Latest guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19)

How to check central government and NHS advice, plus answers to common questions about COVID-19.

Last updated: 29 March 2021 (reviewed daily)

Essential information: Coronavirus restrictions

National restrictions currently apply in England. Some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed on 29 March and are set out in the FAQs below.

Full details of the restrictions can be found at GOV.UK.

Check gov.uk/coronavirus for the latest guidance on COVID-19. Visit NHS website for medical information about coronavirus.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Find answers to common questions about COVID-19, including links to national guidance.

Some of the rules on what you can and cannot do will change from 12 April. However, many restrictions remain in place. You must not socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with or have formed a support bubble with. You should continue to work from home if you can and minimise the number of journeys you make where possible. You should get a test and follow the stay at home guidance if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

You can read the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 (roadmap)’ for more information on roadmap out of lockdown in England. It is underpinned by law.

From 12 April:

  • non-essential retail will be able to reopen
  • personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons will be able to reopen
  • public buildings such as libraries and community centres will be able to reopen
  • outdoor hospitality venues will be able to reopen, with table service only
  • most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in performances (such as cinemas and concerts) will be able to reopen
  • some smaller outdoor events such as fetes, literary fairs, and fairgrounds will be able to take place
  • indoor leisure and sports facilities will be able to reopen for individual exercise, or exercise with your household or support bubble
  • all childcare and supervised activities will be allowed indoors (as well as outdoors) for all children. Parent and child groups can take place indoors (as well as outdoors) for up to 15 people (children under 5 will not be counted in this number)
  • weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, wakes and other commemorative events will be able to take place for up to 15 people (anyone working is not included in this limit), including in indoor venues that are permitted to open or where an exemption applies. Wedding receptions can also take place for up to 15 people, but must take place outdoors, not including private gardens
  • self-contained accommodation will be able to open for overnight stays in England with your household or support bubble
  • you should continue to minimise the amount that you travel where possible
  • care home residents will be able to nominate two named individuals for regular indoor visits (following a rapid lateral flow test)

 

From 29 March:

  • you can meet outdoors either in a group of 6 (from any number of households), or in a group of any size from up to 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible)
  • you can take part in formally organised outdoor sports with any number of people (outdoor sports venues and facilities will be able to reopen)
  • childcare and supervised activities are allowed outdoors for all children
  • formally organised parent and child groups can take place outdoors for up to 15 attendees. Children under 5 will not be counted in this number

You should stay 2 metres apart from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings) if you cannot stay 2 metres apart.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. From 1 April, you will no longer be advised to shield. However, you should continue to take precautions to protect yourself.

For full details of the current national restrictions, please visit GOV.UK 

A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world.  The current pandemic is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome, coronavirus-2) also called COVID.

Typical symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

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.

Coronavirus is infectious and is mostly transmitted from one person to another through droplets when we speak, cough or sneeze, or through physical contact. Airborne transmission can occur in poorly ventilated indoor spaces especially when people are indoors for long periods of time.

There are things we can all do to keep protecting each other:

  • Wash hands - keep washing your hands regularly, for 20 seconds
  • Cover face - wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
  • Make space - stay at least 2 metres apart - or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions
  • Book a test - if you have symptoms and stay at home with the rest of your family/ household members till you know the results

Find out how to protect yourself or check if you need medical help on the NHS website.

These are the symptoms:

  • 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 any of these symptoms, you must:

  • Get tested: book a free test immediately, visit GOV.UK website or call NHS 119
  • Self-isolate: you and anyone you live with must stay at home until you get your result. Anyone in your support bubble must also stay at home.

Do not go to a GP surgery or hospital.

You can help stop the spread of COVID-19, by getting tested to see if you have the virus.

There are two types of test that you can take, to see if you have COVID-19:

Standard COVID-19 testing if you have any of the symptoms

You must book a free test if you have any of these symptoms:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • 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)
  • a 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

You and anyone you live with must stay at home until you get your result.

Anyone in your support bubble must also stay at home.

You can get a test for someone you live with if they have these symptoms. Do not get tests for people you live with who do not have these symptoms.

You can book a free test by visiting GOV.UK website or call NHS 119.

Find more information about Standard COVID-19 testing and how to book your test.

Community testing if you do not have any symptoms

  • This is a test you can take if you do not have any symptoms
  • It's also referred to as lateral flow testing or rapid testing
  • Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 are not aware that they have it, as they have no symptoms
  • This testing is aimed at people who cannot stay home during lockdown, due to work commitments.  It's important for these people to be tested regularly so that they don't unknowingly spread the virus to other people

Find more information about community testing and how to book your test.

See our COVID-19 testing in Suffolk page for more detailed information.

As a community we all have a role to play in further prevention.

  • Wash hands - keep washing your hands regularly
  • Cover face - wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
  • Make space - stay at least 2 metres apart - or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions

It’s particularly important to wash your hands once you get home or arrive at work or before you prepare or eat food.

