Amid increasing demands for clarity on what constitutes social distancing and how to behave responsibly during the coronavirus outbreak, advice has been issued by the government, the NHS, and the UK’s four public health agencies. While the requirements and recommendations may change as the crisis develops, the key points on Sunday were:
- Self-isolate and stay at home for seven days if you develop symptoms: a new continuous cough and/or high temperature. A high temperature means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back; a new, continuous cough means coughing a lot for more than an hour or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.
- Stay at home for 14 days if you live in a household where someone has the symptoms of coronavirus. This longer period is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear and you will not know initially whether or not you are infected. If you then develop symptoms, stay at home for a further seven days even if that means you stay at home in total for longer than 14 days of isolation.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and particularly before you touch food or if you have been out in public areas, have been coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Always cough and sneeze into a tissue, then throw it away and wash your hands. Use your arm if you don’t have a tissue to hand.
- If you develop symptoms and live with someone who is vulnerable – over 70, who has a long-term health condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system – arrange for them to stay with friends and family for 14 days. If that is not possible, keep two or three metres away from them, do not share a bathroom and do not use shared spaces (ie kitchens) at the same time.
- Clean commonly used surfaces at home such as door handles, kettles and phones.
- Drink plenty of liquids to stay well hydrated.
- Take paracetamol to ease any symptoms. There is no strong evidence that ibuprofen can worsen symptoms, so if you are already taking ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory, then do not stop taking it without consulting a doctor.
- Work from home where possible. Keep in touch with friends and family using remote technology: ie phone, internet and social media.
- Take light exercise to keep fit.
- Respect the need for social distancing: if you go out, stay at least two metres away from others to prevent transmission of the virus. Avoid non-essential use of public transport where possible. Stay away from gatherings in public spaces. Cinemas, theatres, pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs are now all required to close.
- Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you if you are reducing social contact and need help obtaining food and medicine. Use online services.
- Do not have contact with anyone who has symptoms.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hand.
- Do not visit your GP’s surgery, a pharmacy or hospital if you still have coronavirus symptoms after seven days. Instead get advice from NHS 111 online or call 111. If it is an emergency call 999 and say you may have coronavirus.
- Do not share towels or a bed with those deemed vulnerable if you have the symptoms and live in the same home.
- Do not visit your mother on Mother’s Day if she is older or vulnerable. Call her instead.
- Do not go on holiday overseas. The Foreign Office advises against all non-essential travel abroad. Other countries may restrict travel without notice.