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Self-isolation and social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus can be spread when people with the virus have close, sustained contact with people who are not infected. This typically means spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person - such as talking to someone, for instance.  The virus can also be contracted through hand-to-mouth contact – therefore, it is vital that we maintain good hand hygiene and limit touching our faces.

The more you come into contact with the droplets from coughs and sneezes of an infected person, the more likely you are to catch the infection, which is why the advice is that if you are showing symptoms of a new continuous cough with or without a temperature (equal to, or greater than, 37.8C) to self-isolate at home and not to go out and about where it can be passed on.

As Coronavirus is spreading throughout our communities, it is important to not only appropriately protect ourselves but also those that are more vulnerable.


To ensure we protect the vulnerable members of our society, it is vitally important to ensure that we follow the self-isolation advice, however inconvenient frustrating or boring these feels.  For the majority of the population Coronavirus will feel like a seasonal cold with mild symptoms whereas for those who are classed as vulnerable they have a higher risk of experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms.

As the health picture matures, it is highly likely we will be asked to self-isolate whole households.  The aim of this is to slow down the spread of Coronavirus which has the advantage of allowing health services to understand and manage the virus better for those that do become infected

What are the sensible precautions we should be undertaking when self-isolating?


  • try to keep 2 meters (3 steps) away from each other

  • avoid using shared spaces, such as kitchens or bathrooms, at the same time as each other

  • open windows in shared spaces if you can

  • clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example by wiping the surfaces you have touched

  • use a dishwasher if you have one – if you do not have one, use washing-up liquid and warm water and dry everything thoroughly

  • ask family, friends or delivery services to deliver your food and medications – ask them to leave these on the doorstep for you.


  • if possible don’t share a bed

  • share towels including hand towels, tea towels and face cloths

  • go to work, school or social gatherings

  • have visitors such as family or friends in the home

If you live alone - and develop symptoms a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature equal to or above 37.8C (irrespective of recent travel to an infected area) you should:

  • stay indoors for 7 days and avoid all but essential contact with people

  • if symptoms are improving/disappeared it is appropriate to discontinue self-isolation.

  • there is no need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation and currently Public Health England (PHE) are not testing those who need to go into self-solation

  • if your symptoms increase during your self-isolation or are not resolving after seven days than look at NHS 111 online for further management information

  • only medical emergencies should use 999 services

If you live with others - the current guidelines ask us to:

  • if you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days

  • if anyone else displays symptoms they stay home for 7 days from when their symptoms appeared irrespective of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period

  • household members who remain well stay in self isolation for 14 days due to maximum incubation period taken from day one of the symptomatic period

  • you do not need to restart the clock if other members become symptomatic during the 14 days of self-isolation.

  • frequently checking accredited sources will provide up to date advice and management.

Social distancing 

The Government is asking the nation to undertake social distancing which applies to everyone and is aimed to reduce social interaction between people in order to lower the spread of Coronavirus.

The measures have been implemented following advice from a large range of experts, including the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, using the latest evidence. The balance protecting people with the social and economic importance of maintaining day to day life.

An infected person could unwittingly pass the virus onto three other people who then, in turn, can pass this onto three further people – and so on and so forth. This means that very quickly, in a matter of minutes, the virus could already have been passed onto nine people. Coronavirus is spread through contact with the droplets from coughs and sneezes of an infected person, so it is important to not only appropriately protect ourselves, but also those that are more vulnerable. Excellent hand hygiene, not touching the face and standing a minimum of 2 meters (3 steps) away from each other limits transmission.

The current evidence base for Coronavirus suggests that children do not experience a severe reaction to the virus, but disease modeling is being undertaken to learn how children become infected, transmit and manage the illness.  Nationally the closure of schools is being undertaken to manage the spread of infection and whilst this is acknowledged to be disruptive for both children and parents, the public health impact is taking precedence. 

The information below gives us an ideal picture of how social distancing works in our everyday life.  If undertaking safe events remember to ensure you are 2 meters apart.


  • Group gatherings 

  • Visits to bars/restaurants 

  • Sleep overs 

  • Playdates 

  • Visiting the elderly with children 

  • Crowded retail stores 

  • Non essential workers in the home 


  • Visits to the supermarkets 

  • Visit to the pharmacy 

  • Travelling 

  • Check on friends and family safely 

  • Public transport 


  • Go for a walk

  • Jogging 

  • Working in the home 

  • DIY in and around the home 

  • Going for a drive 

  • Video calls 

  • Phone calls 

If the nation doesn’t adhere to the current social distancing guidelines the Government may decide to instigate lockdown procedures. Whilst the government recognise that being outdoors is crucial for our mental and physical wellbeing, by not adhering to the recommended social distancing guidelines, we are putting vulnerable people at risk and increasing the pressures on our healthcare systems.

Lockdown theoretically means that only the most essential services remain open and the population will be housebound with severe penalties for those who do not comply. The Government will employ lessons learnt from our European colleagues and will aim to ensure we are well informed, reassured and kept as safe as possible.

Many businesses who can remain trading now will be organising the logistical challenges that lockdown presents and adapting to ensure there is minimal national economic impact. During this time, it is imperative that the nation remains calm and follows the current government advice.

Useful sources

This information has been compiled using Government advice and third party information. This page is being reviewed and updated as appropriate, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. However, please be aware that Government advice may have changed since the last update.