What is coronavirus / COVID-19?
Coronavirus is a virus that causes an illness called COVID-19, which can affect your lungs and airways. For most people, it only causes mild symptoms, but for others, especially those in higher risk groups, it can be more serious.
As it's a new illness, it’s not currently known exactly how coronavirus spreads between people, but similar viruses tend to be spread through cough or sneeze droplets.
Stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus
As of Monday 23 March, the Government states that everyone must now stay at home, to help stop the spread of coronavirus. You should only leave the house for one of the following reasons:
- To shop for basic necessities, such as food and medicine, but as infrequently as possible
- To perform one form of exercise a day, including a walk, run or cycle, either alone or with members of your household only
- For medical needs or to provide care or help for a vulnerable person
- Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home
Please note: Even when doing these activities, you should still minimise the time you spend outside of your home and always ensure you are two metres apart from anyone outside of your own household.
The symptoms to look out for
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- A high temperature, which means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you don't need to take your temperature) and / or
- A new continuous cough, so if you've been coughing a lot for more than an hour or had three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than normal)
Do not go to your GP, local pharmacy or hospital and there’s no need to contact NHS 111 to tell them you're staying at home. Please also note that there’s no testing needed for coronavirus, if you're self-isolating at home.
If your symptoms get worse or if they haven’t got better after 7 days, contact NHS 111 via the dedicated online coronavirus service.
To keep up to date with the latest stay at home / self-isolation guidance, visit the Government’s website and the NHS website.
If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus, you can get an isolation note for your employer, to prove that you need to stay off work. You do not need to visit your GP for a note.
To find out more, including the criteria you need to meet, visit the NHS website.
Reducing the risk
There are a number of simple, yet effective things we can all do to help reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to other people. This is particularly important for people in higher risk groups, such as if you’re aged 70 or over, have a long term condition or weakened immune system or you’re pregnant.
Handwashing and hygiene
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Always wash your hands when you get home / into work and when you’re preparing food
- Use a hand sanitiser, if there’s no soap and water available
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the crook of your elbow, not your hands, when you cough or sneeze
- Immediately put all used tissues into the bin and wash your hands afterwards
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, especially if your hands aren’t clean
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (door handles, keyboards etc)
- Always remain two metres apart from anyone outside of your own household, if you do have to leave the house (see the four points above)
- Avoid close contact with anyone who may have symptoms of coronavirus
- Don’t have visitors in your home, including family and friends
- Contact NHS services, including your GP practice, via phone, online services or available apps
The Department for Work and Pensions has issued advice on Statutory Sick Pay for those who are unable to work due to coronavirus. There's also information available for those already claiming benefits. To find out more, visit the Understanding Universal Credit website.
There’s a number of countries and areas, where there's either a higher chance of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus or they’ve introduced restricted travel arrangements.
If you're planning to travel abroad, please keep up to date with all the latest information on the Government’s website.
Looking after your mental wellbeing
It’s acknowledged that social distancing or staying at home for prolonged periods of time can be difficult, boring, frustrating and lonely for some people. It can affect your mental wellbeing, leaving you feeling low, anxious, worried or perhaps having problems sleeping.
There are a few simple things you can do to help you stay mentally and physically active during this time, including:
- Stay in touch with family and friends on the phone or online
- Spend time doing things you enjoy, such as cooking, reading, watching films or listening to music. You might also want to take the opportunity to learn a new skill via an online learning course or re-connect with a hobby you love, like drawing or yoga
- Try to find exercises you can do at home or in the garden. There’s a range of fantastic ideas for all the family on our staying at home page
- Make sure you eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink plenty of water and avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs
- Keep your windows open to let in fresh air and get as much natural sunlight as you can, even just out in the garden. You can still go out for a walk, just remember to stay more than 2 metres away from people
Don’t forget to look out for older and more vulnerable family members and neighbours, who may need some additional help and support during this time, especially with things like shopping.
National mental health support
Elefriends is a supportive and safe online community run by Mind, where you can share mental health experiences and listen to others.
Every Mind Matters can help you look after your mental health, including creating your own Mind Plan to help you feel more in control, deal with stress and anxiety and boost your mood.
Mind offer information, advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They also provide a telephone helpline on 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm).
Samaritans provide support, information and someone to talk to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123.
This page was last updated on 26 March 2020 (1:20pm)