Public health advice

Throughout Phase 2 people need to minimise the spread of the disease through continuing good hygiene practices: hand washing (for 20 seconds), social distancing (2m or 1m plus) and regular disinfecting of surfaces touched by others. These will be in place for some time. 1m plus means a social distance of 1m plus mitigation, such as a face-covering, PPE, a plastic screen etc.

The number of social contacts people make each day must continue to be limited, the exposure of vulnerable groups must continue to be reduced from normal levels, extremely vulnerable groups must continue to follow advice very closely and symptomatic and diagnosed individuals with COVID-19 will still need to isolate.

If you show symptoms:

Common symptoms (95%) for coronavirus are a high temperature or a new, continuous cough or a change in your sense of smell or taste.

  • Stay at home. Even if you can continue to work or not, if you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms. If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible. See stay at home guidance.
  • Get a test. If you have symptoms of coronavirus you should ask for a test to check if you have the virus. This is called an antigen swab test. This tests if you have the virus, not if you have previously had the virus (antibody test), which will become more available in the UK as capacity increases. You can apply for a test for yourself, a household member or a child. The test involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat, using a long cotton bud. These either take place at a test centre or at home with a home kit. You can apply for a test online. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can order a test by phoning 119.

For medical guidance on symptoms call NHS 111. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you're staying at home.

Vulnerable people:

People who are ‘clinically vulnerable’, meaning you are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if you do go out, take particular care to stay alert and minimise contact with others outside your household. See staying alert guidance.

Clinically vulnerable people are those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions, treatments like chemotherapy, or medicines such as steroid tablets
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant women

Extremely vulnerable ('shielded') people:

There is a further category of people with serious underlying health conditions who are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, meaning they are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. As the circulation of COVID-19 in the community continues to decrease, the chance of catching the virus reduces, and therefore extremely vulnerable people can enjoy greater freedoms in a safe way. However, the risk of developing severe illness from coronavirus for these individuals remains very high.

On 22 June the government set out a series of steps for further relaxing shielding guidance which will come into effect on 6 July and 1 August.

From 6 July, the government will be advising:

  • you may, if you wish, meet in a group of up to 6 people outdoors, including people from different households, while maintaining strict social distancing
  • you no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of your household
  • in line with the wider guidance for single adult households (either an adult living alone or with dependent children under 18) in the general population, you may from this date, if you wish, also form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight, without needing to socially distance.

From 1 August the government will be advising that shielding will be paused. From this date, the government is advising you to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. Strict social distancing means you may wish to go out to more places and see more people but you should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household or support bubble.

In practice this means that from 1 August:

  • you can go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID-safe
  • children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to their education settings if they are eligible and in line with their peers. Where possible children should practise frequent hand washing and social distancing
  • you can go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise but you should maintain strict social distancing
  • you should remain cautious as you are still at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, so the advice is to stay at home where possible and, if you do go out, follow strict social distancing.

The guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable group remains advisory. More detailed advice will be updated in this guidance as the changes in advice come into effect on 6 July and 1 August.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable should have received a letter telling them they are in this group or been told by their GP. You, your family and carers should be aware of the further specific advice on how to protect yourself and shielding. If you are unsure see NHS guidance or contact your GP. The Secretary of State for Health will be writing further to these individuals. 

Face-coverings:

As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people's immediate household. The Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible such as in some shops. 

Wearing a face-covering on public transport is mandatory, and those caught not wearing one on public transport can be fined by the police.

Homemade cloth face-coverings can protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically. You can make them at home from old clothing. See how to wear and make a cloth face covering.

Get outside:

SAGE advise that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside. You can meet up to 6 persons from outside your household outside or in the garden, so long as you remain 2m (6 feet) apart. Further, you can now meet up to 2 members of another household at one time inside your home. 

People may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish.

People are also permitted to rest, relax, picnic and sunbathe in public spaces, so long as they respect social distancing guidance.

People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance.