Understanding Coronavirus COVID-19 and It’s Impact

What is Coronavirus, COVID-19?

COVID-19, first identified in China in December 2019, is a highly contagious virus belonging to a larger family of viruses capable of causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS. Recognised as a significant global health crisis, the COVID pandemic prompted widespread travel restrictions and heightened public health measures across the world.

According to the World Health Organisation, the majority of those infected with COVID will experience mild to moderate respiratory symptoms and recover without the need for special treatment. However, the virus can cause severe illness and require intensive medical care, particularly in older adults and individuals with underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer. It is important to understand that COVID can affect anyone, with the potential for serious health consequences at any age. More information is available on WHO’s official website.

COVID-19 Vaccination in the UK

In the UK, the COVID vaccine is provided free to all adults and high-risk groups through the NHS. To increase accessibility and protection against the virus, you can book your vaccination appointment directly via the (National Health Service) NHS website.

The UK offers several COVID vaccines, including Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, with each vaccine suitable for different groups. 

It is scientifically confirmed that you cannot contract COVID from the vaccines, nor can you transmit it to your baby through breast milk. If you have any concerns about vaccination during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, consulting with your GP or maternity team is strongly recommended.

Travel Advice for COVID-19

For those planning to travel, it’s essential to stay informed about the latest travel advisories and entry requirements, as these can change frequently due to the evolving nature of the pandemic. Travellers should check the UK government’s travel advice page for up-to-date information regarding their destination.

Before travelling, ensure you comply with any testing requirements and are aware of quarantine protocols for your destination and upon return. Travellers are also advised to be fully vaccinated, if possible, as many countries require proof of vaccination for entry. Additionally, maintaining good hygiene practices such as hand washing and wearing masks in crowded or indoor settings can help reduce the risk of infection.

Travel Restrictions

Coronavirus COVID-19

Within the UK, there is general freedom to travel.   Government restrictions related to Covid that were previously in place have been lifted.   As cases of Covid continue, good personal hygiene is an essential step to reducing risk of infection.

If you are travelling internationally, 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-19 Travel Certificates: Navigating International Travel Requirements

United Kingdom

As of 21 June 2021, the UK has implemented the NHS COVID Pass to serve as proof of COVID vaccination status for international travellers. The NHS COVID Pass is accessible at no cost through the NHS App—which is distinct from the NHS COVID App—and is available to anyone registered with an NHS GP in the UK.

Within the NHS App, the NHS COVID Pass generates a daily refreshed QR code that verifies your vaccination status. It’s important to note that possessing an NHS COVID Pass does not exempt travellers from the requirements for a PCR test or isolation periods mandated by certain international destinations. For the most current travel advice and entry requirements, UK residents should consult the UK government’s travel advice page.

European Union

Starting from 1 July 2021, the EU introduced the Digital COVID Certificate. This certificate is proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID. Available in both digital and paper formats, the certificate is recognised in all EU member states and can be obtained free of charge through national health authorities.

As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, UK residents are not eligible for the EU Digital COVID Certificate scheme. However, individual EU countries may have specific rules and requirements for travellers from the UK, particularly because the UK has been designated as a “variant zone” by some EU countries, leading to stricter entry restrictions. Travellers should verify the latest rules and restrictions by visiting the UK government’s travel advice page.

Transmission and Prevention of COVID-19

Travellers should be aware that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through respiratory droplets, such as those expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

While less common, there are also indications that the virus might spread through contact with infected faeces, blood, or urine. It’s important to maintain good personal hygiene, including frequent handwashing and avoiding touching your face, to reduce the risk of such transmissions.

Current Treatments and Vaccinations

As of now, multiple COVID vaccines have been developed and are available globally, providing effective protection against the virus. These vaccines have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they are both safe and effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalisation, and death caused by the virus. In the UK, vaccines are available free of charge to those considered in high risk categories and can be accessed through the NHS. For those requiring the vaccine privately there are now numerous pharmacy outlets providing the vaccine from April 2024. 

