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Coronavirus information and advice from AgeUK

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Coronavirus is a virus that affects your lungs and airways. Find out about the symptoms of coronavirus and the steps to take to stop it spreading.   

What is the latest advice from the Government?

The Government has asked everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and non-essential travel.

Those who can, should start working from home, and we should all avoid meeting in social spaces such as pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres.

These measures are called social distancing.

The Government has produced guidance to help you understand what you should and shouldn’t do, and to answer common questions such as how to access food and medication. 

People aged over 70, pregnant people, and people with underlying health conditions are being asked to stay at home and avoid unnecessary, close contact with other people for up to 12 weeks by 21-22 March. 

You’ll still be able to go outside to exercise, or just to get some fresh air, and it’s OK to go to the shops for essentials – provided you don’t have any symptoms. But you’ll need to avoid coming into close contact with other people so you might want to go to places when they’re quieter, like early in the morning or in the evening. The advice is also to avoid gatherings with friends and family and to use the phone or internet instead. 

These measures are tough, but they’re important to shield the most vulnerable from the disease. The Government has published some advice to help you to prepare.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a virus that causes an illness called COVID-19. It affects your lungs and airways. For most people, it causes mild symptoms, while for others it can be more serious and require hospital treatment.

It’s a new illness, so there’s a lot we don’t know for sure yet, but the Government is making lots of preparations to help contain coronavirus as much as possible.

There are simple, effective things we can all do to reduce our risk of catching COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to other people.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus? The symptoms are: a cough; a high temperature; shortness of breath.  

These symptoms are similar to lots of other illnesses, like common colds and flu. If someone has these symptoms it doesn’t necessarily mean they have coronavirus.

Anyone who has symptoms that could be coronavirus, however mild, needs to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for between 7 and 14 days. Read more.  

Are some people more at risk from coronavirus?

There are some people who need to pay particular attention to the Government’s advice to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. This applies to you if you’re:

• aged 70 or over

• living with a complex health condition. This includes:

• under 70, but living with long-term health conditions which mean you’d normally get the flu jab each year. These include:

• pregnant

From Monday 23 March 2020, the NHS will be getting in touch with anyone who they think might get seriously ill if they were to catch coronavirus. They’ll give specific advice for what to do.

If you think you’re more at risk, make sure you’re following advice about social distancing and keep washing your hands regularly. You don’t need to call your doctor or NHS 111 – just wait to be contacted.

How can I reduce my risk of catching or spreading coronavirus?

The Government is advising us all to do what we can to help stop the spread of coronavirus. This includes staying at home and avoiding social contact with other people – what’s known as ‘social distancing’.

This means you should:

• avoid all unnecessary travel

• only use public transport if you have to

• work from home if you can

• stop going to pubs, restaurants, theatres or cinemas

• use phone and online services instead of face to face ones, wherever you can.

We know this may feel scary and isolating. There’s advice from the Government on how to manage if you’re staying at home.

You should also make sure you wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, with soap and hot water.

You should wash your hands:

• for at least 20 seconds or for two rounds of the song ‘Happy Birthday’

• when you get home after going out

• before eating or handling food

• after sneezing or blowing your nose.  

Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. You should also make sure you catch coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve – not your hands – and put used tissues in the bin. 

What should I do if I feel unwell?

• Stay at home and for at least 7 days if you have a new, continuous cough or high temperature, even if you’re feeling OK. 

• Stay at home for at least 14 days if you live with other people and you or they develop a new, continuous cough or high temperature. Everyone in the household needs to stay at home for at least 14 days.

You don’t need to tell the NHS you’re staying at home, and you won’t be tested for coronavirus. You only need to get in touch with the NHS if:

• you don’t feel better after 7 days

• your symptoms are getting worse

• you feel you can’t cope with your symptoms at home.

You should do this by calling 111 or using the NHS online coronavirus service. Do not go to your doctor’s surgery or to hospital.

There’s advice from the Government on how to manage if you’re staying at home.

If you’re feeling unwell, it’s important to keep practising good hygiene, like washing your hands regularly. 

I’m a carer for someone else. What should I do?

This is a difficult time for people with caring responsibilities. It is clearly important to follow the Government guidance above, but we know this can be difficult to follow at times.

If you have caring responsibilities, Carers UK suggests looking at putting a contingency plan in place, and if you can, make cover arrangements with trusted neighbours, friends or family members. Take a look at their information on coronavirus.

The Government will be publishing specific advice for carers soon, hopefully within the next 7-10 days.

What about international travel?

The Government has said all non-essential travel abroad should be avoided to try to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

Do I need to wear a face mask?

During normal day-to-day activities face masks don’t protect people from viruses like coronavirus. The best way to reduce any risk of infections is with good hygiene, like washing your hands, and avoiding direct or close contact (within 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Healthcare professionals may wear masks if they’re looking after people who have tested positive for coronavirus, or may have been infected. If someone has been told they have coronavirus, they may be advised to wear a mask. 

I’m worried about someone. What should I do?

There are still plenty of things we can all do to help others during this time.

Stay in touch with people over the phone, by post, online or by popping over for a chat (assuming the person is allowed to have contact with others, and you take the precautions outlined above).

See if people need any shopping or help by running some errands.

Stay active around the house and keep moving.

I’m feeling really anxious about coronavirus

It’s completely understandable to be worried about the impact coronavirus may have on you or those you care about. Try to stay calm and follow the official advice from the Government. The charity Mind has information you might find helpful. 

• For further updates and the latest information, visit: www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/conditions-illnesses/coronavirus/

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