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.
What is the latest advice from the Government?
The Government has asked everyone in the UK to stay at home. This means people who are not at very high risk should only leave the house for limited purposes.
- Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible and online delivery used wherever available.
- One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household. You should stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily.
- Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.
You should not otherwise leave your home
The Government has made clear that these four reasons are exceptions and you should not otherwise leave your home. For these activities you should continue to observe the advice to remain at least 2 metres apart from others (excluding members of your own household) and minimise time outside. The Government has also closed all non-essential shops and community spaces. Unless you are with members of your household, gatherings of more than two people in parks and other public spaces have been banned.
Everyone must comply
Everyone in the UK must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
Those at 'high risk'
The Government has also issued guidance for a smaller number of people who are at very high risk. They have been advised to self-isolate at home, also known as ‘shielding’, for at least 12 weeks. This means avoiding all face-to-face social contact, remaining in your home at all times and only allowing essential visitors, such as NHS staff or carers (including family carers) to enter your home. If you need to have something delivered or if family and friends are bringing shopping or other essentials, it must be left at the doorstep.
Protecting those at greatest risk
These are measures intended to protect people who are at the greatest risk of severe symptoms and having to go to hospital if they catch coronavirus. NHS Wales will write to you directly if this advice applies to you with specific guidance for you and the people you live with. In the meantime, if you're unsure you can check the Government guidance and see below for more information.
You need to self-isolate and not leave the house if or anyone you live with have symptoms of coronavirus.
There's more information the symptoms of coronavirus below.
What is coronavirus?
Novel Coronavirus, formally called COVID-19, is part of a family of viruses that include the common cold and respiratory illnesses such as SARS.
It affects your lungs and airways. For many people, it causes mild symptoms while for others it can be much more serious and require hospital treatment.
Cases of coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan City in China in December last year and have quickly spread. There are now over 180 countries and provinces reporting hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide, including in the UK.
How does coronavirus spread?
Coronavirus is very infectious, which means it spreads very easily.
It spreads in much the same way as the common cold or flu - through infected respiratory droplets like coughs and sneezes – and passes from person to person. This can happen when:
- an infectious person gets the virus on their hands (for example by coughing in their hands) and then touches a commonly used surface, such as a door handle, which someone else then touches.
- someone gets close to (less than 1-2 metres) someone who is infectious.
This is why we are being advised to avoid close contact with others, wash our hands thoroughly and frequently, and wipe down surfaces with disinfectant.
The average ‘incubation period’ – the time between coming into contact with the virus and experiencing symptoms – is 5 days, but it could be anything between 1 and 14 days. This is why the Government is asking everyone who has come into contact with the virus to self-isolate.
People are most likely to spread the virus to other people when they are experiencing symptoms, so it’s important to stay at home for at least 7 days (or longer if your symptoms persist). You should also stay at home for 14 days if a member of your household has symptoms of coronavirus.
However, don’t forget people can be infectious before they know they are ill.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The most common symptoms include:
- a persistent dry cough
- a high temperature - 37.7°C or above.
If you have any of these symptoms, however mild, you must self isolate for atleast 7 days. This means you must not leave the house at all. After 7 days, if you do not have a high temperature, you do not need to continue to self-isolate.
If you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal. You do not need to self-isolate if you just have a cough after 7 days, as a cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.
If you live with other people and you're the first person in your house to develop symptoms, then you must self-isolate for 7 days. If after 7 days you still have a high temperature, you should stay inside until it has returned to normal. All other household members must stay at home for 14 days if they stay well. The 14-day period starts from the day the first person in the house becomes unwell.
If during this 14-day period another member of the household becomes unwell, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day at which they develop symptoms. For example, if they became unwell on day 3 day of self-isolation then they would have to stay inside until day 10. However, if they become unwell on day 13 then they will have to stay inside for an additional 7 days, meaning that they will be inside for 20 days.
The Government has produced a diagram to help explain how long you must stay inside for.
After people have completed their period of self-isolation, they should continue to follow Government advice on social distancing. This means they should only leave the house for exceptional circumstances.
Other symptoms people are reporting include:
- a sore throat
- shortness of breath
- a blocked / runny nose
- stomach discomfort and diarrhoea
- loss of taste and smell.
Why is coronavirus such a big problem?
