarise yourselves with the protective measures recommended by the National Department of Health (NDOH), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the World Health Organization (WHO), including washing your hands frequently with soap and water; social distancing; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and coughing or sneezing into your flexed elbow or tissue.

  • Wherever possible move face-to-face consultations / meetings / interactions into the virtual space as per the guidelines on tele-health from the HPCSA (see question 3).

  • Don’t shake hands, maintain a reasonable distance between you and your patient.

  • Follow the guidelines outlined by the National Department of Health that specifically adhere to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) under specific circumstances. Only wear PPE as indicated so as not to use these resources unnecessarily.

  • Consult with your institution for training on the correct use and disposal of PPE. Ensure that you follow the step-by-step process for don/doff of PPE as per directives.

  • Minimise personal effects in the workplace. All personal items should be removed before entering clinical areas and donning PPE. This includes jewellery, cell phones, pagers, stationery, etc.

  • If you are required to consult with a client during an emergency, ask your client to inform you immediately if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 and inform your clients and close contacts immediately if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • Do not meet with clients if you are experiencing symptoms such a fever, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath or a sore throat and vice versa.

Department of Health Guidelines for symptom monitoring and management of essential workers for COVID-19 related infection

Department of Health COVID-19 Disease: Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines

Can dietitians participate in telehealth?

According to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa: Guidance to Health Practitioners released on the 26 of March 2020 and amended on 3 April 2020, the HPCSA permits the use of Telehealth for managing new and existing patients remotely using virtual platforms, including video and telephonic links, within specific guidelines and provided such consultations are done in the best clinical interest of patients. . This guideline is only valid during the COVID-19 pandemic and the HPCSA will inform practitioners when this guidance will cease to apply.


Watch a brief introduction to ADSA’s Telehealth Guidance Document, as well as a second video on practical telehealth tips for dietitians.

Watch Video Below

What do I need to carry with me when I go to work?

1. Form 2 of Annexure A in the Government Notice R.480 of 29 April 2020: Permit to perform essential or permitted service.

(This should be completed by your institution)

2. My ID

3. Proof of HPCSA registration (precautionary measure)


This communication is shared in order to keep ADSA members informed on developments and progress with regards to COVID-19 vaccination and is based on best current knowledge. Further information will be communicated as it becomes available.

South Africa is currently planning the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination and will soon commence with the provision and administration of the vaccine.


The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will take a three-phase approach, based on the availability of the vaccine and starting with the most vulnerable in our population, as follows:

Phase 1 healthcare workers, targeting 1.25 million people

Phase 2 essential workers, persons in congregate settings, persons over 60 years and persons over 18 years with co-morbidities

Phase 3 persons older than 18 years, targeting 22,5 million people

The first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine (the Oxford University-Astra Zeneca vaccine), expected to arrive in South Africa towards the end of January 2021, is allocated for the vaccination of healthcare workers (clinical and support staff) in the public and private sector.

In phase 1 of the vaccination programme, healthcare workers will further be divided into risk categories reflecting their risk of contracting COVID-19, with those in the priority categories receiving vaccination first.

Category 1

Those inducting aerosol-generating procedures, i.e. intubation, ventilation, taking COVID-19 specimens

Category 2

Those in direct contact with known or suspected COVID-19 patients

Category 3

Those in contact with patients who are known or suspected to have COVID-19

Category 4

Those not in contact with patients


Delivery of the vaccine during Phase 1 will be through three platforms, namely:

1.Work-based vaccination programme

Administered at district level in public and private hospitals, mostly targeted at hospital linked healthcare workers

1.Outreach work-based vaccination programme

Mobile teams moving from facility to facility, mostly targeted at healthcare workers in primary healthcare, community health workers and private medical centres

1.Vaccination centres (remote or facility based)

Vaccination centres could include community pharmacies and are most suitable for independent healthcare workers

The National Government will source, purchase, distribute (to provincial governments and the private sector) and oversee the rollout of the vaccine. A national register for COVID-19 vaccinations will be established. The vaccination system will be based on a pre-vaccination registration and appointment system which will mostly be administered through employers (workplace platform). Vaccination will be recorded on a national register and a vaccination card will be issued.

ADSA will continue to keep members up to date as new information emerges..  Enquiries may be directed to your human resource department, where applicable, or contact

Information sources that members might find useful are listed below:

Where can I access reliable information on the COVID-19 pandemic?

To learn more about COVID-19 and to access the latest information and advice, we further recommend that members refer to the following resources:

Last updated 29 January 2021

This guidance may change as knowledge evolves and ADSA will endeavour to keep this page updated. For the most up to date information visit the websites as provided above.

Coping With Anxiety as a Healthcare Professional in a Pandemic

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