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Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 – Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: 13 December 2021


What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. 

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).  COVID-19 is the latest coronavirus we have seen.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • A high temperature– this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature but >37.8C is high)
  • A 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)
  • Anosmia – loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste. Either you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

Some patients may also have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Watch a video about the symptoms of COVID-19. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.

Are there any vaccines that can prevent COVID-19?

Three vaccines are currently approved for use in the UK and they are being rolled out as quickly as possible. The elderly, those in care homes and health and social care workers are being given the vaccine first, then it will be more widely rolled out across groups according to risk.

Your GP will contact you to invite you to be vaccinated.

Learn about the Cheshire East Vaccination Programme here.

You can read about the general NHS Vaccination Programme here.

How long does it take to recover from COVID-19?

A World Health Organization analysis of Chinese data says it takes two weeks on average to recover.

For mild disease most people feel better within 7 to 14 days. However, for some people the shortness of breath may take some considerable time to improve, in which case, it can take two to eight weeks to recover, with tiredness lingering.

It has been recognised that for some people symptoms can continue for months and they have what is being called ‘long COVID’.

How dangerous is COVID-19?

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops breathing difficulties. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness, but some younger people have also become seriously ill, and even died, of the disease.

How does COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than two metres away from a person who is sick.  The disease cannot spread without human proximity – this is why the instruction from the UK Government is to follow the latest guidelines.

Can COVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?

The main way the disease spreads is through respiratory droplets expelled by someone who is nearby. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is also possible. Many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease. It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill. 

How likely am I to catch COVID-19? 

The risk is a combination of where you live, if you have been in contact with someone who has the virus and whether you are following the advice (handwashing, social distancing and hygiene) to avoid spreading the virus. Staying at home and not seeing people outside your household is the most effective way to avoid catching the virus.

Is COVID-19 widespread in Congleton?

In Cheshire East the number of confirmed cases is stable but we must remain very vigilant to slow the further spread, which is inevitable for such a virulent disease.  You can check the latest statistics on the Government Statistics website. Remember that many people with symptoms have not been tested, so the number of actual cases is likely to be much higher than the number of ‘confirmed’ cases.

Where can I get local help and advice?

Please look at our our Giving and Getting Help Page


What if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

The medical advice is clear: you must self-isolate if you have coronavirus symptoms. If you live in the same household as somebody who does, self isolating has been replaced with daily lateral flow tests. 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

If you have symptoms:

  • You should stay at home, in isolation for at least 10 days. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
  • You must take part in NHS test-and-trace so that anyone you have been in contact with can be traced. Order your test as soon as possible.

    Find out about NHS test-and-trace here on the NHS website.

What about people who live with someone with symptoms?

People living with a coronavirus patient do not need stay at home. Avoid going near to the patient – keep at least a metre away.  Do not share towels or utensils with them.  Do not sleep in the same bed with someone who has symptoms.  Increase handwashing and frequent cleaning of all surfaces that people might touch, such as door handles.


What can I do to reduce my risk of catching/spreading COVID-19?

The UK Government has set out rules for what people can and cannot do to avoid spreading COVID-19. These involve staying distant from other people and a number of restrictions on everyday life including travelling, working, shopping, going to school/university, visiting friends/family, socialising and doing sports.

The rules are updated frequently as the epidemic progresses. You can find the latest rules on the government website here.

To avoid spreading and catching the Virus, DO:

  • Wear a face covering when around other people, especially indoors
  • Stay at least 2 metres away from people not in your household
  • 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 back home
  • Use a face covering to cover your nose and mouth when in shops, other indoor public places, or on public transport
  • 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


  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Do not have visitors to your home, including friends and family

Is hand sanitiser effective?

The best way to protect yourself from infections like coronavirus is to avoid contact with other people and wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If soap or water aren’t available and your hands are visibly clean, then sanitiser gel can be used. But proper hand washing is the most effective method, and this should be your first choice.

I have a mental health condition and being at home alone exacerbates my symptoms, what can I do?

