COVID-19 Advice for Constituents

COVID-19 remains a risk

It is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test result, the public health advice is to stay at home and avoid contact with other people.

COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.

All of us can play our part by understanding the situations where risks of COVID-19 infection and transmission are likely to be higher, and taking action to reduce these risks.

Following this guidance will help you to understand situations where there is a greater risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and the steps that you can take to stay safe and protect others. Every action you can take to help reduce the spread will help reduce pressure on the NHS during the winter months.

Understanding the risks of COVID-19

The risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 can be higher in certain places and when doing certain activities. COVID-19 is spread by airborne transmission, close contact via droplets, and via surfaces. Airborne transmission is a very significant way that the virus circulates. It is possible to be infected by someone you don’t have close contact with, especially if you’re in a crowded and/or poorly ventilated space.

Close contact with an infected person is also a significant way COVID-19 is spread. When someone with COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release particles containing the virus that causes COVID-19. The particles can come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth or can be breathed in by another person. The particles can also land on surfaces and be passed from person to person via touch.

In general, the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 is higher in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and limited fresh air.

In situations where there is a higher risk of catching or passing on COVID-19, you should be particularly careful to follow the guidance on keeping yourself and others safe. Every little action helps to keep us all safer.

Keeping yourself and others safe

There are still cases of COVID-19 in England and there is a risk you could catch or pass on the virus, even once you are fully vaccinated. This means it is important that you understand and consider the risks of catching or spreading COVID-19 in all situations.

While no situation is risk free, there are easy and effective actions you can take to protect yourself and others around you.

If you are worried about going back to a more ‘normal’ life, there is information from the NHS on how to cope with anxiety about lockdown lifting.

Get vaccinated

All adults in England have now been offered at least 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and all eligible adults have now also been offered a booster. The vaccines are safe and effective. Getting your initial course of a COVID-19 vaccine and a booster is the best way of protecting yourself and others against COVID-19.

If you have not yet received 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated. Evidence indicates that 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine continues to provide protection against severe disease, including against Omicron, but this protection declines slowly over time. Boosters provide a high level of protection against Omicron. You should therefore get a booster vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Whilst the vaccines, particularly booster doses, provide a high level of protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, it is still possible to get COVID-19 and to pass it on to others. We all need to do what we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect others and to reduce the risk of new variants developing and spreading.

Following the advice in this guidance will help you to protect your friends, family, and communities.

Let fresh air in if you meet indoors. Meeting outdoors is safer

When a person infected with COVID-19 coughs, talks or breathes, they release droplets and aerosols which can be breathed in by another person. Meeting outdoors vastly reduces the risk of airborne transmission, but this may not always be possible. If you’re indoors, you should let fresh air in to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.This is particularly important before, during, and after meeting people you do not live with indoors.

Do not prop fire doors open. If you have an extractor fan at home, for example in your bathroom or kitchen, think about leaving it running for longer than usual with the door closed after someone has used the room. If you are concerned about the costs of heating, opening windows for shorter periods of time can still help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Wearing extra layers can help you to keep warm. You may be able to change the layout of your room so that you do not sit close to cold draughts from open windows or doors.

There is guidance for the public on how to ventilate indoor spaces to stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes advice on how to claim financial and practical help on heating your home.

Consider wearing a face covering

COVID-19 spreads through the air by droplets and aerosols that are exhaled from the nose and mouth of an infected person. Whilst there is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering, the Government suggests that you continue to wear one in crowded and enclosed spaces, especially where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet, when rates of transmission are high. Find out more information about face coverings.

Get tested and stay at home if you have symptoms

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a recent onset of any of the following:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

If you have any of these symptoms you should order a PCR test. You are advised to stay at home, avoid contact with other people, and follow the guidance for people with COVID-19 and their contacts while you wait for your test result.

There is additional guidance for people who have been informed by the NHS that they are at highest risk of becoming severely unwell and who might be eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.

Stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you test positive

If you have COVID-19 you can infect other people from 2 days before your symptoms start, and for up to 10 days after. You can pass on the infection to others, even if you have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. If you have COVID-19 the public health advice is to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. You should follow the guidance for people with COVID-19 and their contacts.