NHS guide on the best way to wash your hands

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. From 1 April, you will no longer be advised to shield. However, you should continue to take precautions to protect yourself.


Get tested if you have any of these symptoms

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

You can book a free test by visiting GOV.UK website or call NHS 119.

You and anyone you live with must stay at home until you get your result.

Anyone in your support bubble must also stay at home.

Read advice about staying at home on the NHS website.

Do not go to a GP surgery or hospital.

You must wear a face covering in many indoor settings, such as shops and places of worship, and on public transport, unless you are exempt. This is the law. Read guidance on face coverings on GOV.UK.

There are some situations where people do not have to wear a face mask, see our face coverings page for more information.

Anyone travelling by bus, train, ferry or plane in England must now wear a face covering to help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. If you do not wear a face covering you will be breaking the law and could be fined £100, or £50 if you pay the fine within 14 days.

Read advice about wearing a face covering on public transport or in a shop or supermarket from 24 July 2020.

Wearing face coverings on public transport

GOV.UK has more guidance about safe travel.

A face covering is a covering of any type which covers your nose and mouth. Here is guidance on how to wear and make a face covering.

We have prepared translated and Easy Read guidance about wearing a face covering.

You should minimise travel where possible. This means you should:

  • avoid making unnecessary trips
  • combine trips where possible

You should not stay away from home overnight for a holiday.

For more information, visit GOV.UK.

You can help control coronavirus and travel safely by:

  • working from home where possible
  • shopping locally and less often
  • considering all other forms of transport, such as cycling and walking, before using public transport
  • avoiding the busiest times and routes
  • avoiding car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble
  • keeping your distance when you travel, where possible
  • washing or sanitising your hands regularly

You should not travel at all if you:

International Travel

You can only travel internationally where you have a legally permitted reason to do so, such as work.

You may not travel abroad to go on holiday.

For more information about International Travel, read the travel advice on GOV.UK.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Get advice about travelling abroad, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19).

This helps stop the virus spreading to other people.

Self-isolation is different to:

  • social distancing – general advice for everyone to avoid close contact with other people
  • shielding – advice for people at high risk from coronavirus

Visit the NHS website for full details about self-isolation.

When to self-isolate

Self-isolate immediately if:

  • you have any symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • you've tested positive for coronavirus – this means you have coronavirus
  • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms and you’ve been in close contact with them since their symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started
  • someone in your support bubble tested positive and you’ve been in close contact with them since they had the test or in the 48 hours before their test
  • you've been told you've been in contact with someone who tested positive – find out what to do if you're told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • you arrive in the UK from a country with a high coronavirus risk – see GOV.UK: how to self-isolate when you travel to the UK

How to self-isolate

You must not leave your home if you're self-isolating.

  • do not go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can
  • do not go on public transport or use taxis
  • do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
  • do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care
  • do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one

How long to self-isolate

You should self-isolate for at least 10 days.

You may need to self-isolate for more than 10 days if you get symptoms while self-isolating or your symptoms do not go away.

Read more about how long to self-isolate.

Visit the NHS website for complete guidance on self-isolation.

How long to self-isolate

You should self-isolate for at least 10 days.

You may need to self-isolate for more than 10 days if you get symptoms while self-isolating or your symptoms do not go away.

Read more about how long to self-isolate.

From 8 March, all school pupils and students in further education should return to school and college.

All secondary pupils and college students will be offered testing from 8 March.

The following people in England will have access to regular rapid lateral flow testing as schools and colleges reopen for more students:

  • secondary school pupils and college students
  • primary and secondary school staff and college staff
  • households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary-age pupils and college students
  • households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary school and college staff

See guidance on rapid lateral flow testing for households and bubbles of school pupils and staff at GOV.UK.

Find more information at GOV.UK

It is very important that you stay at home whilst you have coronavirus. This will help to protect your friends, colleagues and the wider community and will help control the spread of the virus.

We realise that staying at home may be difficult or frustrating, but there are things that you can do to help make it easier.

These include:

  • Plan ahead and think about what you will need in order to be able to stay at home for the full 10 days.
  • Talk to your employer, friends and family to ask for their help to access the things you will need in order to successfully stay at home.
  • Think about and plan how you can get access to food and other supplies such as medications that you will need during this period.
  • Ask friends or family to drop off anything you need or order supplies online, but make sure these are left outside your home for you to collect.
  • Make sure that you keep in touch with friends and family over the phone or through social media.
  • Don’t forget to think of others too. Do you have friends, family or neighbours who might need extra help?
  • Think about things you can do during your time at home. People who have successfully completed a period of staying at home have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, online learning and watching films.
  • When you are feeling better, remember that physical exercise can be good for your wellbeing. Look for online classes or courses that can help you take light exercise in your home.

