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Information about coronavirus (COVID-19)

From Wednesday the 13 May, there is new Government guidance on coronavirus. People who are classed as 'extremely vulnerable' and are shielding should continue to do so until the 30 June. If you are not in this category, then you will be able to leave your house for the following reasons: 

  1. For work, where you cannot work from home. If this applies to you then you should travel to work by car, foot, or bike if possible. If you need to use public transport, try to travel at non-peak times when it should be less crowded.   
  2. To go to shops that are allowed to be open to buy things like food and medicine or to collect items you have ordered over the phone or online.  
  3. For unlimited leisure and recreation outside, which includes doing exercise, sitting, or playing sports with members of your household.You can also meet 1 other person from outside your household if you are outdoors, but you must stay a distance of at least 2 metres away from each other at all times. The Government has banned public gatherings of more than 2 people, unless it is essential for work or the people live within the same household.  
  4. 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. 
  5. To attend the funeral of a close family member or member of your household. 
  6. To access critical public services, such as social services, support services for victims, or services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.  

You should not otherwise leave your home 

Restrictions are starting to ease but it's still important that you observe government guidance to reduce the spread of the virus. When you go outside you should stay at least 2 metres apart from others (excluding members of your own household) and you should continue to wash your hands with soap and water frequently and dry them thoroughly.   

More information about changes can be found on the Government website

Everyone must comply

Everyone in the UK must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, have been given powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings. 

Those at a higher risk

People aged 70 and over, people with long term conditions, and pregnant women are understood to be at an increased risk of severe illness if they become infected with the coronavirus.  

While the guidance for these groups of people is the same, people who are more vulnerable may wish to limit their time outdoors and social contact further.  

'Extremely Clinically Vulnerable'

There are a smaller number of people who are at a very high risk. The Government guidance for this group is still to 'shield' until the end of June. 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. 

In the past weeks and months, people classed as extremely vulnerable will have been contacted by their GP or hospital and have been advised if this applies to them. 

If you need more information or are unsure if you should be shielding you can check the Government guidance and see below for more information. 

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. You might like to read about staying safe and well at home too. 

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.

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
  • a loss or changed sense of taste or smell.

If you have any of these symptoms, however mild, you must self-isolate for at least 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 after 7 days if you still have a cough or your sense of taste and smell is not back to normal  as these symptoms may remain 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 have produced a diagram to help explain how long you must stay inside for. You can view that here.

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:

  • shortness of breath
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked/runny nose
  • stomach discomfort and diarrhoea.

What should I do if I'm 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 serviceDo 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.

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

If you're over 65 and have symptoms of coronavirus you can now apply to be tested. Go to GOV.UK to find out more.

I think I have coronavirus, can I be tested?

Everyone over the age of five who develops symptoms of coronavirus is now able to access a test. 

Some people can get tested even if they don’t have symptoms of coronavirus. These are:

  • Social care staff
  • Care home residents and people being discharged from hospital into care homes. 

You can book a test through the government online portal. You need to have the test done within the first 5 days of having symptoms, but it is most effective within the first three days. For those unable to access the internet call 119.

There are different ways to get a test. You can be tested at one of 40 drive through testing sites in England. To be tested in this way you will need to be able to drive by car to the appointment. You can also order a home testing kit, which will be delivered to your door so you don’t need to leave your house. Supplies of these are currently limited but will be increased over time.

In some areas there may not be enough tests available so even if you are eligible you may be unable to get one. People in hospital and essential workers, including NHS and social care staff, will be prioritised for tests. More tests are made available every hour on the website so check back later if you have been unable to book one. 

The current test available looks for the presence of coronavirus and is taken in two samples – one from the back of your throat and one from inside your nose. At the drive through testing sites, you will remain in your car while a doctor or nurses takes this from you.  If you are doing the test yourself at home, take a look at this video to see how to take the swab.

You will be notified of the test results a few days later.

You are able to apply for a test of behalf of someone else, as long as they are over 13 and you have their permission to do so.

Why is coronavirus such a big problem?

Coronavirus has 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Age UK's Libby Webb has explained more about why the Government is taking the actions it's taking to combat coronavirus.  

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.

There's more information on what the Government is doing here. 

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 immunotherapy 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.
  • People with kidney disease.

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?

When you leave your house, you need to stay at least 2 metres away from other people (except members of your own household).

Make sure you wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, with soap and hot water, particularly when you have been outside.

The government advises that you cover your face when using public transport or in a crowded shop.

How often should I wash my hands?

You should wash your hands frequently:

  • 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.

Should I wear a face mask?

If possible, you should wear a face covering over your nose and mouth where ALL of the below apply: 

  • when you are in enclosed spaces 


  • where it isn’t possible to stay 2 metres away from other people 


  • where there are people around who you wouldn’t normally meet. 

For example, you should cover your face when using public transport or in a crowded shop. You do not need to wear a face covering in open spaces, for example when exercising outside. People who find it hard to breathe while wearing a face covering do not need to wear one.    

It's possible to make your own mask by using a scarf or bandanna. It just needs to cover your nose and mouth and allow you to breathe easily through it. 

The Government has produced a guide on how to make your own face covering.

The Government does not advise using medical masks as these should be reserved for people on the frontline, for example people working in the NHS or care workers.  

Make sure you wash your hands before putting your mask on and taking it off. When wearing the mask, avoid touching your face. Don't take the mask on and off to talk to other people. 

To remove your mask make sure you remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask), and clean your hands afterwards with soap and hot water. You should wash the mask after every use. You can put it in with your laundry and use normal detergent. If you are not able to wash the mask straight away after wearing it, store it in a plastic bag until you have time. 

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, you should still not go outside, as wearing a mask will not stop you spreading it.  

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. For support, take a look at Macmillan’s guidance on coronavirus for cancer patients.
  • 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. Find out what to do here

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.

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Last updated: May 21 2020

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