Try to stay at home if you’re feeling unwell

If you feel unwell but do not have COVID-19 symptoms, or your COVID-19 test is negative, you may still have an illness which could be passed on to other people. Many common illnesses, like the flu or the common cold, are spread from one person to another. This can happen:

  • when someone infected with an illness breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, releasing respiratory particles which can cause infection in another person
  • through surfaces and belongings which can also be contaminated when people who are infected with an illness cough or sneeze near them or if they touch them, the next person to touch that surface may then become infected

Staying at home until you feel better reduces the risk that you will pass on an illness to your friends, colleagues, and others in your community. This will help reduce the burden on our health services.

Consider taking a test if you do not have symptoms

Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms. This means they could be spreading the virus without knowing it. Rapid lateral flow tests can be used to detect COVID-19 when you are infectious but are not displaying symptoms, helping you to make sure you do not spread COVID-19 by avoiding contact with others, particularly those who are at higher risk from COVID-19.

Rapid lateral flow testing continues to be available free of charge. You can get tests online or from pharmacies. Find out more about how to get rapid lateral flow tests.

You may wish to take rapid lateral flow tests as a way to manage your personal risk and the risk to those around you.

This may be particularly important before visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19.

Report your result and if positive, stay at home and avoid contact with others.

Certain places such as health and social care settings and prisons may have their own specific testing rules and guidance. You should always make sure you are aware of this guidance if you visit or work in these places.

Wash your hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes

Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day. Regular hand washing is an effective way to reduce your risk of catching illnesses, including COVID-19.

It is particularly important to wash your hands:

  • after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose
  • before you eat or handle food
  • after coming into contact with surfaces touched by many others, such as handles, handrails and light switches
  • after coming into contact with shared areas such as kitchens and bathrooms
  • when you return home

Where possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you do need to touch your face, for example to put on or take off your face covering, wash or sanitise your hands before and after.

Coughing and sneezing increases the number of droplets and aerosols released by a person, the distance they travel and the time they stay in the air. Covering coughs and sneezes will help reduce the spread of particles carrying COVID-19 and other viruses, including those that cause coughs and colds.

Working from home

The government is no longer asking people to work from home. People should now talk to their employers to agree arrangements to return to the office.

NHS COVID Pass

The NHS COVID Pass allows people to demonstrate their COVID-19 status to venues that decide to ask for it as a condition of entry. The app will allow people to generate a barcode that demonstrates that they are either fully vaccinated, have recorded a negative test result in the previous 48 hours, or are exempt from vaccination.

Venues and events are no longer required by law to check visitors’ NHS COVID Pass. However, some venues where large crowds gather or are in close contact may choose to continue to check the COVID-19 status of attendees and the workforce to keep everyone safer. Find out more about using the NHS Covid Pass.

Understanding your personal risk in different settings and scenarios

If you were previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV)

Following expert clinical advice and the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme, people previously considered to be CEV are not being advised to shield again. If you were previously identified as CEV, you should continue to follow the guidance contained in this page. You should take advice from your health professional on whether additional precautions are right for you.

Find out more about how you can stay safe if your immune system means you are at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19

If you are pregnant

Pregnant women who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are at higher risk of becoming severely ill and of pre-term birth if they contract COVID-19. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now advised that pregnant women should be included as a clinical risk group within the vaccination programme.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you are strongly recommended to get your COVID-19 vaccinations and booster as soon as possible. You should not delay vaccination until after you have given birth.

The COVID-19 vaccines available in the UK have been shown to be effective and to have a good safety profile. Over 100,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated. It is important to have your COVID-19 vaccinations to protect you and your baby.

Find out more information on COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Travelling in the UK and abroad

International travel

You must follow the rules for international travel.

Travelling to England from outside the UK

People planning to travel to England should follow the guidance on entering the UK.

Travelling in the UK, Ireland and Channel Islands

There are no restrictions on travel within England.

You should check the rules at your destination if you’re planning to travel to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, or to Ireland or the Channel Islands as there may be restrictions in place.

Do not travel if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating. Get a PCR test and follow the stay at home guidance.

Businesses and venues

All businesses should follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance.

Employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. The working safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:

  • identifying poorly ventilated areas in the venue, for example by using a CO2 monitor, and taking steps to improve air flow in these areas
  • ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue
  • providing hand sanitiser to enable staff and customers to clean their hands more frequently, and cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly
  • communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place