Isolation can be challenging for anyone but especially if you have anxiety, depression or another mental health condition.  Prioritise your wellbeing and make use of all the services available to you.  Consider avoiding news and social media which can become overwhelming. Consider continuing any counselling or talking-therapy sessions by phone or video call. Spend time outside in the garden if you have one.  For more help, visit our Congleton Mental Wellbeing page

I’m afraid of my partner, how can I stay at home with them?

Being cooped up at home with an abusive partner can seem a worse risk for some people than becoming ill. The Government has said that victims of abuse can still leave their homes for their own safety, and that the refuges will remain open. You might like to visit our Staying Safe at Home page.

Local help is available. Please phone 0300 123 5151 or go to http://www.openthedoorcheshire.org.uk/.

Should people avoid shaking hands?

Yes. Avoid physical contact with other people except your immediate family.

Should I cover my face to protect myself and others?

The latest government advice says that, where social distancing is difficult, covering your face is essential. Face covering is mandatory on public transport and in some other settings. See the government advice.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but studies suggest that coronaviruses in general may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others, then clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet?

Several dogs and cats in contact with infected humans have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, ferrets appear to be susceptible to the infection. In experimental conditions, both cats and ferrets were able to transmit infection to other animals of the same species, but there is no evidence that these animals can transmit the disease to human and play a role in spreading COVID-19.

However, a pet is a ‘surface’ like any other so if different people touch it in succession, the virus could be transferred. You should avoid patting or stroking other people’s pets and always wash your hands thoroughly after touching or feeding your pet.

Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?

Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.

When the package has been delivered, wipe it down with disinfectant and wash your hands.  Leave it for as long as possible – at least a couple of hours, before opening.  Wash your hands again after opening it and discard the packaging as soon as possible.


Who needs to self-isolate?

Some people should contact with others because they have underlying health conditions or are elderly and therefore are at particular risk from this virus.

Others need to self-isolate because they have (or may have) coronavirus.

Am I allowed to go out to the shops to get food if I am self-isolating?  I need to collect medicine from the pharmacy, what should I do?

If you have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days due to test-and-trace or a positive COVID-19 test, it is fine for friends or family to drop off food for you. Alternatively, you can order by phone or online, such as through takeaway services or online shopping deliveries. However, make sure you tell the delivery driver that the items are to be left outside, or as appropriate for your home.

Who are considered ‘extremely vulnerable people’ and what should they do?

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are those for whom COVID-19 could be very dangerous.  It includes those with a compromised immune system due to chemotherapy or another health condition, those suffering from certain conditions that affect the lung like cystic fibrosis, COPD and severe asthma and women who are pregnant with an underlying heart condition.

In the second lockdown, the government is telling people they do not need to ‘shield’ (stay in isolation avoiding all contact), but should avoid contact with other people as much as possible.

There is more information on what to do if you are clinically extremely vulnerable on the government website.

If I have a non-coronavirus health condition, should I go to the doctor or hospital?

Yes. Other NHS departments are open for business. Your appointment for a routine check-up may be delayed, so check before you attend.

If you have a healthcare emergency you can still phone 999 or go to A&E, and you can still contact your GP for repeat medication – usually by phone or online.


Can the COVID-19 epidemic be stopped?

COVID-19 outbreaks can be contained, and transmission stopped, as has been shown in China and some other countries.  This depends on everyone following the advice to avoid spread of the disease.

What is the infection rate – ‘R’?

The infection rate or reproduction rate is the number of people infected by one person with the virus, on average.  For example, an infection rate of 2 means each person infects 2 other people.  Before the current restrictions, the infection rate of COVID-19 was estimated in the UK at 3, and since the restrictions it has gone below 1, which is a good thing as it means the number of people with the virus is decreasing.

Are there any medicines that treat COVID-19?

There are some medicines that have been shown to be effective to reduce the severity of COVID-19 in very ill patients, and more drugs are in clinical trials.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

Sources: World Health Organisation,  Public Health EnglandBBC NewsWorldometer, Government FAQs