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Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 – Frequently Asked Questions

Last Updated: 12th June

WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT DO

The government is changing the advice weekly, therefore for details of the current rules please see the GOV.UK website FAQs here:

What you can and cannot do – latest government information

GENERAL

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:

  • 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)
  • 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

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 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.

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 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 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 Public Health England 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

MANAGING THE DISEASE

What if I have COVID-19 symptoms?

The medical advice is clear: you must self-isolate if you have coronavirus symptoms or live in the same household as somebody who does. 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 7 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 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.

AVOIDING THE SPREAD OF COVID-19

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:

  • 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

DON’T:

  • 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.

Do I need to stockpile food or household supplies?

No. Wholesalers are managing their supply chains to ensure there is enough for everyone. Supermarkets, many local food shops, and takeaways, will deliver to your home, many of them without delivery charges. You can find local suppliers on our Shopping and Deliveries page.

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

According to the instructions from the UK Government – EVERYONE MUST PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING. This means avoiding social contact and staying at least 1 metre and preferably 2 metres away from other people.

 Watch a video about Social Distancing.

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 recommended. 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.

SELF-ISOLATING AND SHIELDING

Who needs to self-isolate?

Some people are advised to self-isolate 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.

Who are considered ‘extremely vulnerable people’ and what help can they get?

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.

People in these categories can register online to receive support from the government which may include help getting food and essential supplies. 

If you are extremely vulnerable you should have already received a letter to tell you this, but you can register online even if you haven’t had a letter if you fall into one of the categories.  More information is on the government website.

What is Shielding?

‘Shielding’ refers to action taken to protect people who are extremely vulnerable people to the effects of coronavirus. 

Shielding means:

  • Do not leave the house.
  • Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
  • Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.

The Government is currently advising people who are considered extremely vulnerable to shield until the end of June and is regularly monitoring this position. More information on shielding is on the Government website.

THE COVID-19 EPIDEMIC IN THE UK

Can the NHS cope?

The evidence is that the NHS has coped with the number of coronavirus cases and hospitals and intensive care units do have capacity, due to the fact that the lockdown has reduced the infection rate. The government has said that no patient that needs it has gone without a ventilator or intensive care during this epidemic.

Has the ‘curve flattened’ in the UK?

This refers to the growth in the number of cases slowing in the UK. There is some evidence that the number of COVID-19 cases in certain regions is levelling out, but this is not a reason for complacency. 

The government says that to return to normal life we must ensure:

  1. The NHS has sufficient capacity to provide critical care and specialist treatment.
  2. A sustained and consistent fall in daily deaths from coronavirus.
  3. The rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels.
  4. Operational challenges including testing and PPE are in hand with supply able to meet future demand.
  5. Any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak that overwhelms the NHS.

FOLLOW THE LATEST GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES

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.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO STOP COVID-19?

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 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 yet that any current medicine can prevent or cure the disease, although a number of trials are ongoing.

There are more than 100 accelerated clinical trials for vaccines for COVID-19 around the world. Here you can watch a video about how a vaccine will work. It normally takes more than 5 years to develop a new vaccine but researchers are hoping to get one to the mass market in less than 18 months.

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

Where to go next

Do you need information about COVID-19?

Do you need help? Can you offer help? 

Do you need information on local health services?

Do you need financial advice?

Shopping and deliveries in Congleton?

Want to keep up your hobbies and social life whilst ‘social distancing’?

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