From BBC News

18th March 2020

Everybody in the UK has been asked to stop non-essential contact with other people and avoid all unnecessary travel. This is known as social distancing.

It follows people with flu-like symptoms being asked to self-isolate at home, to avoid infecting others.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing means trying to avoid contact with other people.

It means spending less time in public places, where a lot of people are around.

The government wants:

  • People to start working from home wherever possible
  • All unnecessary travel stopped
  • Pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues to be avoided
  • Anyone living with someone who has a cough or a temperature to stay at home for 14 days.


What is self-isolating?

Self-isolating means cutting yourself off from the rest of the world.

From now on, if one person in a household starts to display flu-like symptoms – defined as a fever of above 37.8C or a persistent cough – everyone living there must stay at home for 14 days.

Public Health England (PHE) currently says that, if possible, you should not go out even to buy food or other essentials, other than to take exercise, and in that case at a safe distance from others.

The person with the symptoms should stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, and keep away from other people in the home.

They should ask for help for groceries, other shopping or medication, which can be dropped off on the doorstep by friends, family or delivery drivers.

People are being advised not to ring NHS 111 or their GP to report their symptoms unless they are worried.

The Covid-19 disease can cause a fever, cough and breathing problems. It takes five days on average for people to start showing the symptoms.

What happens if you have a vulnerable person living with you?

You should keep at least 2m (6ft) back from a vulnerable person during any period of isolation, according to PHE.

The time spent in shared spaces, like kitchens, should be minimised and all rooms should be well-ventilated. Avoid using these rooms at the same time as a vulnerable person. If they can, they should take their meals back to their room to eat.

A vulnerable person should also use separate towels from the rest of the household. If possible, they should use a separate bathroom. If that is not possible, the bathroom should be cleaned every time it’s used (for example, wiping surfaces with which you have come into contact).

People living with someone in isolation should wash their hands often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds – especially after coming into contact with them.

Personal waste (like tissues) should be double-bagged and put aside for 72 hours before being put in your outside bin.

Will I still get paid?

Workers will get statutory sick pay from the first day off work, not the fourth, to help contain coronavirus, the prime minister has said.

This means that people who have to self-isolate or who are ill would get an extra £40 to cover the first four days. This would take it up to its usual rate of £94.25 per week.

Many casual or agency workers may also be entitled to sick pay but self-employed people are not. Citizens Advice says people on zero-hours contracts can still get sick pay and should ask their employer.

In the meantime, the government says you can claim universal credit or employment and support allowance if you’re prevented from working for public health reasons.

If you need to care for a relative or your child’s school is closed and you need to look after them at short notice, your employer must give you time off, but it may be unpaid.