While there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID, there are various medications and therapies available to help manage and relieve symptoms. Patients are advised to follow healthcare providers’ recommendations, including taking prescribed medications for symptom relief and supportive care.

What are the most common symptoms of COVID?

While we now mainly observe mild illness from COVID the most common symptoms of COVID include:

  • A persistent cough that is new or worsening
  • A high temperature (fever)
  • A loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

For the majority of individuals, COVID will present as a mild illness. However, it’s important to note that some people may be asymptomatic, meaning they do not exhibit any symptoms despite being infected with the virus. This can lead to unwitting transmission to others, particularly among those who are unvaccinated or have not previously contracted the virus.

Who is at Risk of Contracting COVID-19?

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and particles released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or breathes. Individuals are at higher risk of catching the virus if they are in close contact (less than 1-2 meters) with someone who is infected. This proximity allows them to inhale droplets or have these droplets land on surfaces they may touch and then subsequently touch their face, introducing the virus to their respiratory system through the nose or mouth.

In addition to these transmission methods, COVID can also spread in crowded indoor environments, particularly where there is limited ventilation and people are in close proximity for extended periods. This underscores the importance of maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks in crowded settings, and ensuring good ventilation in indoor spaces to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of the virus.

How can I prevent Coronavirus, COVID?

To lower the risk of Coronavirus, COVID the following precautions can be taken:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and  water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public places, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Use antibacterial wipes in situations where you cannot wash your hands, especially after touching surfaces in public areas such as bathrooms and on 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
  • 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 are considered high 
  • If at any time you feel unwell with mild flu-like symptoms it is important to stay at home.  For more severe symptoms a person in the UK should call NHS 111 for advice
  • Vulnerable people should follow advice to prevent COVID and ensure they have received the COVID vaccination where suitable. 
  • 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.
  • Finally the only precaution to prevent serious consequences of COVID is vaccination – consider a vaccination or regular COVID boosters especially when travelling.  

Those travelling should:

  • Check Travel Advisories: Before planning any trip, check the latest travel advisories from your government and the health advisories for the destination. This includes understanding any restrictions, quarantine requirements, or entry bans.

  • Vaccination: Ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID before travel. Many countries require proof of vaccination for entry, and being vaccinated reduces the risk of severe illness.

  • Testing: Depending on the destination, you may need to show a negative COVID test result before departure or on arrival. Make sure to check the type of test required (e.g., PCR, antigen) and the time frame within which it must be taken.

  • Masks and Hygiene: Wear masks in crowded and enclosed spaces such as airports, planes, and public transport. Carry hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently.

  • Steer clear of markets where live birds and animals are sold for food: These settings can increase the risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases, including potential new strains of viruses. If you must visit such areas, ensure you follow strict hygiene practices, avoid touching surfaces, and wash your hands thoroughly after your visit.

  • Social Distancing: Maintain a safe distance from others where possible, especially in crowded areas.

  • Health Insurance: Ensure you have travel health insurance that covers COVID related issues, including treatment and potential hospitalisation.

  • Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with the COVID-19 situation in your destination as conditions can change rapidly. Download and use any required health apps or tracking systems mandated by the country you are visiting.

  • Prepare for Quarantine: Some destinations might require you to quarantine upon arrival. Prepare for this possibility by understanding the requirements and duration.

  • Respect Local Guidelines: Follow all local COVID-19 safety guidelines and regulations. Different destinations may have varying rules about mask-wearing, social gatherings, and curfews.

  • Symptoms Monitoring: Monitor your health throughout your trip. If you develop symptoms, follow the local public health advice regarding testing and self-isolation.

  • Flexible Planning: Have flexible travel plans as restrictions and policies may change quickly depending on the outbreak situation. Be prepared to alter your plans accordingly.

  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of local emergency contacts, including healthcare providers and the nearest embassy or consulate