COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- a cough
- a fever or high temperature
- shortness of breath
These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. It’s very unlikely to be coronavirus if:
- you have not been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus
- you have not been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days – see our coronavirus advice for travellers
How can I prevent COVID-19?
Good hygiene is the best prevention for many viruses, and coronavirus is no different. There are some simple steps everyone can take to protect themselves and their families.
The best way to slow the spread of coronavirus is to wash your hands with soap and water. Consider your hands as dirty unless they’ve only just been washed.
You should clean your hands more often than usual when trying to prevent the spread of a virus; clean them for 20 seconds, and whenever you:
- get home or into work
- blow your nose, sneeze or cough
- eat or handle food
Hand sanitizer is nowhere near as effective as washing your hands. It should only be used as a last resort if you don’t have access to soap and water. This is because using soap and water to clean your hands will lift germs from your hands, and wash them away. Hand gels are only effective if they contain high alcohol levels, however the remaining germs stay on your hands.
You can also help by ensuring your vaccinations are up to date, and any long standing medical conditions are being properly managed by medication or treatment, which will build your own resilience, as well as taking pressure off the NHS from treating preventable diseases.
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine, but the best way to protect against it is to wash your hands, and properly manage any underlying medical conditions.
If someone has been told to self-isolate, it doesn’t mean they have coronavirus, it is purely a precaution that will allow PHE to determine what next steps are needed.
In practical terms, self-isolating means that you must:
- stay at home
- not go to work, school or public areas
- not use public transport like buses, trains, tubes or taxis
- avoid visitors to your home
- ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you – such as getting groceries, medications or other shopping
We need to make sure we’re all doing our bit to slow the spread of coronavirus, and it’s important you’re armed with the facts.
- Face masks can prevent coronavirus – MYTH
Face masks play a very important role in places like hospitals, but there is very little evidence of widespread benefit for members of the public.
- I need to avoid public transport, mass gatherings, festivals, concerts or places with crowds – MYTH
Most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places. It’s unlikely you will catch the virus unless you’re in prolonged close proximity to someone who is a confirmed case.
You only need to stay away from public places (self-isolate) if advised to by the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional.
- I should wear gloves on public transport to protect myself from coronavirus – MYTH
While wearing gloves when you’re out and about may seem like a good idea, you don’t wash gloves like you wash your hands, so they could actually be spreading germs.
If you’re using public transport, or are in public areas, the best thing to do is to wash your hands with soap and water when you get to your destination. Try not to touch your face until you’ve done so.
- Vaccines against pneumonia protect against coronavirus – MYTH
COVID-19 is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine.
Although the pneumonia vaccine is not effective against coronavirus, it is still recommended that you have it if offered to you because it can protect against other illnesses.
- I can get coronavirus from my pets – MYTH
There is currently no evidence that companion animals or pets can be infected with coronavirus.
But it’s always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.
This can help protect you against common infections that can pass between pets and humans.
- Only old people can get coronavirus
People of all ages can get coronavirus, although there have been very few cases in children. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) are more susceptible to the virus.
- I can get coronavirus from mail or parcels from China and other affected areas – MYTH
There is currently no evidence that you can catch coronavirus from parcels and letters.
If you’re planning to travel abroad and are concerned about coronavirus, check the country by country travel advice on GOV.UK.
Who to contact
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.
Use this service if:
- you think you might have coronavirus
- in the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus – see our coronavirus advice for travellers
- you’ve been in close contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus
Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.