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Information about coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is the current advice from the Government?

The Government has announced a new 3-tier system for all areas of England.

The rates of coronavirus in your area will determine which tier you are in and what rules are in place to control the spread of the virus. These rules come into effect from 14 October. This system only applies to England.

Find out what tier you are in on the Government's website

Visit Age Scotland, Age Cymru or Age NI for information specific to these countries. 

Wherever you live and whatever tier applies to you, you should continue to socially distance from anyone not in your household or support bubble. You should also keep washing your hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, and you should wear a face covering where its mandatory to do so unless you are exempt. 

Tier 1 – Medium Alert

  • The rule of 6 applies to meeting people indoors and outdoors. 
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants will close at 10pm.

Tier 2 – High Alert

  • No households can mix in indoor settings (this includes homes and hospitality venues). 
  • The rule of 6 applies to meeting outdoors. 
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants will close at 10pm. 
  • You should reduce the number of journeys you make where possible. 

Tier 3 – Very High Alert

  • No households can mix indoors in any setting or outdoors in private settings (for example, in gardens). 
  • The rule of 6 applies to public outdoor settings (for example, parks and beaches).
  • Pubs and bars not serving meals will be closed.
  • You shouldn’t travel in and out of the area unless for work, education or caring responsibilities.
  • You should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK.  
  • There may be other restrictions in place based on the circumstances in your area. For example, other businesses such as sports facilities, gyms and casinos may close, so you should check local guidance for more information.

If you were previously asked to shield, the Government has outlined some extra precautions you should take depending on your local alert level. You can find those here.   

What is the rule of 6? 

The rule of six means you can only spend time with up to six people at a time, which includes children. There are exceptions to this rule where you can spend time in groups of more than six: 

  • Where everyone in the group lives together or is in the same support bubble. 
  • You need to provide care or emergency assistance. 
  • You're at work or are volunteering. 
  • You're attending training or for education purposes. 
  • You're attending a wedding, civil partnerships, or other religious ceremonies such as christenings or bar mitzvahs (numbers allowed will vary based on the tier you are in).
  • You're attending a funeral (numbers allowed will vary depending on the tier you are in).
  • You need to fulfil legal duties, such as attending court or jury service. 
  • You're taking part in organised outdoor sports, physical activity, and exercise classes. 
  • You're attending a protest and political activity. 
  • You're in a support group, which has been formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or other support. 

This page outlines the main guidance we all have to follow. However, if you want more information then we have specific pages that go into more detail.

The rest of this page explains what coronavirus is, how it spreads and what you can do to reduce the risk to yourself and others. 

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. 

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, which is why it is important to follow guidance on staying at home if you have symptoms, have tested positive for coronavirus or have been advised by the test and trace service to self-isolate.

However, don’t forget people can be infectious before they know they are ill.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus and what should I do if I develop symptoms?

The most common symptoms include:

  • a persistent, dry cough - where you have been coughing a lot for more than an hour or have had 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a high temperature, where you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a loss or changed sense of taste or smell

Other symptoms people are reporting include:

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

If you develop any coronavirus symptoms, you must self-isolate and book a test as soon as possible. You can get a test by visiting the NHS website or by calling 119. 

We have more information about getting a coronavirus test and what you should do if you develop symptoms here.

If your symptoms get worse, feel unmanageable or you feel breathless then you should call 111 or use NHS online.

Are some people more at risk from coronavirus?

While we're all at risk of catching coronavirus, for most people (around 4 in 5) the symptoms will only be mild to moderate.

However, 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.

Government guidance on the different tiers, or levels of risk (see the top of this page) for different areas of England also applies to you, however you may also want to consider keeping your social interactions lower and visit busy places at quieter times.  

At the start of the pandemic, some people were advised to shield because they were considered particularly high risk. The guidance for these people will differ depending on what tier applies to where you live. There is more information expected soon and we'll update our website with more information as soon as we have it. 

Also, other charities that help people affected by specific conditions have put together their own helpful information that might be relevant for you:

Other medical conditions and upcoming appointments

The health service is still open for you. You might be worried about the strain the NHS is under or be avoiding the GP or hospital because of coronavirus. But your medical needs are just as important as before. We have information about accessing the health service at the moment.

How can I reduce my risk of catching or spreading coronavirus?

The best way to reduce the risk of catching or spreading coronavirus is by following the Government guidance outlined above. This includes:

  • Washing your hands regularly – particularly when you get home after being out, before handling or eating food and after sneezing or blowing your nose
  • Keeping your distance from others
  • Not meeting up in groups of more than six
  • Avoiding busy places where possible
  • Wearing a face covering when you're supposed to
  • Self-isolating in line with current guidance if you or someone you've been in contact with develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus.

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Last updated: Oct 16 2020

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