The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) are well prepared for outbreaks of new infectious diseases. The NHS has put in place measures to ensure the safety of all patients and NHS staff while also ensuring services are available to the public as normal.
We are now in the delay phase of our response to COVID-19. This entails significant changes to how we identify and manage potential cases of COVID-19. Advice is as follows:
1. The public are being advised to stay at home (self-isolate) without any testing for COVID-19, regardless of travel history or contact with confirmed cases, if they have:
a. A new continuous cough
b. High temperature (of 37.8 degrees centigrade or higher)
2.Travel and contact history are no longer important for diagnosis, which is on the basis of symptoms alone. If people who have travelled do not have symptoms they do not need to stay at home, regardless of their travel history.
Individuals should stay at home (self-isolate) for seven days from the onset of symptoms following the current advice. If someone has serious symptoms they cannot manage at home they should use NHS 111 online (people should only call NHS111 if they cannot get online).
After seven days of self-isolation, people who feel better and no longer have a high temperature can return to their normal routine. If they have not had any signs of improvement after seven days and have not already sought medical advice, they should use NHS111 online (people should only call NHS111 if they cannot get online) before they leave their home or let visitors in.
Cough may persist for several weeks in some people, despite the coronavirus infection having cleared. A persistent cough alone does not mean someone must continue to stay at home for more than seven days.
Testing will not be offered routinely to individuals staying at home.
Patients who require overnight admission to hospital should still be tested regardless of travel history if they present with
• either clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia
• acute respiratory distress syndrome
• influenza like illness (fever ≥37.8°C and at least one of the following respiratory symptoms, which must be of acute onset: persistent cough (with or without sputum), hoarseness, nasal discharge or congestion, shortness of breath, sore throat, wheezing, sneezing)
Clinicians should be alert to the possibility of atypical presentations in patients who are immunocompromised.
Up to date information can be found on http://www.nhs.uk/coronavirus. We expect the health service to be exceptionally busy in the coming days and weeks. If people have serious symptoms that they cannot manage at home they should use NHS111 online. They should only telephone NHS111 if they
cannot go online.
Read more about what you should do if you’re asked to self-isolate.
Like the common cold, coronavirus infection usually occurs through close contact with a person with novel coronavirus via cough and sneezes or hand contact. A person can also be infected by touching contaminated surfaces if they do not wash their hands.
Everyone is being reminded to follow Public Health England advice to:
- 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.