COVID-19: Information for the public

 

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a type of virus called coronavirus.

In this section you can find the latest information on COVID-19, including looking after yourself physically and mentally. You can also find specific guidance for different groups of people, businesses and HSC staff.

The Department of Health release daily statistics on coronavirus (COVID-19) which are be available at www.health-ni.gov.uk  

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Preventing the spread of infection

catch it

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, everyone should be trying to follow social distancing measures as much as possible. Like seasonal flu, the same public health advice applies for COVID-19: if you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, throw it away carefully after use, and wash your hands.

The best way to prevent the spread of infections, including COVID-19, is good personal hygiene. This means washing your hands well and often, using soap and water and drying them with paper towels.

 

 

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Face coverings

The use of face coverings in certain circumstances is mandatory. Further information on the use of face coverings and the exemptions that apply is available at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/coronavirus-safer-travel-guidance and www.nidirect.gov.uk/face-coverings  

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What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?

If you have:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature); OR
  • 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); OR
  • a loss of or change in sense of smell or taste.
     

Everyone you live with must stay at home. You should arrange a test for COVID-19 here

You can ring NHS 111 for information or advice and they will help you decide if you need to contact your GP. Calling your GP may be necessary if you have:

  • an existing health condition;
  • problems with your immune system;
  • you feel you are not coping with your symptoms.
     

Do not attend your GP surgery or emergency department in person before calling ahead and speaking with someone.

If you have very serious symptoms or feel it is a medical emergency and you need to call an ambulance, dial 999 and inform the operator of your symptoms.

While waiting for your test or if you receive a positive diagnosis for COVID-19:

  • you'll need to stay at home for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started;
  • after 10 days from when your symptoms started:
    • if you have not had a high temperature for 48 hours, you no longer need to self-isolate;
    • if you still have a high temperature, you need to self-isolate until your temperature has returned to normal for 48 hours.
  • you do not need to self-isolate if you only have a cough or loss of sense of smell/taste after 10 days, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.
  • As long as you complete the full 10 days isolation from developing symptoms (and have not had a high temperature for 48 hours) you can return to normal even if a contact/household member develops symptoms within 14 days of those first symptoms starting.
  • However if after you have completed isolation you are identified as a close contact, you must isolate again for 14 days, unless that person is a household member who developed symptoms within 14 days of the first infection in the household.

If you live with someone who has symptoms:

  • if you live with someone who has symptoms, you'll need to stay at home and self-isolate also. If the person with symptoms tests positive for COVID-19, everyone in the household without symptoms will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms;
  • however, if you develop symptoms during this 14-day period, you’ll need to stay at home for at least 10 days from the day your symptoms started (regardless of what day you are on in the original 14-day period). Follow the advice above on when to end self-isolation.

If you receive a negative diagnosis for COVID-19:

You can stop self-isolating if you have a negative test, as long as:

  • everyone you live with who has symptoms of COVID-19 has tested negative – you need to keep self-isolating if someone in your household tests positive, or develops symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been tested;
  • you feel well enough, and have not had a raised temperature for more than 48 hours.
  • you are not a close contact of a confirmed case.

If you develop new or worsening symptoms, you should self-isolate and can arrange to be re-tested.

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Coronavirus - a simple guide

This simple guide provides links to the latest COVID-19 advice on a variety of subjects.

It is designed to be used as a reference tool for people seeking more detailed information.

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Coronavirus weekly and monthly bulletins

The latest weekly and monthly bulletins can be found here

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COVID-19 Management Framework

This document sets out how the Public Health Agency (PHA) will work to identify cases (ie those people with a confirmed diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19) and trace their close contacts; to recognise potential clusters and/or outbreaks early and to respond appropriately; to contain and manage any outbreaks and clusters as required. It describes the relationship with various stakeholders and the information and intelligence flows as well as the operational plan.

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Further advice by category:

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Information for parents and carers

A leaflet from the Department of Education on helping keep schools safe from COVID-19 is available here.

