COVID-19: Information for the public

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

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.
     

You must follow the advice 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.

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What should I do if I I am identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

If you’re identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, self-isolation and testing requirements will depend on your age and whether or nor you’re fully vaccinated.

Those who are fully vaccinated (defined as being at least 14 days post-second dose) should take a PCR at day two post-exposure and a second PCR test at day eight post-exposure. They should also take a daily lateral flow test (LFDs) starting as soon as possible following their identification as a close contact, continuing until 10 days post-exposure. Individuals do not need to take a LFD test on the same day they are due to take a PCR.

Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated adults must isolate immediately, arrange a PCR test as soon as possible and take a second PCR test on day eight. They must complete a full 10 day period of self-isolation even if PCR their results are negative.

Post-primary school aged children and young people should isolate immediately on being identified as a close contact and book a PCR test as soon as possible. If the result of the test is negative, they can stop isolating. They should also book a second PCR test eight days after exposure. In addition, it is recommended that they take daily lateral flows from the day after their initial negative PCR test until 10 days after the exposure. Individuals will not be asked to take a LFD test on the same day they are due to take a PCR.

Primary school aged children should isolate immediately and book a PCR test. If the result of the test is negative they can stop isolating. They should also book a second PCR test eight days after exposure.

Children under five who are close contacts will continue to be advised to take a PCR test. However, they do not need to isolate while waiting for the result or if it is not possible to obtain a PCR test.

 

More information is available here.

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Coronavirus weekly and monthly bulletins

The latest weekly and monthly bulletins can be found here

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Further advice by category:

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Indoor and outdoor gatherings

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

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Places of worship

Places of worship play an important role in providing spiritual leadership for many individuals, and in bringing communities together. However, their communal nature makes them places that are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Guidance is available to help places of worship minimise the risk of COVID-19 at www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-places-worship

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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 get tested. You should follow this advice immediately. 

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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. 

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. 

Age NI has teamed up with Lady Mary Peters to launch an exercise programme aimed specifically at keeping older people moving during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can find out more here

Move with Mary videos (available on DVD & on YouTube using the links below):

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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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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

You can find further advice on practical support for individuals 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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Financial support and practical help

You can find information on financial support and other practical help including information on benefits, rates bills and support for businesses 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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