Read the latest stay at home guidance on GOV.UK.

Look after your mental and physical health.

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Keep learning
  • Take notice
  • Give

If you have to stay at home due to coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be feeling bored, anxious or lonely. Depending on your personal circumstances, there are also other issues to consider from finances to childcare.

It’s so important to understand how you are feeling and to do some simple things which can help you feel better. This includes looking after yourselves and others and making time for your mental health and wellbeing.

The good news is that there are plenty of easy, free and meaningful things we can do to increase our wellbeing. Five Ways to Wellbeing gives advice on what we can do every day to make ourselves feel good.

Where can I find more information?

More advice about coronavirus and your wellbeing can be found:

If COVID-19 is spreading in the community this could mean the NHS is busier than usual so it’s important to think carefully about the NHS services you use.

If you start to experience symptoms and believe you could have coronavirus, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital as you could pass the infection to others.

If you have mild symptoms, you do not need to call NHS111 to tell them you are staying at home.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • you feel breathless and it's getting worse
  • your symptoms get worse and you're not sure what to do

If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. Services like 999 or Accident and Emergency should only be used for genuine emergencies.

The first cases of COVID-19 in the UK were taken to specialist hospital wards so we could learn more about the virus and prevent it spreading to anyone else, but if we begin to see the virus spreading in the community, this approach will no longer be appropriate. It is unnecessary for everyone with COVID-19 to go to hospital as the majority will have mild symptoms.

We expect the majority of people who catch COVID-19 will make a full recovery without medical attention, but if you are concerned because you believe you are at greater risk, or feel your symptoms are becoming more severe, contact NHS 111 or alternatively 999 in an emergency.

We try to slow the spread of coronavirus for a number of important reasons:

  1. We are still learning about COVID-19. At the moment we believe that the majority of people who get the disease will experience a mild illness, but because this is a new virus we are not complacent, and our scientists will continue to learn from evidence emerging both here and internationally.
  2. Though we believe most people will have a mild illness, some older people or people with pre-existing health conditions will experience severe illness and we need to protect them.
  3. Trying to slow an outbreak so everyone isn’t sick at once is an important way to manage pressure on health services and prevent widespread staff sickness absence in our public services and businesses.

NHS England and Public Health England remain the two lead authorities for the management of Coronavirus in the UK. They are in control of all information relating to specific individual cases and would only ever share specific information to local authorities in exceptional circumstances.

Personal information on patients will not be released to ensure ongoing protection of their confidentiality. Public Health England is managing the gathering of information and approaching people believed to be at risk directly.

In any given event, knowing a location of a specific case does not protect the wider community from potential infection, as there may potentially be other unconfirmed cases elsewhere waiting for diagnosis so it would be wrong to assume that infection is only restricted to one particular location.

As a community we all have a role to play in further prevention.

The best way you can protect yourself and others is to continue to practice good hygiene:

  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • wash your hands regularly with warm soapy water for 20 seconds
  • do not touch your face, unless you have just washed your hands
  • if you cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue and then bin the tissue and wash your hands.

You should stay at home for 10 days if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • or a new, continuous cough – this means you've started coughing repeatedly

Do not go to a GP surgery or hospital.

You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you're staying at home.

Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you're staying at home.

If your symptoms persist past 7 days you should contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. Read advice about staying at home on the NHS website.

You can report your concerns if:

  • a business is open when it should be closed
  • a business is not complying with social distancing
  • a business is not following the self-isolation requirements
  • you have information about coronavirus (COVID-19) related scams
  • you wish to report an incident of social gatherings or social distancing

Since COVID-19 began to spread quickly in China, it has been a major global news story and with this level of media and public interest it’s inevitable that myths, misinformation and rumours will be shared online.

The UK Government and the NHS will keep people informed of new advice and developments.

Please check the following sources of advice frequently:

Yes, Domestic Abuse support services are still available to you.

For some, having to isolate at home as a family will be a truly frightening experience. To them we say, "you are not alone".

The number of domestic abuse incidents will rise during the coronavirus outbreak. Being asked to stay at home, uncertainty over jobs and money may lead to increased stress within households.

COVID-19 is not an excuse for abuse.

  • National Domestic Violence 24 hour helpline – 0808 200 0247
  • Respect Phoneline 'Are you hurting the one you love? Choose to stop' – 0808 802 4040
  • In an emergency call 999 and use the silent solution:

If speaking or making an immediate sound would put you in danger and you need immediate help, call 999 and stay on the line, then press 55 when prompted and the call will be transferred to the police, who will know it is an emergency call.

To help protect yourself and your friends, family, and community you should continue to follow all of the guidance on this page, even if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe illness in most people. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so those who have received the vaccine should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection.

We do not know by how much the vaccine stops COVID-19 from spreading. Even if you have been vaccinated, you could still spread COVID-19 to others.