Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: 31st March

COVID-19 – Frequently Asked Questions


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 of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever/high temperature (>37.8C), tiredness, and dry cough. 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.

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 a metre 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 STAY AT HOME.

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 coughing. The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is lower but not impossible. However, 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 growing and 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 Public Health England website. Remember that many people with symptoms have not been tested, so the number of actual cases is 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 can I do to reduce my risk of catching COVID-19?

The most important advice is the instruction from the UK Government to STAY AT HOME. You should not leave your house except for outdoor exercise once a day (walk, run or cycle) or for essential shopping like for food and medicine.

For more information on and links to the Government and NHS Guidance visit our COVID-19 Information Page.

To avoid spreading and catching the Virus, DO:

  • 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
  • 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.

What is ‘social distancing’ and who should be doing it?

According to the latest instructions from the UK Government – EVERYONE MUST PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING. This means avoiding social contact and staying at least 2 metres away from other people. Work at home if possible. You MUST NOT visit friends or family, go to parks or public places.  You must only shop for essentials like food and medicine.

 Watch a video about Social Distancing.

Do I need to stockpile food, drinks or household supplies?

No. Supermarkets and wholesalers are managing their supply chains to ensure there is enough for everyone.  The only reason that some supermarket shelves are empty is that people are buying more than they need and hoarding. Please do not do this!  If everyone buys what they normally would, current predictions are that there will be no significant shortages.

Should people avoid shaking hands?

Yes. Indeed, you YOU SHOULD NOT BE MEETING ANYONE to shake hands with them.

Should people wear face masks to protect themselves from infection?

No. Face masks play a very important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of these clinical settings.

Is it OK to go to the pub, a sporting event or my social club?

No.  All pubs, clubs, sports centres and other places where people gather must remain CLOSED.

Can I carry on with sport?

According to the latest UK Government instructions you can only go outside ONCE A DAY for a WALK, RUN OR CYCLE and you must only go with members of YOUR OWN HOUSEHOLD. You must not go to any sports centres or clubs, or meet up with friends for a run or walk. 

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?

While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19 to humans.

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 are asked to self-isolate because of their recent travel or contact with the disease, others because they have underlying health conditions or are elderly and therefore are at particular risk from this virus. This means staying at home and not going out at all, not even for essential shopping.

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, 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.

I have a mental health condition and isolation 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. The charity Refuge has created some safety advice for people at home with an abusive relative which you can find on the Refuge website. Local help is available. Please phone 0300 123 5151 or go to


What if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

  • You should stay at home, in isolation for at least 7 days. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
  • You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
  • You should rest, drink fluids and take paracetamol if required to control your temperature. For most people the symptoms subside within a week.
  • Use the NHS 111 Online COVID-19 Service for help and advice.
  • If your symptoms worsen or if you are elderly or have an underlying health condition, contact your doctor by phone for advice.

What about people who live with someone with symptoms?

People living with a coronavirus patient should stay at home for 14 days after the patient develops symptoms.  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.

Can we test people for coronavirus and how does this work?

When a doctor suspects coronavirus, they can take samples from the nose, throat and deeper respiratory tract and send them for laboratory testing. The NHS is expanding testing capacity for England, but even so not everyone with symptoms will be tested.

What happens if I’m tested for coronavirus?

A doctor or nurse will swab your nose and throat if you need testing for the coronavirus.  These samples are then transported to a lab and it takes 24-48 hours for testing to be done.  Once the result is available, it is sent back to your doctor or nurse who will let you know the result and give you advice on what to do next.


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.

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.

Are there any vaccines or medicines that can prevent or cure COVID-19?

While some medicines may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials for both vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

Sources: World Health Organisation,  Public Health EnglandBBC NewsWorldometer

Where to go next

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