What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus. A virus is a type of illness.

There are now a number of people in the UK who have got it and it is spread easily.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The main symptoms of coronavirus are a cough, a high temperature and loss of taste or smell.

Some people with the virus will also find it harder to breathe.

Most people who have the virus will get better without needing any treatment.

But some people may become very unwell and need to go to hospital.

What to do if you think you have coronavirus

The symptoms of coronavirus are a high temperature, a cough that doesn’t go away and a loss of taste and smell.

If you have one, some or all of these symptoms, you might have coronavirus, and you should try to find out if you do.

Do not go to your doctors if you think you have coronavirus.

Contact NHS 111 straight away. This will tell you what you need to do next.

You can do this online by visiting the NHS 111 online service.

They may tell you to stay at home and not be near other people for several days. This is called self-isolating.

When to self-isolate

If you or someone you live with has a high temperature or a cough you should stay at home completely - do not even go out to the shops or for exercise.

The government have said that if you live with friends and/or family you need to stay at home for 14 days (which is the same as 2 weeks).

If you live on your own, you still need to self-isolate, but you will only need to do this for 10 days.

How to help stop coronavirus spreading

To help stop the spread of coronavirus the government have said that people should stay alert when they go out.

You can leave home to do things like shop, exercise, spend time outdoors and get medical treatment.

You should only be travelling to work if you really have to (aka your employer has asked you to and you cannot work from home).

As well as this, you can help to stop the spread of coronavirus by:

  • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • putting any tissues you use in a bin
  • coughing or sneezing into your sleeve instead of your hand, if you don't have a tissue
  • trying not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands
  • wearing a face covering on public transport.

It is really important that you wash your hands carefully and regularly. You should do this after coughing or sneezing and before eating any food. You should always wash your hands when you get home or into work.

When you go out, you must follow social distancing rules. This means keeping 2 metres apart from people who are not from your household.

Face coverings

This easy read guide explains what face coverings are, including why and how they should be worn (PDF).

There are different rules for wearing face coverings depending on where you are. 

We have created this easy read guide on face coverings rules for people living in England (PDF). (Please see separate guidance for people in Northern Ireland (PDF) and Wales.)

People who do not have to wear a face covering

This guidance explains why some people do not have to wear face coverings (PDF).(For example; because you have a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering, or because it causes severe distress).

If you do not have to wear a face covering, there are cards (sometimes called "exemption cards") that you can take with you when you go out to help explain why, if someone asks you in public. The cards can also be used to ask someone else to remove their face mask or covering so you can understand them better.

Please use these cards if you need them:

Easy read guide

We've created an easy read guide to coronavirus (COVID-19) for you.

Download PDF
Moving image of person washing their hands with soap and water.

How to wash your hands thoroughly

Doctors and nurses have told us that when washing your hands you should follow these steps:

  1. Wet your hands under warm running water
  2. Apply a small amount of soap
  3. Rub your hands together and make sure that the soap and water cover all over your hands
  4. Carefully wash your palms, the backs of your hands, your fingertips, thumbs, your wrists and nails
  5. Rinse your hands under running water
  6. Dry your hands thoroughly.

Find out more

There is an online coronavirus service that tells you about the virus and if you need medical help.

Visit the NHS 111 website to find out more.

Talk to us

We know this is a difficult and unusual time. We're here to help.

If you need information or advice you can contact our helpline or if you can, have a chat on our online community

Contact the helpline Go to the online community