How to stay safe and prevent spread

UPDATED 10 October 2022

The Government guidance has changed and measures have been put in place for the ‘living with COVID’ plan:

  • The Government is no longer asking people to work from home if they can. People should now talk to their employers to agree arrangements to return to the office
  • Face coverings are no longer advised for staff and pupils in secondary school and college classrooms
  • Face coverings are no longer advised for staff and pupils in communal areas of secondary schools, nor for staff in communal areas of primaries
  • There is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering. The Government suggests that you wear a face covering: When you are coming into close contact with someone at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19 or other respiratory infections; when COVID-19 rates are high and you will be in close contact with other people, such as in crowded and enclosed spaces; when there are a lot of respiratory viruses circulating, such as in winter, and you will be in close contact with other people in crowded and enclosed spaces
  • Venues and events are no longer required by law to check visitors’ NHS COVID Pass. The NHS COVID Pass can still be used on a voluntary basis.
  • You will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19. New guidance will advise people who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with other people
  • You will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if you are an unvaccinated close contact, and will no longer be advised to test for 7 days if you are a fully vaccinated close contact. New guidance will set out precautions for reducing risk to yourself and others.

Vaccines continue to remain our best line of defence, and all adults who have not yet received their first or second dose of the vaccine, or those who are eligible for their boosters are encouraged to come forward to help protect themselves and others. The vaccination programme has been extended for children aged 5 to 11 years and children aged 12 to 17 years.

It is extremely important that if you are eligible, you get your COVID-19 vaccination now – whether this be your first, second or booster dose.

The booster programme has been extended to everyone over 12 years old, as long as they have had their second vaccination at least 3 months ago. Severely immunosuppressed individuals who have received three primary doses, should now also be offered a booster dose.

It is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Autumn booster programme

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has now published its final recommendations for this autumn’s vaccination programme.

Under the advice, those eligible for a further dose will be:

  • All adults aged 50 years and over
  • Those aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women
  • Those aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
  • Those aged 16 to 49 years who are carers
  • Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers

Rollout of autumn COVID-19 booster jab 

This autumn, the NHS will become the first healthcare system in the world to use the next generation COVID-19 vaccine, which targets different variants of the virus (see below).

As with the 2021 autumn COVID-19 booster programme, the primary objective of the 2022 autumn booster programme will be to strengthen immunity and protection against severe COVID-19 disease, specifically hospitalisation and death, over winter 2022 to 2023. With the transition towards ‘living with COVID-19’, it is anticipated that the protection of the most vulnerable people in society will continue to be of primary importance.

From the week of 5 September, NHS staff began vaccinating the following groups of people:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All adults aged 50 years and over
  • People aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group
  • People aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
  • People aged 16 to 49 years who are carers.

If you don’t receive a letter from the NHS asking you to come for your autumn booster vaccine, you can either book online or phone 119, as long as it has been three months since your last vaccination. There are also walk-in centres that will vaccinate you if you qualify for an autumn booster.

Around 26 million people across England will be eligible for an autumn booster in line with government advice.

In addition, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will be widening the offer of the free flu vaccine to more eligible groups. These additional groups will only be eligible once the most vulnerable have been offered the jab, including pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 years and over, and those in clinical risk groups.

The additional groups set to be offered the free flu vaccine in England will be:

  • All adults aged 50 to 64 years
  • Secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year (starting with the youngest first)

The NHS will announce in due course when people aged 50 to 64 years old who are not in a clinical risk group will be able to get their free flu jab.

People in these groups are asked not to come forward until further information is announced.

First bivalent COVID-19 vaccine

Two updated versions of the COVID-19 vaccine that target two coronavirus variants (known as a “bivalent” vaccine) have been approved for adult booster doses by the UK medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The vaccines are made by Moderna and Pfizer and meet the UK regulator’s standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

Each dose of the booster vaccine targets the original SARS-CoV-2 virus strain from 2020 and the Omicron variant.

These are the first bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccines to be approved for use in the world.

Read more in the Government’s press release here

Vaccine information for kidney patients

  • For kidney patients, getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to protect against serious disease, being admitted to hospital or dying as a result of COVID-19 infection
  • It’s important kidney patients have all the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, because they may get less protection from the vaccine than the wider population
  • Getting all the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine helps increase the level of protection for kidney patients as they may not have generated a full immune response to the first two doses
  • It’s not too late for anyone to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. First, second, third and booster doses continue to be available. Community clinics will be safe and welcoming
  • Any questions or concerns can be discussed with the patient’s kidney team.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19

Most people who were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 are well protected after receiving their primary and booster vaccination doses. You are no longer at substantially greater risk than the general population. Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else on staying safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19, as well as any further advice you may have received from your doctor.

There is no longer separate guidance for people previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, although we recommend anyone with underlying health conditions takes care to avoid coughs, colds and other respiratory viruses.

Pregnant women are strongly advised to get vaccinated. See guidance for pregnancy and COVID-19 on the NHS website.

If you have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated. Evidence indicates that completion of your primary course of COVID-19 vaccine (either 2 or 3 doses) provides very effective protection against hospitalisation. It usually takes around 2 to 3 weeks for your body to develop its protective response.

To maintain this high level of protection you should also get a booster vaccine for COVID-19 when offered. The first booster is available to everyone who had their first and second dose of vaccine, but you must wait 3 months between vaccinations.

You should continue to follow the same guidance as the general public on staying safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Due to a weakened immune system, a small number of people remain at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, despite vaccination. See COVID-19: Guidance for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk.

COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.

All of us can play our part by understanding the situations where risks of COVID-19 infection and transmission are likely to be higher, and taking action to reduce these risks.

Following this guidance will help you to understand situations where there is a greater risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and the steps that you can take to stay safe and protect others. Every action you take to help reduce the spread will help reduce pressure on the NHS during the winter months.

However, we must keep the virus under control and follow the Government guidance.

Everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. This is why the Government are keeping in place key protections:

  • Get vaccinated when you are offered it, and encourage others to do so as well
  • Testing when you have symptoms and targeted asymptomatic testing in education, high risk workplaces and to help people manage their personal risk
  • Try to stay at home if you feel unwell
  • Wash hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes
  • Use the NHS COVID-19 app
  • Do not travel if you have COVID symptoms
  • Cautious guidance for individuals, businesses and the vulnerable whilst prevalence is high including:
    • Being outside or letting fresh air in
    • Minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts

Important information about treatments for coronavirus

Some people may have received a letter from the NHS if their medical records currently show they might be suitable for treatment if they get coronavirus.

This letter has been sent before, but it has been updated because the Government has changed the way you test for coronavirus. From 1 April you should check coronavirus symptoms using lateral flow tests, not a PCR test.

This letter explains that:

  1. You should keep lateral flow tests at home
  2. You should take a test if you have coronavirus symptoms. Important: You must report your test result.
  3. If you test positive, the NHS will contact you about treatments.

For more information visit the Treatments for coronavirus page on the NHS website or the following page: COVID-19: Guidance for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk.

Getting tested for COVID-19

From 1 April 2022, there will be changes to the availability of COVID-19 lateral flow tests for people with symptoms of COVID-19 and for those without symptoms. Please see the government’s statement about this here.

People with symptoms of COVID-19

It is important to continue testing people with symptoms of COVID-19 in high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly among people who may be at higher risk of serious illness. It is important to ensure that COVID-19 is detected as quickly as possible in these situations to help minimise outbreaks to protect people who are most vulnerable.

Free tests for people who have COVID-19 symptoms will continue to be provided to the following groups, mostly through the existing means of ordering tests:

  • NHS patients in hospital, who will be tested via the established NHS testing programme
  • People at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and those eligible for COVID-19 antiviral and other treatments. People in this group will be contacted directly by the NHS and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home for use if they have symptoms as well as being told how to reorder tests
  • NHS staff and staff working in NHS-funded independent healthcare provision
  • Adult social care staff in care homes, home care organisations, extra care and supported living settings and adult day care centres. Residents in care homes and extra care and supported living settings
  • Adult social care workers, personal assistants, Shared Lives carers and CQC inspectors
  • Staff and patients in hospices
  • Staff and detainees in prisons and other places of detention
  • Staff and detainees in immigration removal centres
  • Staff and users of high-risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings.

People without symptoms of COVID-19

During periods of high infection rates, testing people without symptoms can help to reduce risk. Testing will continue to be provided for:

  • Adult social care staff and a small number of visitors providing personal care
  • Hospice staff
  • Patient-facing staff in the NHS and NHS-funded independent healthcare provision
  • Some staff in prisons and other places of detention, and some refuges and shelters
  • Care home outbreak testing for all staff and residents will also continue all year.

Full guidance will be published shortly setting out how testing will change to reflect the Living with COVID-19 strategy, which will include specific guidance for high-risk settings.

Visitors to high-risk settings

Most visitors to adult social care settings, the NHS, hospices, prisons or places of detention will no longer require a test.

Tests will continue to be provided to a small number of visitors to care homes and hospices who will be providing personal care.

Visits by people with symptoms may still be allowed in exceptional circumstances, such as end of life visits. Please contact someone responsible at the setting prior to visiting in these circumstances.

If you wish to test yourself, lateral flow tests will continue to be available to buy from pharmacies and supermarkets, including online.

It is vital that everyone continues to follow the simple steps to keep themselves and others safe.

Changes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set out their own plans, as follows:

The Government will continue to work together with our partners to keep all of these measures under review.

If you do not fall into the categories listed here but you wish to test yourself for COVID-19, lateral flow tests will continue to be available to buy from pharmacies and supermarkets, including online.

If you are concerned by these changes and you are clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, please talk to you GP of healthcare team to see if you qualify for free COVID-19 tests. Alternatively, please email us if you have some questions.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

There may be different rules if you live in WalesScotland or Northern Ireland. The advice regarding vaccination, remaining cautious and getting tested applies to all UK countries

Wales

Scotland

To stay safe you should:

Northern Ireland

  • COVID-19 testing is no longer recommended or available for most people in the general population. Testing is recommended for some specific groups, including those who may be eligible for COVID-19 treatments. If you test positive for COVID-19 you should follow the guidance available at: Coronavirus (COVID-19): testing and stay at home advice
  • Get vaccinated to protect yourself from COVID-19 and other respiratory infections such as flu. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. If you have not yet received all the COVID-19 vaccine doses recommended for you: Get a COVID-19 vaccination and booster in Northern Ireland
  • Meet outdoors or keep indoor spaces well ventilated
  • Wear a face covering
  • Keep your distance from anyone outside your household
  • Limit close contact with other people
  • Wash your hand regularly and cover coughs and sneezes. Where possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Rooms used for activities and shared spaces, should be cleaned regularly, including door handles, tables, seats, handrails and toilets

The Government has released the Government’s plan for recovery to return life to as near normal as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS. Currently this plan only applies to people living in England.