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Coronavirus (COVID-19) - what you need to know

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Coronavirus (COVID-19), Global health, Health Protection
Coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus particle isolated from a UK case of the disease Covid-19.

The COVID-19 outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation and information and guidance is therefore updated frequently. This blog was last updated on 4 August 2020 and the information below has since been superseded.

Please visit for the latest health advice or for all other information.

In this blog we’ll answer some of the questions many people have. We’ll update this blog as new information becomes available.

Please note we cannot answer any questions that relate to individual health concerns.

What is coronavirus and should I be concerned?

A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of this new virus?

The most common symptoms of this new coronavirus (COVID-19) are:

  • a new continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste.

Some people may also experience muscle aches, tiredness and shortness of breath.

How does this new coronavirus spread?

The main route of transmission is from cough and sneeze droplets. These droplets fall on people in the vicinity and can be directly inhaled or picked up on the hands and transferred when someone touches their face.

How long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors; for example:

  • what surface the virus is on
  • whether it is exposed to sunlight
  • differences in temperature and humidity
  • exposure to cleaning products

Under most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 24 hours, and even more so by 48 hours.

Am I allowed to leave my house?

From 4 July, new changes on lockdown measures, announced by the Prime Minister on 23 June, came into place. All the information on this can be found in the full guidance.

The measures that have been eased mean you can now meet in groups of up to two households (your support bubble counts as one household) in any location, indoors or outdoors. You can see different households at different times and you can stay overnight in another household – but it is still important that family and friends meeting up keep their distance, and stay two metres apart.

More shops and public venues will start to open, you can go out to eat in a restaurant, grab a drink at your local pub, stay at a hotel or campsite, visit a library, attend a place of worship, get your haircut and go to an outdoor playground or an outdoor gym.

Outdoor pools will reopen from 11 July and indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities will reopen from 25 July, ensuring millions of people can get back into more sport and fitness activities.

What can I do to make sure I don’t catch coronavirus?

Here are our top 5 tips to make sure you and your family can stay safe while getting on with day to day activities:

  1. Keep your distance from people outside your household and try and stay two metres apart at all times.
  2. Continue to wash your hands well and regularly for 20 seconds, use sanitiser when outside your home and avoid touching your face.
  3. Avoid crowded spaces and plan ahead when you can to avoid travelling on public transport at peak times.
  4. Wearing a face covering is now compulsory on public transport and, if you can, wear one in other enclosed public spaces, such as shops. Read our advice on how to wear and make your own face covering at home.
  5. And if you go to the pub, have fun but be sensible; show respect for others, follow the advice, and don’t do anything that puts you or other people at risk.

How many deaths do we have in the UK?

As of 3 August, of those who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 46,210 have died across all settings.

The coronavirus dashboard is updated daily. It shows the number of cases and deaths in the UK, broken down by region and local authority area.

How do I apply for a coronavirus test?

As part of the government’s 5-pillar strategy for coronavirus testing,  people who have coronavirus-like symptoms are being tested to see if they currently have the virus.

You can ask for a test:

  • for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • for someone you live with, if they have coronavirus symptoms

You can also apply for a test if you have a clinical referral from NHS 111 online.

What is NHS Test and Trace?

The NHS test and trace service:

  • ensures that anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus, and also includes targeted asymptomatic testing of NHS and social care staff and care home residents
  • helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus

We are introducing this service to help return life more to normal, in a way that is safe and protects our NHS and social care. The service will allow us to trace the spread of the virus and isolate new infections and play a vital role in giving us early warning if the virus is increasing again, locally or nationally.

Can I travel abroad?

Coronavirus regulations mean that you must self-isolate for 14 days if you return to the UK from a country outside the common travel area.

The government is satisfied that it is now safe to ease these measures in England and has introduced travel corridors for some countries and territories.

From 10 July 2020 you will not have to self-isolate when you arrive in England, if you:

  • are travelling or returning from one of the travel corridor countries
  • have not been to or stopped in a country that’s not on the travel corridor list in the previous 14 day

This applies to all travel to England, by train, ferry, coach, air or any other route.

If you have been to or stopped in a country that’s not on the travel corridor list you will have to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since you left that country.

Is hand sanitiser effective?

The best way to protect yourself from infections like coronavirus is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water. If soap or water aren’t available and your hands are visibly clean, then sanitiser gel can be used. But proper hand washing is the most effective method and this should be your first choice.

Should people wear face masks to protect themselves from infection?

Face masks play a very important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals but there’s very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of these clinical settings. Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly and disposed of safely in order to be effective.

Should I wear a face covering?

Face coverings may help you protect others and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from coronavirus but not showing any symptoms.

Face covering are mandatory while using public transport in England and from 24 July face covering will also be mandatory in shops and supermarkets. Under the new rules, people who do not wear a face covering will face a fine of up to £100, in line with the sanction on public transport and just as with public transport, children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt. The liability for wearing a face covering lies with the individual.

See our guidance for instructions on making your own face covering at home.

How do we know if the virus is evolving?

PHE has used whole genome sequencing to sequence the viral genome from the first two positive cases in this country and has made the sequence available to the scientific community. Our findings are consistent with viral genomes sequenced in China, and we are not seeing changes that suggest the virus has evolved in the last month.

What advice have professional groups being given?

We have produced a range of advice for health professionals and other organisations such as schools and businesses. This is all available on

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