What is Coronavirus, COVID-19?
Coronavirus, COVID-19 was first recognised in China in December 2019. It is a virus which is part of a family of viruses which can cause mild illness such as the common cold to more severe illness such as SARS.
Since the start of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a global health emergency with many countries imposing travel restrictions.
In the UK, the COVID-19 vaccination is offered free of charge to all adults over the age of 18, as well as anyone in a high risk group. Vaccinations can be booked through the NHS website.
There are multiple vaccines available. If you’re under 40, you’ll only be shown appointments for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
If you are pregnant, the NHS preference is for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. If you are breastfeeding, the vaccines are allocated dependent on your age, and could include the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccines and cannot pass it to your baby through your breast milk. If you have any concerns, please speak to your GP or maternity team.
The overarching guidance remains:
- You should continue to work from home if you can. When travelling within the UK, you should aim to do so safely and plan your journey in advance.
From 17 May 2021, “Step 3” rules apply in England. From that date you can socialise indoors in a group of up to 6 people or 2 households, including for overnight stays. Up to 30 people can meet outside. Pubs, theatres and other venues can open indoors. Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can open for people on holiday. Read the guidance on what you can do.
It is expected that England will move to Step 4 on 19 July 2021, though the data will be reviewed regularly in case the risks have changed. The government will continue to monitor the data and the move to Step 4 will be confirmed one week in advance.
If you are travelling internationally, or even to a different region or city, please be mindful that local rules at your destination may be different from those at your home location. You must comply with local rules at all times. Read the guidance on international travel.
COVID Travel Certificates
From 21 June 2021, the UK has introduced the NHS COVID Pass as proof of a person’s COVID-19 status. The NHS COVID Pass allows you to show that you’ve had the full course of the COVD-19 vaccine when travelling to some countries or territories.
The NHS COVID Pass is obtained free of charge through the NHS App (note that this is not the same as the NHS COVID-19 App). The NHS App can be loaded on any smart phone and is accessible to anyone registered with the NHS and registered with an NHS GP.
In the NHS App, the NHS COVID Pass generates a QR code to prove your vaccination status. The QR Code is regenerated daily. The NHS COVID Pass does not remove the need for a PCR test or a period of isolation, if these are required following international travel.
From 1 July 2021, the EU has introduced a Digital COVID Certificate as proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result, or has recovered from COVID-19. The certificate with QR code is available digitally, or in paper form, is valid in all EU countries and is free to obtain through national authorities.
As the UK is no longer part of the EU, UK residents are not covered under this scheme.
Individual rules apply for different EU countries, depending on where you travel from. As rules changes frequently, consult Re-open EU to find out the latest rules. The UK is designated as a “variant zone” by some EU countries, placing higher restrictions on travellers from the UK.
How the Virus Spreads
Travellers should be aware that this type of virus is commonly transmitted through respiratory droplets, such as saliva or droplets from the nose when a person coughs or sneezes.
It is possible that the virus can be spread through faeces, blood and urine.
There is currently no vaccine for the virus. However, there are medications to control symptoms of the disease.
What are the main symptoms of COVID-19?
The most common symptoms are:
- the recent onset of a persistent cough, and/or
- a high temperature, and/or
- a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
For most people COVID-19 will be a mild illness, and some may not display any symptoms at all.
Who is at risk of Coronavirus, COVID-19?
Anyone who is in close contact with a person already carrying the virus is at risk.
Respiratory droplets pass airborne viruses from one person to another. This can happen through coughing and sneezing when people are in close contact (less than 1-2 metres). The airborne virus can then land on a person’s hands, nose or mouth and then enter into the respiratory system.
How can I prevent Coronavirus, COVID-19?
To lower the risk of Coronavirus, COVID-19 the following precautions can be taken:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
- Maintain good personal hygiene especially after being in public places and before eating food
- Carry some antibacterial wipes for emergencies – especially when you are using public bathrooms or using public transport
- Try to avoid touching your face including your mouth, nose and eyes
- Do not share personal items such as toothbrushes, towels etc.
- Maintain social distancing. Keep a distance of at least 2m (6ft) between yourself and other people, especially if they are coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid contact with others showing symptoms of flu-like symptoms or who appear unwell
- Maintain good communication with those you are unable to be with due to social distancing using e-mail and telephone
- Keep up to date with travel advisories and information from your government when moving around your own country or travelling overseas
- Check advice when you return to your own country regarding precautions you should take if you have been to an area where cases of COVID-19 are considered high
- If at any time you feel unwell with mild flu-like symptoms it is important to stay at home for 10 days. The UK Government has published a stay-at-home document with advice. For more severe symptoms a person in the UK should call NHS 111 for advice
- Vulnerable people should follow advice to prevent COVID-19
- You should also be remember that if you try to take a flight and are suffering from a respiratory problem you could be refused access to the flight – if you have an existing condition make sure you have a letter from your doctor!
- Before travelling overseas to certain countries during the “flu” season it is advisable to discuss flu vaccination with your health advisor.
Those travelling should:
- Avoid live food markets where animals and birds are sold for food
- Maintain good food hygiene and only eat food which has been well cooked in at risk areas
- Maintain good personal hygiene
COVID Symptom Tracker
You can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by self-reporting your symptoms daily, even if you feel well.