The information below is drawn from official guidance, and there are links to the full documents at the bottom of this page.

There are four sections to the advice below:

  • If you are unwell, or someone you live with is unwell
  • If you need support
  • If you want to offer support
  • Requirements for everyone. 

If you are unwell, or someone you live with is unwell

The main common symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough.

If you have either of these symptoms you should stay at home for seven days.

If you live with anyone who has these symptoms, you should stay at home for 14 days. If you develop symptoms during this period, however mild, you should not leave home for seven days after the symptoms started, or the end of the 14 day period. This diagram [PDF] illustrates the periods of self-isolation that might be required.

Do not

  • Go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
  • Contact NHS 111
  • Seek a test for coronavirus.

In the first instance, seek advice and information online. Call NHS 111 only if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • Your condition gets worse
  • Your symptoms do not get better after seven days.

Ambulance services are under very heavy pressure: only call 999 in case of emergency, and otherwise seek advice and support elsewhere - there are suggestions below.

If at all possible, do not go out to buy food or other supplies. Seek help from friends or family, and if you do see anyone, keep a distance from them (at least two metres / six feet). 

If you are living with someone who is unwell, avoid physical contact.

Higher risk groups

Some people are at particularly high risk from coronavirus. This means that if they become unwell, their illness will be particularly severe, and there is a higher chance that they might die.

This includes:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

The NHS is contacting these people individually, and they are strongly advised to 'shield' themselves for 12 weeks from when they receive the letter. This means avoiding all face-to-face contact, as far as is practically possible. 

If you need support

If you have received a letter saying that you are in the higher risk group described above, you can register to get help from volunteers while you are 'shielding' yourself. The NHS is arranging for volunteers to get food, medicine and other support to people. Register for this support by going to www.gov.uk/cornonavirus-extremely-vulnerable or calling 0800 028 8327.

Many local voluntary groups have been formed to help people who cannot leave their homes. To find out if there is one in your area, visit covidmutualaid.org. The service On Hand can also match people who need help with vetted volunteers.

There is also support available for all patients and members of the public. The NHS has created a new service via the messaging app WhatsApp. Enter the number 07860 064422 into your contacts, then message it the word 'hi' to get started. This is a 'chatbot' service that can provide you with information.

The NHS has also created a text message service for people with coronavirus symptoms. Daily texts will be sent by the NHS to new patients who register their Covid-19 symptoms and contact details with the 111 online service. The text messages will be sent as a reassurance to those who contact NHS 111 online, complete the assessment, and leave basic information such as their age, mobile number and when their symptoms started. People who don’t want to receive text messages will be able to opt out at any time.

If online information is not sufficient and you need to speak to someone, you can call NHS 111. Only do this if you cannot cope with your symptoms, or they are not getting better after seven days. 

You can of course also call the Patients Association helpline on 0800 3457115 for free information, advice and signposting, between 9:30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, or email at any time.

If you want to offer support

See our article for ways in which you can offer support to people in your area.

Requirements for everyone 

In order to slow and reduce the spread of coronavirus, the Government is instructing everyone to remain at home, other than for a few specific purposes:

  • 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.

Even when doing these things, you are advised to remain two metres (six feet) or more away from anyone who does not live in your household.

Gatherings of more than two people, other than people who live in the same household, are also prohibited.

These Frequently Asked Questions give an idea of what is and isn't permitted.

Guidance on hand-washing and hygiene remains in place:

  • Wash your hands more often, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, blow your nose, sneeze, cough, eat, or handle food
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.

Further resources

NHS advice on what to do if you are unwell
Instructions for staying at home and away from others
Guidance on staying at home for households with possible coronavirus
Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do
Full guidance for vulnerable people
Guidance on coronavirus in residential or care homes

Last updated: 30th March, 11:00.