COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.
The information on this page is for the public. There is coronavirus information for health professionals here.
What's the risk of coronavirus in the UK?
The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from moderate to high.
What's the risk of coronavirus for travellers?
There are some countries and areas where there's a higher chance of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus.
See the HM Government coronavirus advice for travellers.
Symptoms of coronavirus
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
How coronavirus is spread
Because it's a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. It's very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food.
Do I need to avoid public places?
As of today (24/03/2020):
NEW RULES ON STAYING AT HOME AND AWAY FROM OTHERS
The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.
When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the government is now (23 March 2020) introducing three new measures.
1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public
Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.
These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.
1. STAYING AT HOME
You should only leave the house for one of four reasons.
● Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
● One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
● Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
● Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.
These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
These measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded.
If you work in a critical sector outlined in this guidance, or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes
2. CLOSING NON-ESSENTIAL SHOPS AND PUBLIC SPACES
Last week, the Government ordered certain businesses - including pubs, cinemas and theatres - to close.
The Government is now extending this requirement to a further set of businesses and other venues, including:
● all non-essential retail stores - this will include clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets.
● libraries, community centres, and youth centres.
● indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.
● communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.
● places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
● hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers).
More detailed information can be found here, including a full list of those businesses and other venues that must close. Businesses and other venues not on this list may remain open.
3. STOPPING PUBLIC GATHERINGS
To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.
There are only two exceptions to this rule:
● where the gathering is of a group of people who live together - this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
● where the gathering is essential for work purposes - but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.
In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.
DELIVERING THESE NEW MEASURES
These measures will reduce our day to day contact with other people. They are a vital part of our efforts to reduce the rate of transmission of coronavirus. Every citizen is instructed to comply with these new measures. The Government will therefore be ensuring the police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply.
They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.
OSR Medical Ambulance Service advises everyone that they should follow this advice.
For clarity about what a high-risk group is, please see the list below:
• aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
• under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
• chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
• chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
• chronic kidney disease
• chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
• chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
• problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
• a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
• being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
• those who are pregnant
How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus
- wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- always wash your hands when you get home or into work (How to wash your hands)
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Check if you need medical help
NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
Use this service if:
- you think you might have coronavirus
- in the last 14 days you've been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus – see our coronavirus advice for travellers
- you've been in close contact with someone with coronavirus
- Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.
How to self-isolate if you're asked to
If there's a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate).
This means you should:
- stay at home
- not go to work, school or public places
- not use public transport or taxis
- ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
- try to avoid visitors to your home – it's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food
You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.
Read more coronavirus self-isolation advice.
Treatment for coronavirus
There is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus. Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses. Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness. You'll need to stay in isolation away from other people until you've recovered.