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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Published on 16 March 2020 01:05 PM

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus is a virus that affects your lungs and airways. Find out about the symptoms of coronavirus and the steps to take to stop it spreading.    

NHS online coronavirus service

Get advice from the NHS on what to do if you think you may have symptoms of, or been exposed to, coronavirus (COVID-19).

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a virus that causes an illness called COVID-19. It affects your lungs and airways. For most people, it causes mild symptoms while for others it can be more serious and require hospital treatment.

It’s a new illness, so there’s a lot we don’t know for sure yet, but the Government is making lots of preparations to help contain coronavirus as much as possible.

There are simple, effective things we can all do to reduce our risk of catching COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to other people

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The symptoms are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath.  

These symptoms are similar to lots of other illnesses, like common colds and flu. If someone has these symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean they have coronavirus.

How can I reduce my risk of getting coronavirus?

One of the most important things you can do to reduce the risk of infection for yourself and the people around you is to wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, with soap and hot water. You should wash your hands more often than you would normally.

You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or for two rounds of the song ‘Happy Birthday’, especially when you get home after going out, before eating or handling food, and after sneezing or blowing your nose.  


Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You should also make sure you catch coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve – not your hands – and put used tissues in the bin. Then wash your hands. 

If you have a new, continuous cough or a high temperature the Government has advised that you stay at home for 7 days. 

What should I do if I feel unwell?

As of 12 March, the Government is advising people to stay home for 7 days if they have either or both of the following:

  • A high temperature.
  • A new, continuous cough.

This is a precaution to try to delay the spread of coronavirus in the UK.

If your symptoms are mild you don't need to contact the NHS. But if your symptoms are getting worse and you reach a point where you would normally call for medical care, you should ring 111 for help. You can also use the NHS specialist online coronavirus service for advice. 

If you think you have might have coronavirus don’t go to your doctor’s surgery or hospital. If you need to speak to someone, call 111 and they will make arrangements directly for testing and treatment.

There's advice from the Government on how to manage if you're staying at home.

If you're feeling unwell, it's important to keep practising good hygeine, like washing your hands regularly. 

I’ve been abroad recently or am planning to go abroad. Should I be worried?

There are some countries and areas where there's a higher chance of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus. The Government issues advice on where you should avoid travelling to. 

If you’ve been to a country where there’s a higher risk of coronavirus, there’s specific advice on what you should do.

Do I need to wear a face mask?

During normal day-to-day activities face masks don't protect people from viruses like coronavirus. The best way to reduce any risk of infections is with good hygiene, like washing your hands, and avoiding direct or close contact (within 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Healthcare professionals may wear masks if they're looking after people who have tested positive for coronavirus, or may have been infected. If someone has been told they have coronavirus, they may be advised to wear a mask.

Should I stop going out or seeing people?

You only need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people (called 'self-isolating') if you have a high temperature or a persistent cough, or if you’ve been advised by NHS 111 or another healthcare professional.

If you or someone you know has a weakened immune system (for example, because of an existing health condition), it’s important to ensure you and those you’re in close contact with pay attention to the advice above.

I’m worried about someone. What should I do?

If you care for someone who has a new, continuous cough or a high temperature it's important thay they stay at home for 7 days. We would advise carers to call 111 for specific advice and it may be a good idea to contact your GP too. You can find more information for carers here

If you care for someone who has a new, continuous cough or a high temperature it's important that they stay at home for 7 days. We would advise carers to call 111 for specific advice and it may be a good idea to contact your GP too. You can find more information for carers here

If someone’s been advised to self-isolate, is very worried about going out or decides they’d prefer not to, there are still plenty of things you can do to help.

Stay in touch over the phone, by post, online or by popping over for a chat (assuming the person is allowed to have contact with others, and you take the precautions outlined above).

See if people need any shopping or help by running some errands.

Encourage people to stay active around the house and keep moving.

I'm feeling really anxious about coronavirus

It's completely understandable to be worried about the impact coronavirus may have on you or those you care about. Try to stay calm and follow the official advice from the Government. The charity Mind has information you might find helpful.