COVID-19: Information for the public

You can get tested for COVID-19

  • Everyone must help stop coronavirus spreading.
  • Only go outside for permitted shopping, health reasons, work or exercise. If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times.
  • Groups of up to 6 people who do not share a household can meet outdoors, maintaining social distancing.
  • Avoid touching your face and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
  • You can spread the virus even if you don't have symptoms.

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a type of virus called coronavirus. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, everyone should be trying to follow social distancing measures as much as possible.

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.

From Sunday 19 April the Department of Health will be releasing the daily statistics on coronavirus (COVID-19) which will be available at www.health-ni.gov.uk  

The daily update from the Department of Health replaces the Daily Bulletin published by the PHA up to 19 April 2020.
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Preventing the spread of infection

catch it

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

It is recommend that you should think about using face coverings in particular circumstances - short periods in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible.

In practice, these circumstances will largely mean on public transport and in shops.

The use of face coverings will not be mandatory.

Crucially, do not get a false sense of security about the level of protection provided by wearing a face covering. It is essential that everyone continues to:

  • practise social distancing as much as humanly possible
  • wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day
  • ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’ when they sneeze or cough

That’s still the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

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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 in your house must stay at home. 

  • If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you'll need to stay at home for at least 7 days;
  • if you live with someone who has symptoms, you'll need to stay at home 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 7 days from the day your symptoms started (regardless of what day you are on in the original 14-day period);
  • 7 days after your symptoms started, if you do not have a high temperature, you do not need to continue to self-isolate. If you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal. You do not need to self-isolate if you just have a cough after 7 days, as a cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone;
  • if you have symptoms and live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else they can stay with for the 14-day isolation period;
  • it is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community;

If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible. Guidance on this can be found on the Public Health England website. 

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 is only necessary if you have:

  • an existing health condition;
  • problems with your immune system;
  • very serious symptoms.

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

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

An online COVID-19 symptoms checker is available here.

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Looking after yourself and your family

Staying at home will mean our usual social activities are on hold for the moment. 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 while staying at home during the current coronavirus outbreak.

It’s important that children continue to be active, this fun physical activity record sheet outlines the recommended physical activity guidelines for children aged 5 to 18 and includes an easy way for children to keep track of how much physical activity they are getting.

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.

Can I exercise more than once a day if I need to due to a significant health condition?

If you (or a person in your care) have a specific health condition that requires you to leave the home to maintain your health - including if that involves travel beyond your local area - then you can do so. This will, for example, include individuals with a learning disability or autism who require specific exercise in an open space two or three times each day. This should ideally is agreed by a Health and Social Care professional.

Even in such cases, in order to reduce the spread of infection and protect those exercising, travel outside of the home should be limited, as close to your local area as possible, and you should remain at least two metres apart from anyone who is not a member of your household or carer at all times.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Monthly Statistical Bulletin

The latest monthly statistical bulletin can be found here

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Further advice by category:

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Testing

Information on testing can be found here.

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Contact tracing

Information on testing can be found here.

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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

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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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Diabetes

A new diabetes helpline (028 9536 0600) and email support service has been launched in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) by the Diabetes Network for Northern Ireland.

You can find out more at pha.site/diabetes-helpline   

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Advice for blind and partially sighted people

This document highlights some key contact numbers and advice on how to get support in your local community.

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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

You can find advice for pregnant women and parents at www.ni-maternity.com or by clicking here. 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

Some population screening programmes in Northern Ireland have been paused for the time being. This decision has been made, in agreement with the Health Minister, so that Health and Social Care (HSC) staff and resources can be redeployed in response to COVID-19 and to reduce the risk of exposure to the corona virus for the public and HSC staff.

For more information on 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.

 

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