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Indoor and outdoor gatherings

You should avoid visiting places where there is a chance that large numbers of people will gather and crowds will form.

The latest regulations on gatherings indoors or outdoors can be viewed here.

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Visits to private homes

Following an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, additional restrictions have been introduced for people living in Northern Ireland. These are aimed at limiting the chances for the virus to spread between households.

You should not allow:

  • people you do not live with into your home, except for  for bubbling with one other household and certain other exemptions.
  • more than six people to gather in your garden (not including children aged 12 or under), from no more than two households. 

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Looking after yourself and your family

Staying at home more will affect our usual social activities. It’s very important that we look after our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Based on the Take 5 steps to wellbeing, this leaflet offers tips on supporting your mental and emotional wellbeing during the current coronavirus outbreak.

Information on RISE NI (Regional Integrated Support for Education NI), which supports children during the COVID-19 pandemic by working closely with parents and school staff to help children develop the foundation skills for learning, can be found here.

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Testing

If you have symptoms you should tested for COVID-19. Information on testing can be found here.

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Contact tracing

If you receive a positive test result you will be contacted by the PHA’s Contact Tracing Service in the first instance by text message, asking you to enter your close contacts online using the HSCNI ‘Help us trace your contacts’ service. This is so we can warn your close contacts as quickly as possible that they might have become infected and give them guidance.

We may call (from (028) 9536 8888) those who do not wish to use the web service or those who cannot use the service for other reasons.

If you have been identified as close contact you will receive a text message from ‘HSCtracing’ instructing you to self-isolate. You should follow this advice immediately and follow through until the end of the 14 day period. 

Information on testing can be found here.

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NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry

The NHS COVID-19 vaccine registry allows members of the public to register their interest and be contacted to participate in clinical studies. 

You can sign up to give permission for researchers to contact you about taking part in COVID-19 vaccine studies. By collecting details about people who are interested in taking part in vaccine studies, the service will help cut down the time it takes to find volunteers for vaccine studies. This will help us to carry out studies and find a vaccine faster.

You can sign up if you are 18 or over, and live in the UK.

You are not signing up to take part in a specific health study when you use this service. You are letting researchers know you're happy for them to contact you if they think you might be suitable to take part in their studies.

Sign up to be contacted about coronavirus vaccine research

Your NHS needs you posters

More information about taking part in research and other opportunities to take part in COVID-19 research can be found at www.bepartofresearch.uk

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Travel

The Public Health Agency (PHA) does not issue travel advice. If you’re concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on your existing travel plans, check with your airline, tour operator, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers as applicable. People who plan to travel should check the travel advice here

The rules for entering or returning to the UK can be found here.

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Older people and people with an underlying health condition

For the latest advice for older people and people with an underlying health condition click here. 

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Social distancing guidance to assist blind and partially sighted people

RNIB NI, working in partnership with Guide Dogs NI, has developed guidance on social distancing for blind and partially sighted people in Northern Ireland.

As our society emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, we are all learning and adapting to new measures that will help us to resume our everyday activities.

This guidance is designed to assist blind and partially sighted people to safely resume their lives within existing government and public health advice.

The guidelines have been produced in conjunction with the Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Board and Trust Sensory Support Teams. They are underpinned by current public health advice and Government guidance on Covid-19 and relevant infection prevention measures.  

It is available at https://www.rnib.org.uk/northern-ireland/news-northern-ireland/rnib-and-guide-dogs-launch-guidance-social-distancing-ni

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People with a hearing impairment or who are deaf

A number of resources on COVID-19 in British and Irish Sign Language are available:

Stay at home: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection 

To access these videos please see:

British Sign Language pha.site/StayHomeGuidanceBSL

Irish Sign Language pha.site/StayHomeGuidanceISL

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Health and Social Care remote sign language interpreting service

A free remote interpreting service for British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) users in Northern Ireland has been introduced to provide the Deaf community with access to NHS111 and all health and social care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This temporary service is provided by Interpreter Now.

