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What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, Coronaviruses are common across the world but this is a new strain which has developed called COVID-19.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms are a high temperature and a new, continuous cough but can also include sneezing and shortage of breath. In some cases, this may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Generally, Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

I’m concerned I could catch it so how does Coronavirus spread?

Because it's a new illness, we do not know exactly how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by cough droplets or sneeze droplets. How long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors. Under most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 24 hours and even more so by 48 hours.

Can the virus survive on cargo that has arrived from an affected area?

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted from post or packages.

What can I do to reduce my risk of catching Coronavirus?

The best way to protect ourselves from infections like Coronavirus is to wash our hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and warm water or use a sanitiser gel, as well as always carrying tissues and using them to catch coughs and sneezes, then putting the tissue in a bin.

There are things you can do to help stop germs like Coronavirus spreading:

  • Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

If you are concerned that you are unwell or unsure about your symptoms, the NHS advice line is 111.

Should people wear face masks to protect themselves from infection?

The government has recommended people using public transport wear face coverings. From 24 July, face masks or covers to must be worn when visiting shops, supermarkets, shopping centres, and other indoor locations in line with the latest regulations. Face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly and disposed of safely in order to be effective.

Coronavirus in Stevenage

People with symptoms include a new, continuous cough and/or a temperature (37.8 degrees and above) and are advised to isolate for 10 days. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

The main messages are:

  • If you have symptoms of Coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home and do not leave your house for 10 days from when your symptoms started (this action will help slow the spread of infection). This is regardless of whether you have travelled to affected.
  • Plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure you can successfully stay at home.
  • Stay at least 1 metre or more away from other people in your home whenever possible.
  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and warm water.
  • Stay away from vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, as much as possible.
  • You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial.

Test and Trace

The national NHS ‘Test and Trace’ programme is in operation in Hertfordshire. This means that if you have a test which shows that you have Coronavirus, you will be contacted by someone from the NHS Test and Trace team. You will be told that you must self-isolate for 10 days and will be asked to supply the details of anyone you have been in close contact with, from the two days before your symptoms started. Those people will then also be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace team and told that they need to self-isolate for 10 days.

Genuine contract tracers will:

  • Call you from 0300 013 5000.
  • Send you text messages from ‘NHS’.
  • Ask you to sign into the NHS Test and Trace website.
  • Ask for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating.
  • Ask about the Coronavirus symptoms you have been experiencing.
  • Ask you to provide the name, telephone number and/or email address of anyone you have had close contact with from the two days before your symptoms started.
  • Ask if anyone you have been in contact with is under 18 or lives outside of England.

You will never be asked to disclose bank details or ring an expensive phone number beginning with 09 or 087 by a genuine Test and Trace team.

Improved access to test booking

Anyone in Hertfordshire with suspected Coronavirus symptoms can book either a mail-order or drive-through test if they need one. For those who can't go online to book a test at GOV.UK or for anyone who needs additional help, a new telephone call centre is available - ring 119 between 7am and 11pm. Textphone / minicom users with hearing or speech difficulties, call 18001 0300 303 2713.

The Coronavirus call centre can help you to book a test, answer your enquiries about the testing process and what to do once you have your result, or chase up any delayed results.

Hertfordshire’s mobile test sites are all open between 10am and 4pm. Please take a phone to the test centre if you have one.

  • Thursdays in Watford at the Central Watford Leisure Centre, WD17 3HA
  • Saturdays in Hertford at County Hall, Pegs Lane, SG13 8DQ
  • Sundays in Watford at the Central Watford Leisure Centre, WD17 3HA
  • Mondays in Stevenage, off Six Hills Way, SG1 2DF. So that you do not join a queue for the Household Waste Recycling Centre, please follow the signs to the test centre.

Coronavirus vaccine

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine has been made available and it is being offered to people most at risk from Coronavirus. Several other vaccines are being developed. They will only be available on the NHS once they have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

Vaccine safety

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved will go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world. A vaccine will only be used if it's approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA has been monitoring every stage of coronavirus vaccine development. So far, thousands of people have been given a coronavirus vaccine and no serious side effects or complications have been reported.

The Hertfordshire Care Providers Association has published some myth busters if you have some concerns about the vaccine.

Who will receive it?

At first, the vaccine was offered to people who are most at risk from coronavirus, before being offered more widely.

The first people to be offered the vaccine include:

  • people who live in care homes and care home workers;
  • people aged 80 and over; and
  • health and social care workers in England.

The vaccine is currently being rolled out to other age groups following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Can I request help to travel to my vaccination appointment?

Anyone in Hertfordshire who has booked their COVID-19 vaccination but is unable to make their own transport arrangements can get help through a service that has been put in place by the East of England Ambulance Service, Hertfordshire County Council and local NHS clinical commissioning groups. People can call 0300 790 6254 (Monday-Saturday, 9am-5pm) to ask for support to get to their appointment. However, people should only call this number once they have made their vaccination appointment. The service operates seven days a week and is NHS funded so the transport is free.

Where is my nearest mass vaccination centre?

Robertson House on Six Hills Way is the nearest mass vaccination centre for Stevenage. It is run by the NHS and supported by local volunteers.

Where is my nearest Rapid Test centre?

Rapid tests are quick and easy – they are usually completed in around 10 minutes and results are back in less than 45 minutes.

You can book a rapid test on Hertfordshire County Council's website. 

What are the new rules?

Social contact

The evidence shows that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors and this is why outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households can take place and will also making it easier for friends and families to meet outside.

Business and activities

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

From the 12 April, will see the opening of non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; and public buildings, including libraries and community centres. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups).

Most outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas will open. Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.

Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors and there will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew, although customers must order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’). Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.

Travel

The ‘stay at home’ rule ended on 29 March but many restrictions will remain in place. People should continue to work from home where they can and minimise the number of journeys they make where possible, avoiding travel at the busiest times and routes. Travel abroad will continue to be prohibited and the government has launched a new taskforce to review global travel which will report on 12 April.

Events

While funerals can continue with up to 30 mourners, the number of people able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15.

Latest rules on events

Here is the government’s latest guide on events.

Events within the context of Public Worship

Events which take place within the context of public worship (i.e. a Remembrance event at the start of a public act of worship in a recognised place of worship or outdoors) or regular acts of worship which have a remembrance theme to them should follow the guidance on public worship.

Keeping workers and audiences safe during COVID-19 (England) has been prepared by the Events Industry Forum with input from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and in consultation with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The Purple Guide has been written by The Events Industry Forum in consultation with the events industry. Its aim is to help those event organisers who are duty holders to manage health and safety, particularly at large-scale music and similar events.