Coronavirus has it been declared a ‘pandemic’ by the World Health Organisation. This means there is significant and ongoing spread of the disease across lots of countries.
The Government has called coronavirus a major public health emergency and the most ‘significant threat this country has faced for decades’.
So why is coronavirus such a significant problem? There are a few very simple reasons:
- The virus spreads very easily from person to person – on average people infect between 2 and 3 other people – so, without action, many more people will get infected.
- A large number of people experience few or mild symptoms. This means they may keep doing what they usually do and spread the virus without realising.
- Although most people experience mild to moderate symptoms, a significant number (around 1 in 5) will need hospital care and some (around 1 in 20) will need hospital care and some (around 1 in 20) will need critical care. If the virus spreads widely, the NHS will not have enough equipment, doctors or nurses to help everyone who needs it.
- Although most people will experience a mild illness and recover quickly, the fatality rate for coronavirus is much higher than seasonal flu, particularly among people at highest risk.
What is the Government doing about coronavirus?
The Government, advised by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser, are trying to stop the virus spreading and protect people who are most at risk. They're doing this by:
- Asking all of us to stay at home, except for the very limited purposes above.
- Asking people who are classed as extremely vulnerable not to leave the house at all. The Government are providing support to those who are being asked to do this.
- Helping the NHS respond to the virus by increasing the amount of equipment, re-deploying healthcare workers, building new hospitals, and reducing the amount of non-urgent appointments and services.
- Working with manufacturers and companies to increase production of ventilators. 8,000 additional ventilators are expected from international manufacturers in the coming weeks.
This will have a big impact on all of us, and on businesses, so the Government is also taking steps to support the economy and people whose jobs have been affected.
What are the risks of catching coronavirus?
Anyone can catch coronavirus. It spreads easily from person to person and, if we did nothing, would continue to do so until most people had been infected.
Most people (around 4 out of 5) who get coronavirus will experience mild to moderate symptoms. This might feel like anything from a run of the mill common cold to the flu. For most people this will mean they need to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and take normal over-the-counter remedies, such as paracetamol.
Unfortunately, around 1 in 5 people who get coronavirus will become severely unwell and need hospital treatment.
Around 1 in 20 people will need critical (intensive) care in hospital.
Are some people more at risk from coronavirus?
Although most people of any age will only experience mild or moderate symptoms, we do know that some people are much more likely than others to become seriously unwell. This includes:
- people aged over the 70, even if you're otherwise fit and well
- people of any age living with long-term health conditions which mean you'd normally be offered the flu jab
There are also some conditions that put people at particularly high risk. The following people may be affected and should receive a letter from the NHS advising them what to do:
- People who've received solid organ transplants.
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
- People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
- People on immunosuppression therapies which significantly increase the risk of infection.
- Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy.
- People undergoing radical radiotherapy for lung cancer.
- People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment.
- People having immune therapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer.
- People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
- People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.
Pregnant women have also been advised to be extra careful.
If you have a health condition on the Government’s list of extremely vulnerable people but have not been contacted by the NHS, you should speak to your GP or hospital clinician about your concerns.
How can I reduce my risk of catching or spreading coronavirus?
The Government has said everyone must practice what's called 'social distancing'. This means you should stay at home at all times. The only times when you may leave your home are:
- to go shopping for essentials, such as food and medicine
- to go out alone or with someone you live with to exercise once a day - this could be a run, a walk or a cycle.You should try to do this close to your home rather than driving somewhere to exercise
- if you have a medical need or are giving care or support to a vulnerable person (this includes volunteering to help people in your community with essential tasks)
- if staying in your house would place you at risk of injury or harm, for example if you are at risk of abuse
- to travel to and from work, but only when you absolutely can't work from home.
You should try to leave your house as little as you possible can. When you do leave your house, you need to stay at least 2 metres away from other people (except members of your own household) and not be outside for very long.
I have existing medical needs and upcoming appointments. What should I do?
You may feel like you should avoid getting help for medical conditions because you’re worried about putting the NHS under additional pressure. But your health needs are just as important as before and you should seek care and treatment that you need. The NHS have systems in place to ensure that essential care is still available for anyone who needs it.
If you become unwell you can still speak to your GP, although they may do this over the phone rather than face-to-face.
If you have an existing health condition, you should continue to follow your treatment plan. If you have any concerns then contact their GP or specialist.
