Information about COVID-19
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a ‘type’ of virus. The coronavirus we are all affected by is called COVID-19, but you may also hear it called - coronavirus.
How serious is COVID-19?
The evidence shows us that the vast majority of people who get this virus have relatively mild symptoms and make a full recovery. But in a small percentage of cases, the virus can cause more severe symptoms. This is particularly true for people with a weakened immune system, for older people and for those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
With the arrival of winter and an increase in the number of cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is more important than ever that we all take steps to reduce the spread of infection in the community to save lives and protect the NHS.
What are the symptoms?
If you are infected you may have very minor symptoms, minor symptoms or more severe symptoms, but the NHS cites three symptoms to look out for:
a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
How can you avoid getting and spreading the virus?
Scientists think the virus spreads via droplets from coughs and sneezes and we know it spreads easily and can stay on surfaces for a while. It's possible that a lot of us will get it and be affected by it, but if you follow the advice below you will reduce your risk and the risk to others.
- Avoid non-essential contact with others - work from home if you can, avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and mass gatherings
- Wash your hands - with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds. Do this before leaving home and after returning home, before eating and drinking, and after coughing or sneezing
- Cover your mouth and nose - with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze - tissue in the bin and wash, or disinfect, your hands immediately
- Don't touch your face - especially your eyes, nose and mouth
- Clean surfaces - disinfect surfaces around you - especially mobiles, computers, keyboards, worktops, desks, handles...
If you have COVID-19 symptoms or have received a positive test result
- Stay at home and begin to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms start. Arrange to have a test for COVID-19 if you have not already had one. The result of the test will determine how long you must stay at home and self-isolate.
- Stay at home while you are waiting for a home test kit or a test site appointment.
- A positive test result means you must complete a 10-day isolation period.
- If your test is negative, you can stop self-isolating as long as you are well.
- If you do not have symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19, stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from the day the test was taken. If you develop symptoms after your test, restart your 10-day isolation period from the day the symptoms start.
- Stay as far away from other members of your household as possible, especially if they are clinically extremely vulnerable. Avoid using shared spaces such as kitchens and other living areas while others are present and take your meals back to your room to eat.
- You could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate following a positive test result for COVID-19 and you are notified by NHS Test and Trace that you need to self-isolate
If you live in the same household as someone with COVID-19
- Stay at home for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day the first person in your house developed symptoms or, if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken.
- If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 yourself you do not need a test. Only arrange a test if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.
- If you develop symptoms and your test result is positive, follow the same advice for people with COVID-19 to stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started, regardless of where you are in your 14-day period.
- You could be fined if you are identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19 and you are notified by NHS Test and Trace that you need to self-isolate and do not to stay at home and self-isolate.
If you have been identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19
- If you have been informed that you are a contact of a person who has had a positive test result for COVID-19, you must self-isolate at home for 14 days from the date of your last contact with them. You could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and instructed to do so.
- Stay at home for 14 days and follow the self-isolation guidance below. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis.
- You are at risk of developing COVID-19 for the next 14 days. Since we now know that people can become infectious up to 2 days before symptoms begin, you could spread the disease to others if you do not go into self-isolation.
- Even if you never develop symptoms, you can still be infected and pass the virus on without knowing it.
- You should not arrange for testing unless you develop symptoms of COVID-19. The most important symptoms are: a new continuous cough, a high temperature, a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia).
- If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, other people in your household do not need to self-isolate at home with you.
- Take steps to reduce the possible spread of infection in your home: for example, wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser.
- If anyone you live with is clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable stay away from them as much as possible, following the guidance here. For the clinically extremely vulnerable, follow the shielding guidance.
If you do not develop symptoms of COVID-19 while self-isolating at home
- You must self-isolate at home for 14 days from the date of your last contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, even if you do not have any symptoms.
- If you do not develop symptoms of COVID-19, you should not arrange for testing.
- Your household does not need to self-isolate with you if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, but they should take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing, handwashing and respiratory hygiene.
- If you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, or walking a dog, you should ask friends or relatives. Alternatively, you can order your shopping online and medication by phone or online. Delivery drivers should not come into your home, so make sure you ask them to leave items outside for collection. Further guidance on accessing food and essential supplies is available.
- If you are an employee and unable to work from home, please refer to this guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions to find out about the support that is available to you to help you to self-isolate.
- Staying at home for a prolonged period can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some, but you can do things to help make it easier or access the Every Mind Matters website.
Will I need to self-isolate if I previously tested positive for COVID-19 but have now been notified that I am a contact of a person who has had a positive test result for COVID-19?
- If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19, you will probably have developed some short-term immunity to the disease. However, it is not certain that will happen for everyone who has had COVID-19, nor do we know how long any immunity to the disease might last.
- If you are notified that you are a contact of someone who has had a positive test result for COVID-19, you must immediately self-isolate and follow this guidance.
- Self-isolating at home for 14 days is very important even if you have already had COVID-19. This will help protect your family, friends and the NHS. You will be helping to protect the most vulnerable in society, by limiting the spread of infection in the wider community and reducing the chance of a second wave of COVID-19.
New legal requirements for self-isolation
You could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate following a positive test result for COVID-19, or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and instructed to self-isolate because you are a contact of someone who has had a positive test result. If you test positive for COVID-19, it will also be an offence to knowingly provide false information about your close contacts to NHS Test and Trace. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in a fine of up to £10,000.
You may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if you are required to stay at home and self-isolate. Local authorities will be putting arrangements in place to make these payments, with further details to be made available shortly. You will be eligible if you live in England and meet all the following criteria:
- you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
- you are employed or self-employed
- you cannot work from home and will lose income as a result
- you are claiming at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credits, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit
If your condition gets worse or in a medical emergency
Health and care services remain open to help people with all health conditions, including COVID-19. Most people with COVID-19 will experience a mild illness which can be managed at home. More information about managing the symptoms at home is available.
If you or anyone in your household feel like you cannot cope with the symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, use the NHS 111 online COVID-19 service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111.
For a medical emergency dial 999.
For more information about the Government's coronavirus (COVID-19) response, and the rules which apply, click here.