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.
- Any medical need, or to provide care and essential support to 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, as well as all gatherings of more than two people in public.
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 have also issued guidance for a smaller number of individuals 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 and only allowing essential visitors, such as NHS staff or carers, including family carers. If you need to have something delivered or if family and friends are bringing shopping or other essentials, then they should drop them 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 hospitalisation if they contract the virus. 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.
The advice to self-isolate and not leave the house also continues to apply to anyone displaying symptoms – a cough and/or fever – and the people living in their household.
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 hand) 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 for 14 days.
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). However, don’t forget people can be infectious before they know they are ill.
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 are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The most common symptoms include:
- a persistent dry cough
- a high temperature - 37.7°C or above
shortness of breath.
If you have any of these symptoms, however mild, you must stay at home for at least 7 days.
If someone you live with has any of these symptoms, everyone in the household needs to stay at home for 14 days.
Other symptoms people are reporting include:
- a sore throat
- a blocked / runny nose
- stomach discomfort and diarrhoea.
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 usuall 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 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:
- introducing measures such as social distancing and self-isolation for people with symptoms
- asking people with particular health conditions, those aged over 70 and pregnant women to take extra precautions to avoid getting ill
- helping the NHS respond to the virus by increasing the amount of equipment, re-deploying healthcare workers and reducing the amount of non-urgent appointments and services.
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 or 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.
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
- 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)
- 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.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
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 you live with other people and you are the first person in the household to have symptoms, then you must stay at home for 7 days. All other household members who remain well must stay at home for 14 days.
If another member of the household starts displaying symptoms, then they must stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day period. If, after 7 days of their symptoms starting, they feel better and no longer have a high temperature, they can return to their normal routine.
To help explain how long you should isolate for, the Government has produced a diagram
You don’t need to tell the NHS you’re staying at home, and you won’t be tested for coronavirus. You only need to get in touch with the NHS if:
- you don’t feel better after seven 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.
If you're feeling unwell, it's important to keep practising good hygeine, like washing your hands regularly.
If you've been contacted by the NHS, as you have been identified as extremely vulnerable and develop symptoms then you should contact NHS 111 immediately.
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).
I am shielding, how can I get help with supplies and health and care needs
The Government has issued specific guidance to those who have been identified as high risk of severe illness as a result of coronavirus. The NHS will be contacting you if you fall into the categories listed above. This guidance advises you not to leave the house even for supplies and medication, the Government is working with others to support you to stay at home.
If you do not receive a letter but have a health condition on the Government’s list of extremely vulnerable people, you should contact your GP or hospital clinician to discuss your concerns.
For food and other supplies, ask friends, family and neighbours to support you where possible and use online services such as online delivery. If this is not possible the letter or communication you receive from the NHS should indicate other ways you can get support.
From Tuesday 24 March 2020 you can go to GOV.UK to register for the support you need including shopping deliveries and any additional care needs. The communication you receive from the NHS will include a telephone number for you to call if you are unable to go online.
For prescriptions, you should ask someone who can pick up your prescriptions from the local pharmacy or alternatively contact your pharmacy to ask them to help as they are being supported by the Government to deliver prescriptions where needed.
It is important to remember that anything being delivered should be left on the doorstep to avoid face to face contact.
Access to medical assistance where possible should be conducted remotely. For scheduled appointments talk to your GP or specialist to determine the best way to receive the care you need.
The only people who should be visiting you at this time are healthcare workers and essential carers, whether this is from an organisation or from friends and family members. You should chat to your carers about your care needs and agree a plan for continuing your care that includes back up plans in case your main carer is unwell.
If you require support for your care but are not sure who to contact and don’t have family and friends to help then you can visit GOV.UK to register for the support you need.
I am shielding, what does this mean for the people I live with?
The government has advised that if you have been identified as extremely vulnerable, others you live with should stringently follow the social distancing guidance however they do not have to shield themselves in the same way. Below is some guidance on what you can all do to protect yourself from contracting coronavirus:
- Minimise time in shared spaces for all who live in the house
- Where possible you should keep 2 metres or 3 steps away from people, including sleeping in separate beds and using different bathrooms.
- Keeping shared spaces like bathrooms and kitchens clean and practising good hygiene, such as washing spaces down after use , using different towels and making sure that crockery and cutlery are thoroughly cleaned including using different tea towels if hand drying items.
We know some of these measures will be difficult but as you are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus it is important to follow this guidance.
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.
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.
What about international travel?
The Government has said all non-essential travel abroad should be avoided to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
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.