Coronavirus (COVID-19): how to stay safe and help prevent the spread
There are steps everyone can take to help reduce the risk of catching or spreading respiratory infections, including coronavirus (COVID-19). Think about how you can protect yourself and your household, and make safer choices.
COVID-19 remains a risk
COVID-19 is still circulating within the community. It is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.
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.
By making safer choices and following public health advice, you can help lower the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
Understanding the risks
As we learn to live with coronavirus (COVID-19), there are actions we can all take to help reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 and passing it on to others.
These actions will also help to reduce the spread of other respiratory infections, such as influenza (flu), which can spread easily and may cause serious illness in some people.
The risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 or other respiratory infection is greatest when someone who is infected is physically close to, or sharing an enclosed and/ or poorly ventilated space with other people.
When someone with COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release particles containing the virus that causes COVID-19. The particles can come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth or can be breathed in by another person. The particles can also land on surfaces and be passed from person to person by touch.
The risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 is higher in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and limited fresh air.
There are simple things you can do in your daily life that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections and protect those at highest risk. Things you can choose to do are below.
Testing and isolation advice
If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19, you should take a COVID-19 lateral flow test. You may not have all of the symptoms.
If you test positive for COVID-19 you should follow the guidance available at:
Even if your COVID-19 test result is negative, if you have symptoms of a respiratory infection you should follow the public health advice at:
Vaccines are the best defence against COVID-19 and other respiratory infections such as flu. They provide good protection against hospitalisation and death. They also reduce the risk of long-term symptoms.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Getting fully vaccinated is the best way of protecting you and others against COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.
If you have not yet received all the COVID-19 vaccine doses recommended for you, you should get vaccinated as soon as possible. It usually takes around two to three weeks for your body to develop its protective response.
Meet outdoors or keep indoor spaces well ventilated
Meeting outdoors vastly reduces the risk of airborne transmission, but this may not always be possible.
If you’re indoors, you should let fresh air in to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.
The more fresh air you let into your home or other enclosed spaces, the less likely a person is to inhale infectious particles.
You can let in fresh air by uncovering vents and opening doors and windows. Opening your windows for just 10 minutes, or a small amount of time continuously where you can, makes a significant difference. This is particularly important before, during and after meeting people you do not live with indoors.
If you are concerned about the costs of heating, opening windows for shorter periods of time can still help to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
Wear a face covering
Wearing a face covering or face mask can reduce the number of particles containing viruses that are released from the mouth and nose of someone (from coughs, sneezes and speaking) who is infected with COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.
Although wearing a face covering is no longer a legal requirement, they are still strongly recommended in indoor areas where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet.
If you have symptoms or have a positive COVID-19 test result and you need to leave your home, wearing a well-fitting face covering or a face mask can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.
By wearing a face covering you are showing your support and consideration for others and playing your part to prevent transmission of respiratory infections.
Keep your distance
You should try and keep a safe distance between you and anyone outside of your household.
The closer you are to others, the higher the risk. For example, the risk of transmission is higher at one metre compared to two metres. The level of risk also increases if there are no mitigations in place.
When out and about, you should adhere to any social distancing measures that have been put in place to help manage queues and avoid congestion.
You can also lower the risks of transmission by reducing the number of people you come into close contact with. For example, avoid peak travel times on public transport, where possible.
It is also important to consider that others may wish to continue to take a more cautious approach. Be considerate of this and give others space to reduce close contacts if they wish.
Limit close contact with other people
You may choose to limit the close contact you have with people you do not usually live with.
If you are planning an indoor gathering, you should keep rooms well-ventilated and maintain social distancing as much as possible.
Wash your hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes
Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day. Regular hand washing is an effective way to reduce your risk of catching illnesses, including COVID-19.
As the surfaces most likely to have the virus on them are those that are touched by lots of people, such as the trolley handle, the chip and pin machine, or the door handle, you should use hand sanitiser as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces.
Where possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
There are many practical steps that you can take to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading when using shared spaces.
Contact with shared surfaces that are touched often can increase the risk of infection.
Rooms used for activities and shared spaces, should be cleaned regularly, including door handles, tables, seats, handrails and toilets.
In indoor spaces, the amount of virus in the air can build up, increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19. It is therefore important that shared spaces are well ventilated after people leave, by fully opening windows and doors to increase fresh air.