The latest health advice about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

19 May 2020
Rajive Patel
Rajive Patel B.Pharm
Medical Writer

In December 2019, a new coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 started spreading and triggered a global pandemic. This coronavirus causes an illness known as Covid-19, a respiratory disease, meaning it can affect your lungs, throat, and nose.

Over the past few months, the recognised symptoms of coronavirus have slightly changed, as GPs and health specialists have learnt more about the virus.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

  • High temperature – you feel hot to touch your chest or back
  • New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you have noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Covid-19 testing and self-isolating

If you have Covid-19 symptoms you should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. You should arrange to have a PCR test as soon as possible. If this PCR test result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate. If you do not have Covid-19 symptoms, but you have a positive PCR test result, you must stay at home and self-isolate.

If you live in the same household as someone with Covid-19, you must stay at home and self-isolate if you are not fully vaccinated or if you have been identified as a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

If you live in the same household as someone with Covid-19 that has not been identified as a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant, and you are fully vaccinated or aged under 18 years and 6 months, you are not required to self-isolate.

Regular testing is important to understand and slow the spread of Covid-19. Self-testing can also help stop people without symptoms from spreading the virus to other people without them knowing.

Everyone can now get free lateral flow tests for Covid-19. Get a lateral flow test in your area. Lateral flow tests can be done at home and give you a result in 30 minutes. These tests are for people who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms.

All results from lateral flow tests must be reported, whether the result is positive, negative, or void. Full instructions on how to complete the test and how to report results are given in each pack. How often you should self-test may vary, depending on your circumstances (such as your workplace requirements) and current national or local guidelines.

Stay home and self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset, plus three days after symptoms cease. Call your health care provider or hotline for advice. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house or have someone near you, wear a properly fitted mask to avoid infecting others.

If you are a healthcare or social care worker who has been identified as a household contact and are exempt from self-isolation, there is additional guidance available that you should follow to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in these settings (e.g. care homes).

Who is at higher risk from Covid-19

Certain groups of people are at higher risk from Covid-19. This includes older people, people with health conditions and pregnant women.

These conditions include:

  • Long-term lung conditions (such as severe asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis)
  • Long-term conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels (such as congenital heart disease, heart failure and peripheral arterial disease)
  • Long-term kidney disease
  • Long-term liver conditions (such as cirrhosis and hepatitis)
  • Conditions affecting the brain or nerves (such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or stroke)
  • Severe or multiple learning disabilities
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Problems with the spleen or the spleen has been removed (splenectomy)
  • Severely obese (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • Severe mental conditions (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
  • A condition or treatment that makes you more likely to get infections
  • A condition a care professional advises puts you at high risk

What do I do if I am at high risk?

People at high risk from Covid-19 are advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else. You are no longer advised to stay at home (shield). But there are still things you can do to help keep yourself safe such as maintaining social distancing, washing your hands regularly or using a hand sanitiser and wearing a face mask in closed spaces.

What do I do if I think I have Covid-19?

If you have a:

  • High temperature
  • New, continuous cough
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Call the NHS 111 number which will tell you what to do and help you get a test if you need one. Do NOT go to the hospital or to your GP surgery.

Babies and children

Trust your parental instinct and if your baby or child seems very unwell, call 111 or 999.

What is the travel advice?

The use of face coverings is mandatory on public transport, in taxis, private buses, coaches and on aircraft, in train and bus stations and in airports unless an exemption applies. This includes:

  • Boarding any mode of public transport
  • When on board any mode of public transport
  • When present on public transport premises or stops

Covid-19 vaccines

People aged 16 and over can get a 1st and 2nd doses of a vaccine. Most children aged 12 to 15 are currently only being offered the 1st dose. All young people aged 12 to 15 can get the first vaccine through the school-based vaccination programme or at an HSC Trust vaccination hub.

Booster vaccines are available on the NHS for people most at risk from Covid-19 who have had a 2nd dose of a vaccine at least 6 months ago. This includes:

  • People aged 40 and over
  • People who live and work in care homes
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • People aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19
  • People aged 16 and over are the main carer for someone at high risk from Covid-19
  • People aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections
  • People who are pregnant and in 1 of the eligible groups

People who have a weakened immune system are eligible for a 3rd dose

The 3rd dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is being offered to people aged 12 and over who had a weakened immune system when they had their first 2 doses. This includes people who had or have:

  • A blood cancer (such as leukaemia or lymphoma)
  • A weakened immune system due to treatment (such as steroid medicine, biological therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)
  • An organ or bone marrow transplant
  • A condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections
  • A condition or treatment your specialist advises makes you eligible for a 3rd dose

Common side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine

Most side effects are mild and should not last longer than a week, such as:

  • A sore arm from the injection
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Feeling achy
  • Feeling or being sick

You may also get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery 1 or 2 days after your vaccination. Take painkillers such as paracetamol if you need to. If your symptoms get worse or you’re worried, call 111. If you do have a high temperature that lasts longer than 2 days, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, you may have Covid-19. Stay at home and get a PCR test.

You cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine, but you may have caught it just before or after your vaccination.

More information

If you need help for a mental health crisis, emergency, breakdown, or further Covid-19 guidance seek immediate advice and assessment. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, urgent mental health support is available to adults and children around the clock. Find your local NHS helpline by searching for your postcode or home town in a new service finder.

See specific guidance and health advice for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

For the latest information, go to:

NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

Public Health England – GOV.UK – Coronavirus (COVID-19)Latest updates and guidance

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