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  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – 5 things you can do to protect yourself and your community
    23/03/2020 14:28:24 | NHS

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) – 5 things you can do to protect yourself and your community 

    1) Wash your hands frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue One of the ways we become infected, or pass on viruses to others, is through the droplets in coughs and sneezes – for instance through someone who has a virus, coughing onto their hand, then touching a door handle. A simple and effective way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is by making sure you wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or a hand sanitiser if you are out and about. It’s particularly important to wash your hands once you get home or arrive at work or before you prepare or eat food. If you are unwell it’s vital that you catch your coughs and sneezes in a tissue, or use your arm if needed, throw the tissues away, then wash your hands. 

    2) Be prepared to self-isolate As COVID-19 is now spreading in the community, people with symptoms of coronavirus should self-isolate at home. This means staying indoors and avoiding contact with other people for seven days after the onset of symptoms (new, continuous cough and/or high temperature). People can return to normal activity after seven days if they do not have a temperature and feel like they are improving. If the virus is spreading quickly, we may at a later date ask whole households to self-quarantine, if anyone in the home has symptoms. It’s very important to point out that we expect that the majority of people who catch COVID-19 will not need to see a health professional as their symptoms will be mild, such as those you might expect with a cold or flu and treatable at home. We understand that being asked to self-isolate could be inconvenient, frustrating or boring, particularly if you have mild symptoms and feel well enough to go out, but we are only asking people to do this as doctors and scientists believe it is necessary in order to slow the spread of coronavirus, protect people who are vulnerable and help the NHS manage capacity. 

    3) Plan ahead based on your situation There are a number of ways to slow down an infectious disease outbreak. Well-established tactics include self-isolation as mentioned above, as well as measures sometimes referred to as “social distancing.” One example of social distancing could be encouraging more working from home for instance, or another option could involve urging people to continue to go to work or school as usual, but reduce social activity or non-essential travel. Looking ahead, what preparations could you put in place to help you self-isolate if you needed to? Do you have friends or neighbours who could bring food to your house or run errands, or could you do online shopping? Could you talk to your employer about opportunities to work from home if this became necessary? If you might be more vulnerable to severe symptoms of coronavirus, have you considered the activities you have planned over the coming weeks, listing which are essential and which you could cancel if you needed to? Could you arrange to work from home? Don’t forget to think of others too. Do you have friends, family or neighbours who might need extra help? We understand that people will want to know whether and when any social distancing measures (such as home working and limiting travel, school closures or limiting public gatherings) could happen but it is not possible to confirm this now. These measures would only be implemented if scientists and experts, including the UK’s Chief Medical Officers, decide they are necessary and proportionate, informed by the latest scientific evidence. Any decision will balance both the need to protect people with the importance of maintaining day to day life such as going to work or school.

     4) Use health services wisely Now that COVID-19 is considered to be spreading in the community this could mean the NHS is busier than usual so it’s important to think carefully about the NHS services you use. If you start to experience symptoms and believe you could have coronavirus, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital as you could pass the infection to others. Visit NHS 111 online or call NHS 111 if you need to speak to someone. Services like 999 or Accident and Emergency should only be used for genuine emergencies. The first cases of COVID-19 in the UK were taken to specialist hospital wards so we could learn more about the virus and prevent it spreading to anyone else, but now we are beginning to see the virus spreading in the community this approach is no longer be appropriate. It is unnecessary for everyone with COVID-19 to go to hospital as the majority will have mild symptoms. We expect the majority of people who catch COVID-19 will make a full recovery without medical attention, but if you are concerned because you believe you are at greater risk, or feel your symptoms are becoming more severe, contact NHS 111 or alternatively 999 in an emergency.