If you need urgent medical help, whether or not you have coronavirus symptoms, you should contact 111 or call 999 in an emergency.
Some medical appointments have been postponed. This is to help stop the spread of coronavirus and to protect the NHS.
- Cancer treatment and clinically urgent care will still be treated as a priority, but your treatment plan might be reviewed. They'll consider whether the risks of your treatment have changed as a result of coronavirus. Your clinical team will talk to you and answer questions you may have about any changes to your treatment or appointments.
- There’s going to be some changes to outpatient appointments. Some people will be asked to have their appointment over the phone or by online video consultation. Other patients will find their appointment has been rearranged.
- Patients who need to have their appointments face-to-face will be asked not to bring a friend or relative with them, unless completely necessary.
- Most hospitals will contact patients with changes to their appointments, but if you haven’t heard you could look at the hospital’s website for guidance.
- All non-emergency operations are being suspended for at least three months. This is to help keep patients safe and to make sure the NHS have the resources they need to tackle coronavirus. This will include hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, as well as minor surgery. We know lot of people will have already been waiting a long time for their treatment and this news might be upsetting and frustrating.
- Your GP may also postpone routine appointments, such as medicine reviews, check-ups and annual health checks, or try to hold appointments over the phone or on video chat. It’s important that you let your GP know if you have developed symptoms since your last check-up so they can decide if you need to be seen.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, do not visit your GP surgery or hospital.
If you have health conditions which make you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus and have been advised to shield, then you should contact your GP or specialist for advice on how to continue receiving your care and treatment.
How often should I wash my hands?
You should also make sure you wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, with soap and hot water.
You should wash your hands:
- for at least 20 seconds or for two rounds of the song ‘Happy Birthday’
- when you get home after going out
- before eating or handling food
- 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.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
If you have been identified as someone who is extremely vulnerable, and you develop a high temperature or a new, continuous cough you should seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.
If you are not classed as extremely vulnerable, you don’t need to tell the NHS you’re staying at home and you won’t be tested for coronavirus. However, you can use the 111 online coronavirus service to check your symptoms. You can use this service to sign-up to get daily check-ins by text, and to access support if you do not have friends and family who are able to help you whilst you are self-isolating.
You should also get in touch with the NHS if:
- you don’t feel better after 7 days
- your symptoms are getting worse
- you feel you can’t cope with your symptoms at home.
You should do this by calling 111 or using the NHS online coronavirus service. Do not go to your doctor’s surgery or to hospital.
It is also important that you stay at home and for at least 7 days if you have a new, continuous cough or high temperature, even if you're feeling OK.
If after 7 days you still have a high temperature you should stay inside until it returns to normal.
If you live with other people and you are the first person to develop symptoms, you should stay inside for 7 days. If someone else in your household has developed symptoms you should stay inside for 14 days, or until you develop symptoms yourself. If you do develop symptoms then you should stay at home for 7 days, even if that means you end up staying inside for longer than the 14 days.
I'm a carer for someone else. What should I do?
This is a difficult time for people with caring responsibilities. It's clearly important to follow the Government guidance above, but we know this can be difficult to follow at times.
If you have caring responsibilities, Carers UK suggests looking at putting a contingency plan in place, and if you can, make cover arrangements with trusted neighbours, friends or family members. Take a look at their information on coronavirus.
If you receive help with formal care services to support your caring responsibilities, you may wish to speak to your care provider or local authority should have you have queries or concerns about continuity of care.
The Government will be publishing specific advice for carers soon, hopefully within the next 7-10 days.
If you are an informal carer for someone who has been identified as extremely vulnerable then you should only be providing care that is essential such as washing, dressing and feeding and should consider other contingency plans if you become unwell and can't continue to support them.
You should also make sure you are practicing good hygiene at all times.
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.
Health and social care 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.
I’m worried about someone. What should I do?
There are still plenty of things we can all do to help others during this time.
- Stay in touch with people over the phone, by post, online. We may not be able to see each other in person, but we can still spend time together.
- For those who are able to have face to face contact with others, you could also pop by for a chat, but you must remember to take precautions outlined above and by the Government.
- Ask people if they need any help with shopping for essentials or offer to help by running some errands. It could be that someone needs a prescription collecting from the pharmacy, for example.
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.