Overview

Social distancing measures are for everyone, including children. We should all be trying to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Social distancing measures should be used when people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers.

Higher risk of severe illness

People who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) should strictly follow social distancing measures.

This group includes people who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition, including anyone given the flu vaccination each year on medical grounds
  • pregnant

Underlying health conditions include:

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)

Extremely high risk of severe illness

Some groups of people are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and should strictly follow shielding measures. Their household and other contacts should strictly follow social distancing measures in order to protect them.

This group includes people who:

  • have had solid organ transplants
  • have cancer and are receiving active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • have cancers of the blood or bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • have severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma and severe COPD
  • have rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections such as SCID and homozygous sickle cell
  • are receiving immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • are receiving other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • are receiving immunosuppression therapies that significantly increase risk of infection
  • are pregnant with significant heart disease (congenital or acquired)

What is social distancing?

Social distancing measures are steps you can take to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) - these symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport - when possible, alter your travel times to avoid rush hour
  • Work from home, where possible - your employer should support you to do this
  • Avoid large gatherings and small gatherings in public spaces - pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently closed as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family - keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

We strongly advise everyone to follow these measures as much as they can, and to significantly limit face-to-face interaction with their friends and family. This is especially important if you:

  • are over 70
  • are pregnant
  • have an underlying health condition

This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.

Can't get an isolation note

You need to contact your employer if you require to shield from COVID-19 due to underlying conditions but are currently well. Please don't phone 111 or your GP.

Hand washing and respiratory hygiene

To help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like COVID-19, you should:

  • wash your hands more often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser
  • wash your hand when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home

Everyone should:

  • Wash their hands more often
  • Stay at home for 7 days if they have a new continuous cough or high temperature
  • Stay at home for 14 days if someone in their household has a new continuous cough or high temperature
Under 70 years old, without any underlying health condition

Action

Recommendation

Social mixing in the community

Advised against

Having friends and family to the house

Advised against

Use remote access to NHS essential services

Advised

Vary daily commute, use less public transport

Advised

Home working

Advised

 

70 years old and over

Action

Recommendation

Social mixing in the community

Strongly advised against

Having friends and family to the house

Strongly advised against

Use remote access to NHS essential services

Strongly advised

Vary daily commute, use less public transport

Strongly advised

Home working

Strongly advised

Anyone in a vulnerable group, including people who are pregnant or have an underlying health condition

Action

Recommendation

Social mixing in the community

Strongly advised against

Having friends and family to the house

Strongly advised against

Use remote access to NHS essential services

Strongly advised

Vary daily commute, use less public transport

Strongly advised

Home working

Strongly advised

Common questions

What should I do if I develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature and/or new and continuous cough), self-isolate at home for 7 days.

How can I get assistance with foods and medicines if I’m reducing my social contacts?

You should ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services.

If this isn’t possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home. It’s important to speak to others and ask them to help you to make arrangements for:

  • food
  • medicines
  • essential services and supplies
  • looking after your physical health, mental health and wellbeing

If you receive support from health and social care organisations, such as care support through your local authority, this will continue as normal.

Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you’re protected.

What should I do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

You should access medical assistance remotely (not face-to-face), wherever possible.

If you have a scheduled hospital or medical appointment during this time, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need. Consider whether appointments can be postponed.

What is the advice for visitors, including those who are providing care for me?

You should let your regular visitors know that you are reducing social contacts and they shouldn’t visit you during this time, unless they are providing essential care for you. Essential care includes things like help with washing, dressing, or preparing meals.

If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or paid for by yourself, inform your care providers that you are reducing social contacts and agree a plan for continuing your care.

If you receive essential care from friends or family members, these carers can continue to visit. Carers will be provided with gloves and facemasks to reduce the risk of passing on infection.

It’s also a good idea to speak to your carers about what happens if one of them becomes unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, your local council should be able to help you.

What is the advice if I live with a vulnerable person?

If you live in a house with a vulnerable person refer to our stay at home guidance.

How do I look after my mental wellbeing?

You may find your mood and feelings are affected by social distancing. You may feel bored, frustrated low or worried and have problems sleeping.

It can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse.

There are simple things you can do that may help, to stay mentally and physically active during this time, such as:

  • Exercise regularly - look for ideas of exercises you can do at home
  • Spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to/watching favourite radio or TV programmes
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Drink enough water
  • Try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs
  • Keep your windows open to let in fresh air
  • Get some natural sunlight if you can or go outside into the garden
  • Walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres away from others

What steps can I take to stay connected with family and friends during this time?

Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post, or online.

Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing. You may find it helpful to talk to them about how you’re feeling.

Remember, it’s okay to share your concerns with others you trust. You may end up providing support to them too.

What’s the advice for informal carers?

If you’re caring for someone who’s vulnerable, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them. You should follow advice on good hygiene, such as:

  • Wash your hands on arrival and often - use soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
  • 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
  • Don’t visit if you’re unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care
  • Provide them information on who they should call if they feel unwell (their GP phone number and 111) and how to use NHS inform
  • Access advice on creating a contingency plan from Carers UK
  • Find out about different sources of support that could be used
  • Look after your own well-being and physical health