Coronavirus Information from WhatsApp

To use the free GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started.

The information from the service is below (correct as at 26/03/20):

Health information

This service cannot check your symptoms or provide a diagnosis.

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

Tell me more about coronavirus

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.

How is coronavirus spread?

Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by cough droplets or 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.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted from post, packages or parcels. It is also very unlikely that it is transmitted through food.

What is the ‘delay’ phase?

The ‘delay’ phase of the government response to coronavirus (COVID-19) aims to slow the spread of the disease.

If the peak of the outbreak can be delayed until the warmer months, we can reduce significantly the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges (societal or medical) that the colder months bring.

The ‘delay’ phase also buys time for the testing of drugs and initial development of vaccines and/or improved therapies or tests to help reduce the impact of the disease.

Prevention

There are things you can do to help reduce the risk of you and anyone you live with getting ill with coronavirus.

Do:

– wash your hands with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds

– use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

– wash your hands as soon as you get back home

– cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

– put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards

Don’t:

– do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Is hand sanitiser effective?

The best way to protect yourself from infections like coronavirus is to wash your hands more often than usual with soap and water, and for 20 seconds each time.

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.

Face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly and disposed of safely in order to be effective.

Symptoms

Do not leave your home if you have either:

A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)

A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus, please visit 111.nhs.uk/covid-19/

To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.

Will I be tested if I think I have coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.

If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service: 111.nhs.uk/covid-19/

If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

Stay at home

The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

That is why the Government has introduced three new measures:

– requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes

– closing non-essential shops and community spaces

– stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

Staying at home

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:

– 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

These four reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

These measures must be followed by everyone.

Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded.

If you work in a critical sector, or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school.

Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.

Closing non-essential shops and public spaces

To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. These include:

– pubs, cinemas and theatres

– all retail stores selling non-essential goods, this includes clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets

– libraries, community centres, and youth centres

– indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities

– communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms

– places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families

– hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use, excluding permanent residents, key workers and those providing emergency accommodation, for example for the homeless

More detailed information on which businesses must close can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close

Stopping public gatherings

To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.

There are only two exceptions to this rule:

– where the gathering is of a group of people who live together, this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home

– where the gathering is essential for work purposes, but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace

In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies.

This excludes funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.

Going to work

People can travel to and from work only where the work they do absolutely cannot be done from home.

At all times, workers should follow the guidance on self-isolating if they or anyone in their household shows symptoms of coronavirus.

For more information on those who can or cannot go to work, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

Delivering these new measures

These measures will reduce our day to day contact with other people. They are a vital part of our efforts to reduce the rate of transmission of coronavirus.

Every citizen is instructed to comply with these new measures.

The Government will therefore be ensuring the police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply.

They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

Self-isolating if you have symptoms

Do not leave your home if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does.

This is called self-isolation.

If you are self-isolating, you must:

– not leave your home for any reason, other than to exercise once a day – but stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people

– not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home

– not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home

You can use your garden, if you have one.

If you have symptoms and live with a vulnerable person

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 arrange for them to stay with friends or family for 14 days.

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

Do:

– try to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other

– avoid using shared spaces, such as kitchens or bathrooms, at the same time as each other

– open windows in shared spaces if you can

– clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example by wiping the surfaces you have touched

– use a dishwasher if you have one – if you do not have one, use washing-up liquid and warm water and dry everything thoroughly

Don’t:

– do not share a bed, if possible

– do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

– you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home

– your condition gets worse

NHS 111: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/

For full details on self-isolating, including how long to self-isolate for, visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/

Shielding the extremely vulnerable

Shielding is a practice used to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.

People falling into this extremely vulnerable group include:

– solid organ transplant recipients

– people with specific cancers

– 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

If you think you have a condition which makes you extremely vulnerable or have received a letter from NHS England you are strongly advised to shield yourself, to reduce the chance of getting coronavirus (COVID-19) and follow the face-to-face distancing measures below:

– strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough

– do not leave your house

– do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces for example family homes, weddings and religious services

– do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact

– do keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media

For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Travel

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises British people travelling abroad to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available.

The FCO also now advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide until at least 15 April.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice.

For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

Travel in the UK

People should avoid travelling unless it is essential.

Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays.

People should remain in their primary residence.

Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.

Latest numbers

Number of cases

As of 9am on 25 March 2020, a total of 97,019 people have been tested, of which 87,490 were confirmed negative and 9,529 were confirmed positive. 463 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

Risk level

The risk to the UK has been raised to high.

For more information, please visit:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

Mythbusters

Source: World Health Organization

There is a lot of false information around. These are the facts.

People of all ages CAN be infected by the coronavirus. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the coronavirus.

The coronavirus CAN be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates.

The coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites.

There is NO evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can transmit the coronavirus.

Taking a hot bath DOES NOT prevent you from catching the coronavirus.

Hand dryers are NOT effective in killing the coronavirus.

Ultraviolet light SHOULD NOT be used for sterilization and CAN cause skin irritation.

Thermal scanners CAN detect if people have a fever but CANNOT detect whether or not someone has the coronavirus.

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body WILL NOT kill viruses that have already entered your body.

Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccine, DO NOT provide protection against the coronavirus.

There is NO evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the coronavirus.

Garlic is healthy but there is NO evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the coronavirus.

Antibiotics DO NOT work against viruses, antibiotics only work against bacteria.

To date, there is NO specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

Check the facts on the WHO website: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters

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More information

Additional information for citizens living in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

For citizens living in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, please use the following links to access specific guidance relevant to your country:

SCOTLAND:

https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

WALES:

https://www.gov.wales/coronavirus

or

www.llyw.cymru/coronafeirws

NORTHERN IRELAND:

www.pha.site/coronavirus

Can I breastfeed while infected with coronavirus (COVID-19)?

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through breast milk. Infection can be spread to the baby in the same way as to anyone in close contact with you.

The current evidence is that children with coronavirus get much less severe symptoms than adults. The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of the virus through breast milk or by being in close contact.

However, this will be an individual decision and can be discussed with your midwife, health visitor or GP by telephone.

If you or a family member are feeding with formula or expressed milk, you should sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You should not share bottles or a breast pump with someone else.

For more information, visit: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/

How do we know if the virus is evolving?

Public Health England 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.

Could my pet become infected?

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as dogs and cats can be infected with coronavirus (COVID-19).

Should I still go to work even if I feel ill?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home and do not leave your house for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

For more detailed information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Will my employer be obliged to pay me while I stay at home?

You can get £94.25 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

If you’re self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can get SSP if you’re eligible. You should tell your employer as soon as possible.

There are different sick pay rules for agricultural workers.

For more information, including how to claim SSP, visit: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay