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Concerned about Coronavirus?

As Scotland responds to Coronavirus COVID-19, Age Scotland has compiled advice for older people and their families on how to avoid exposure to the virus, what to do if you are feeling unwell and the assistance available to you.

Get the most up to date advice from NHS Inform

The development of coronavirus COVID-19 is rapidly changing and is being monitored carefully by the NHS and Scottish Government. If you do not have symptoms and are looking for general information, a free NHS helpline has been set up on 0800 028 2816

Find out more about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Age Scotland's free helpline 0800 12 44 222

Our team of advisers are available to offer reassurance, information, advice and friendship to older people, their families and carers. Call us today on 0800 12 44 222

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 was first discovered in December 2019 and the first case in Scotland was discovered in March 2020.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart or lung disease are more likely to become severely ill with the virus and should take extra care.

The symptoms of Coronavirus

Common symptoms include:

  • a cough
  • high temperature
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • a loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste (known as anosmia)

However, 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 to avoid catching infections like 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 for 20 seconds, with soap and hot water. You should wash your hands more often than you would normally.

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.

Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and if you are able to do so you should wear a face covering when you are in an enclosed public space such as a shop, or on public transport.

You should also maintain two-metre physical distancing from anyone who is not in your household. 

What should you do if you think you have symptoms?

Stay calm, isolate yourself from anyone else in your household, and use the NHS Inform online coronavirus service for advice or call the National Testing Centre on 0300 303 2713 to book a test.

You should do this if:

  • you think you might have symptoms of coronavirus
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus
  • you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days.

If you think you have might have coronavirus don’t go to your doctor’s surgery or hospital.

Our general advice

We would urge older people to follow guidance issued by NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government. 

Scotland, like the rest of the UK, now has more local rules and guidance in place. For more information about these Protection Levels click here.

This will be an anxious time for many people, and will require people to make big changes to the way they live their day to day life. But following the advice of experts gives us the best chance to fight this outbreak.

One of the best thing people can do is to wash their hands more frequently than usual and for longer – as long as it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice, and always use a disposable tissue if you sneeze or cough and throw it away after use.

Get the latest news from the Scottish Government

The guidance about Coronavirus COVID-19 could change rapidly. Make sure that you are well informed by following the advice of the Scottish Government and NHS24.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should older people do?

This will be a concerning time for many people, particularly those who are older and live with chronic or underlying medical conditions. The advice from the NHS and government is there to protect your health and that of those around you. The Scottish Government has launched a public awareness campaign called FACTS to remind people of the key measures still required. 

These are: 

  • Face covering in enclosed spaces 
  • Avoid crowded places 
  • Clean your hands and surfaces regularly 
  • Two-metre distancing 
  • Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms 

A free NHS helpline has been set up for people who do not have symptoms but are looking for general advice: 0800 028 2816. You can get online advice at www.nhsinform.scot


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What does self-isolation mean?

If you or someone in your household have symptoms of the virus – a dry cough, a high temperature and/or the loss or change in sense of taste and smell– then the Government has instructed you to ‘self-isolate’ at home.

This means avoiding all social contact and remaining in your home. 

Current advice is to self-isolate at home and book a test if you have symptoms.

See our definitions page for more information

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What does shielding mean?

Shielding was introduced to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus, by minimising all interaction between them and others.

See our definitions page for more information

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What does physical distancing and social distancing mean?

This means reducing your contact with people you do not live with and keeping 2 metres away from others.

See our definitions page for more information

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I'm a carer for someone else. What should I do?

This is a difficult time for people with caring responsibilities. It is clearly important to follow the Government guidance above, but we know this can be difficult to follow at times.

You should continue to provide care and you are exempt from the restrictions on indoor visits when you are providing care. You should be vigilant against any symptoms of COVID-19 and self-isolate immediately should you show any.

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.

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Do I need to wear a face mask?

You should wear a face covering when in public spaces such as in shops or on public transport as it is now mandatory to do so. It's recognised that this will not be appropriate for some people due to various health conditions and so these people will be exempt. To find out more and how to get a face covering exemption card click here.

You should also wear a face covering when you are inside a restaurant or pub and are not eating, for example when going to the bathroom.

Those providing care for others should wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and this also includes unpaid carers. The Scottish Government has more information on PPE here.

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What if I, or someone I live with feels ill?

If you are experiencing symptoms such as a new continuous cough, a fever/high temperature, or a loss of taste or smell that have developed in the last 10 days, do not leave your home for 10 days from the start of your symptoms even if you do not feel that ill. You should book a test either by calling the National Testing Centre on 0300 303 2713 or booking online on NHS Inform's website. Don't delay in doing this, book a test as soon as you start to feel symtoms. 

If you live with others, the person who has symptoms should isolate themselves within your home as much as possible for 10 days from the day their symptoms started.

Everyone else who lives in the same house must not leave the home for 10 days even if they don’t have symptoms themselves. The 10-day period starts from the first day the person had symptoms.

If other people in your house also develop symptoms within the 10 days, they need to stay at home for 10 days from the day their symptoms started. They should do this even if it takes them over the 10-day isolation period.

Find out more about the new contact tracing system now in place in Scotland

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I live alone, who can I speak to for a chat?

Regular phone calls are a good way of keeping in touch, and if you have the technology, video calls are another good way of seeing people face to face.

The Age Scotland Helpline exists to offer information, friendship and advice to older people. You can call on 0800 12 44 222.

The Helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

If you live alone you now have the option to form an extended household with one other household. Those who live alone can also form an extended household. This means that you can spend time with them indoors and even stay the night. You can only do this with one household and they also can only form this extended household with you. You can find more detailed information on this on the Scottish Government's website here.

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I want to help others, what can I do?

There are many ways you can help people who are self-isolating:

  • Stay in touch over the phone, by post or online. Video calling is a great way to 'see' someone while everyone remains safely at home.
  • See if people need any shopping or a prescription brought to them.
  • Encourage people to stay active around the house and keep moving.

Check out our page that has 5 practical ways you can help someone.

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How do I get my shopping done if I’m self-isolating?

If you have been asked to self-isolate, or if you have decided to self-isolate yourself because you or someone you live with has symptoms consistent with Coronavirus, you should not go to the shops.

Instead of going to the shops, you could:

  • Ask a trusted neighbour or family member to get your shopping for you.
  • Get your weekly shop online (and get someone to help you with this if required). There is a huge demand for online grocerry deliveries right now so unfortunately you may find there is a delay. However some supermarkets are trying to provide a priority service for more vulnerable customers.
  • Call the coronavirus helpline 0800 111 4000 

If you are in shops or supermarkets, take extra care to exercise basic hygiene. Remember to wash your hands before you go and after you return from the shops. Avoid touching your face, and remember to wash fruit before eating it.

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What if I need to see a GP for something other than COVID-19 symptoms?

You may need to contact your GP due to reasons not associated with COVID-19. You should call your GP surgery to try and make an appointment as normal. Do not go to your GP practice to try and make an appointment in person.

GP practices and healthcare services are going to be under much more pressure than normal so you should expect there to be a delay to get through to your GP, and some routine services may not be available.

If your GP is closed you can contact NHS 24 on 111 and if you have a medical emergency you should call 999.

You could also try contacting your local pharmacist to see if they can help with other minor ailments.

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Will my home care support stop?
If you have carers who support you at home this should not stop during the outbreak. You should contact your service provider if you are worried. Guidance has been issued to all social care providers that should help them plan for how to maintain current social care packages. 

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Can I use public transport?

You should avoid taking public transport. If you must use public transport you should avoid going at peak times and must ensure you wear a face covering if you are able to do so.

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What can I do right now to feel less worried?

Some tips on little things that you can do right now in order to feel a little calmer:

  • Take a walk or some exercise outside if you have not left the house today and it is safe for you to do so.
  • If you have a garden you could sit outside spending a little time in nature should have a soothing effect.
  • Try taking some deep breaths: for example, you can try breathing in for 5 counts, holding your breath for 5 counts, breathing out for 5 counts and then holding your breath for 5 counts. Repeat this until you feel calmer.
  • If you can’t go outside or need to stay in a chair, then try our Body Boosting Bingo. This fun game will help you raise your heart rate and will boost your mood.
  • Think about activities that you normally enjoy doing that you can do from home – cooking, reading, spending time in the garden.
  • Try and eat healthily.
  • Try and avoid drinking alcohol.

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The Age Scotland Helpline

Call our helpline on 0800 12 44 222 for free to speak to an adviser. Open Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.

Help us support more older people

Demand for our vital services is increasing rapidly. Please help us to be there for older people in Scotland who desperately need us during this crisis.

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