Important information about the coronavirus (COVID-19)
For updates on specific areas affected by the coronavirus or on local response to the pandemic, check the news section of the website.
Accessing GP services during COVID-19
Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Britain, the face of primary care has radically changed.
Yet throughout the last few months, GP practices have been working hard to support their patients and keep them safe.
With many people reluctant to venture to their doctor out of fear of catching the coronavirus, doctors are encouraging people to get in touch with them promptly rather than letting medical problems get worse.
“We continue to care for all our patients. In fact we never stopped, all that has hopefully happened is some of that wonderful bedside or deskside manner has simply become the new webside manner,” said one GP in Berkshire.
The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) are well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases. The NHS has put in place measures to protect patients, our community and NHS staff while ensuring as many services as possible are available to the public.
Keeping at a distance from other people outside your household will help to reduce the risk of infection and will slow or halt the spread of the coronavirus.
From Monday, September 14, people are not allowed to gather in groups of more than six people (indoors or outdoors). For more information and to see the exceptions to the rule, click here.
stay at least one metre away from anyone you do not live with when outside your home
wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
wash your hands as soon as you get home
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
wear something that covers your nose and mouth when on public transport, in hospitals, in shops and any other indoor public premises (apart from pubs and restaurants. This is a legal requirement for everyone apart from young children and those with breathing problems.
touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
leave home if you or someone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus
- Socialise indoors or outdoors in groups of more than six people
You can find more information and advice on social distancing here, including how to access NHS services if you have, or think you have, coronavirus.
Recognising the symptoms of coronavirus
The main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.
Find more information here.
Testing and tracing
If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can ask for a test to check if you have the virus. This is called an antigen test.
There is another type of test (antibody test) that checks if you've already had the virus. This test is not widely available yet. You can find out about antibody testing on GOV.UK.
You may be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace Service, either to let you know you have tested positive, or that you have been in contact with someone else who has tested positive.
You can find more information on testing and what to do if contacted by the NHS Test and Trace Service here.
If you need medical advice about your symptoms: NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
You must not leave home for 10 days after your test.
If you or anyone in your household is displaying coronavirus symptoms, or has tested positive for the virus, it is important that all members of the household self-isolate.
This is to ensure that you do not infect anybody outside your household.
You can find more information on the requirements, including how long to self-isolate and how to get help if you need it, here.
NHS England has separate advice about:
People at higher risk
Some people are more vulnerable to coronavirus than others and were given specific advice earlier in the pandemic to protect them. Many people have been shielding – staying at home with little or no direct contact with the outside world.
The Government advice is that there is currently no need for people to shield.
Looking after your health and wellbeing
To help yourself stay well while you're at home:
- stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media
- try to keep yourself busy – you could try activities like cooking, reading, online learning and watching films
- do light exercise at home, or outside once a day
For more advice, see the pages in our Helping you to stay well section.
Smoking and Covid-19
Evidence shows smokers with COVID-19 are 14 times more likely to develop severe respiratory disease.
What to do if you need medical help
If you need medical help for any reason, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service.
If you need help or advice not related to coronavirus:
- for health information and advice, use the NHS website or your GP surgery website
- for urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service – only call 111 if you're unable to get help online
- for life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance
Read more advice about getting medical help at home.