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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.

119 between 7am and 11pm or 18001

0300 303 2713, if you have hearing or speech difficulties.

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.

Who will receive it?

At first, the vaccine will be 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
  • health and social care workers in England

The final decision on who will get the vaccine first will follow advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

What are the new rules?

People in England will have to stay at home and only go out for essential reasons. Primary and secondary schools will move to online learning for all pupils apart from vulnerable and key worker children.

Reasons to leave home include:

  • Work or volunteering where it is "unreasonable" to work from home. This includes work in someone else's home, such as that carried out by social workers, nannies, cleaners and tradespeople
  • Education, training, childcare and medical appointments and emergencies
  • Exercise outdoors (limited to once a day). This includes meeting one other person from another household in an open public space to exercise
  • Shopping for essentials such as food and medicine
  • Communal religious worship
  • Meeting your support or childcare bubble. Children can also move between separated parents
  • Activities related to moving house

Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be advised to limit the time they spend outside the home. They should only go out for medical appointments, for exercise, or if it is otherwise essential, the government says, and not for work or education purposes.

International travel, or travel around the UK is only permitted for essential reasons.
Hospitality businesses such as pubs and restaurants and non-essential shops must close, as must indoor and outdoor sports facilities including gyms and tennis courts.

Essential businesses and services can stay open to the public including:

  • Supermarkets, food shops, pharmacies and garden centres
  • Places of worship
  • Petrol stations and MOT service
  • Laundrettes
  • Banks and post offices
  • Doctors and dentists' surgeries and vets
  • Car parks, public toilets and playgrounds

Meeting others

  • You can walk with one friend – but not with a group.
  • Exercise is allowed with one person who is not in your household or support bubble, in a public outdoor place (for example, a park, a beach or in the countryside).
  • You can only exercise with one person at a time, and you should not exercise more than once per day. What’s more, you should not travel outside your local area.
  • There should also be a distance of 2m (6 ft) between you and your walking partner (or 1m with extra precautions, such as a face covering).

Support Bubbles

  • Support bubbles were not mentioned in the prime minister's lockdown announcement but the rules have not changed.
  • You can form a support bubble with another household of any size if you are a single adult living with one or more children who were still under 18 on 12 June 2020.
  • As a parent, you can also form a support bubble if your household includes a child who was still under the age of one on 2 December 2020, or a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of five.
  • Other reasons for a support bubble include living by yourself (even if carers visit you to provide support), or if you are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability.
  • You should not form a support bubble with a household that is part of another support bubble.

Limits on the number of people you can see socially have changed. From Sunday 20 December, when meeting friends and family you do not live with you must not meet in a group of more than two. This is against the law and the police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notices) of £200, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.

There are exceptions where larger groups can meet and these include:

  • For work, or the provision of voluntary or charitable services.
  • Registered childcare, education or training.
  • Supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care and children’s playgroups.
  • Providing support to a vulnerable person.
  • Providing emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm.
  • For arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents.
  • Fulfilling a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service.
  • Elite sporting competition and training.
  • Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions - up to 6 people, in a public place.
  • Funerals - up to 30 people. This does not include wakes, other than for religious ceremonial purposes.
  • Other religious and belief-based life cycle ceremonies - up to 15 people, in a public place. This only covers the ceremonies, and does not include celebrations of these events.
  • Support groups - formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. This includes support to victims of crime, recovering addicts, new parents, and people with long-term illnesses, those facing issues relating to their sexuality or gender, and those who have suffered.
  • Protests - if organised in compliance with COVID-19 Secure guidance.

Where a group includes someone covered by such an exception (for example, someone who is working), they are not counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means - for example - a trades person can go into a household of six without breaching the limit, if they are there for work.

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.

© 2021 Stevenage Borough Council