  • To watch a BSL video that explains more about this service and how to access it, click here
     
  • To watch an ISL video that explains more about this service and how to access it, click here.

To contact NHS111, please visit: www.interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111ni

This part of the service is a Video Relay System that enables Deaf people to telephone NHS111 via a remote BSL or ISL interpreter.

How it works:

The Deaf person contacts the interpreter via the Interpreter Now app, using their smartphone or tablet, or via the secure video link using a computer.  Once they are connected, the interpreter telephones NHS111 on the Deaf person’s behalf.

To contact all other Health and Social Care services including your local GP, please visit: www.interpreternow.co.uk/hscni

It can be used to contact

  • Northern Ireland GPs and GP Out of Hours Services
  • Hospitals for inpatient or outpatient queries (including independent / private hospitals)
  • All health services – e.g. a dentist, optician, optometrist, community pharmacy, etc.
  • All social care services – e.g. a social work team, day centre, residential or nursing home (including independent / private care facilities commissioned by HSC), etc.
  • Ambulance services
  • The Northern Ireland COVID19 Community Helpline: 0808 802 0020

This part of the service includes two elements:

A Video Relay System: This enables Deaf people to telephone a Health and Social Care service provider via a remote BSL or ISL interpreter. 

How it works:

The Deaf person, the interpreter, and the Health and Social Care service provider can all be in different locations.  The Deaf person contacts the interpreter via the Interpreter Now app, using their smartphone or tablet, or via the secure video link using a computer.  Once they are connected, the interpreter telephones the Health and Social Care service provider on the Deaf person’s behalf.

Video Remote Interpreting: This enables Deaf people to communicate with a Health and Social Care professional in person, via an online BSL or ISL video interpreter. 

How it works:

The Deaf person and the Health and Social Care service provider are together in the same location, while the interpreter is online via secure video link on a screen (e.g. a tablet, smart phone, or computer). 

To ensure immediate access to telephone services at this time the Video Relay System will be introduced first.

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Looking after your wellbeing while staying at home

More information on this can be found here. To access these videos please see:

British Sign Language pha.site/mental-health-wellbeing-bsl-vimeo

Irish Sign Language pha.site/mental-health-wellbeing-isl-vimeo

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Pregnancy

Pregnant women of less than 28 weeks gestation do not appear to be more likely to be seriously unwell than other healthy adults if they develop coronavirus. For women who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond, there is an increased risk of becoming severely ill should you contract COVID-19, which is true of any viral illness contracted, such as flu.

It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms. Cough, fever, shortness of breath, headache and loss of sense of smell are other relevant symptoms.

As yet, there is no evidence that pregnant women who get this infection are more at risk of serious complications than any other healthy individuals.

If you think you may have symptoms of COVID-19 you should ring NHS 111 for information or advice and they will help you decide if you need to contact your GP. If you develop more severe symptoms or your recovery is delayed and you are not getting better, you should contact your maternity care team, your GP or in an emergency, call 999 and inform the operator of your symptoms.

The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology advise that social distancing is particularly important for all pregnant women who are 28 weeks and beyond, in order to lessen their risk of contracting the virus. For women with other medical conditions in addition to pregnancy, this should be considered on an individual basis. This advice must be considered by your employer as part of your workplace risk assessment.

You can find advice for pregnant women and parents at www.ni-maternity.com. HSC staff who are pregnant can get more advice here.

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People with a learning disability

For the latest PHA advice for people with a learning disability click here. Advice from Mencap and other organisations can be found here.

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Screening

For more information on the restoration and recovery of screening, see here.

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Bereavement

This video has been made by the Psychological Services team at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust for parents and children who have lost a loved one due to COVID-19. It aims to help parents support their child to understand the loss and say goodbye when the usual traditions and funeral practices cannot take place. It is accompanied by a workbook, which is available (along with advice and practical guidance on grief and bereavement for adults) here. 

 

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Public information downloads

Further resources including posters for download and printing are available here.

 

Test, trace, protect

 

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