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 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 of COVID-19
The risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 can be higher in certain places and when doing certain activities. COVID-19 is spread by airborne transmission, close contact via droplets and via surfaces.
It is possible to be infected by someone you don’t have close contact with, especially if you’re in a crowded and/ or poorly ventilated space.
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 via 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.
In these situations, you should keep yourself and others safe. Every little action helps to keep us all safer.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Getting fully vaccinated is the best way of protecting you and others against COVID-19.
If you have not yet received the full dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated. It usually takes around two to three weeks for your body to develop its protective response.
Even if you have been fully vaccinated, you could still get COVID-19 and pass it on to others. However, vaccination reduces your chances of being infected and significantly reduces your chances of becoming seriously ill, needing hospital treatment or dying.
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
When used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking, helping to protect others.
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.
By wearing a face covering you are showing your support and consideration for others and playing your part to prevent transmission of the virus.
Get tested and self-isolate if you have symptoms
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and take a lateral flow test, even if your symptoms are mild. Many people experience mild symptoms from COVID-19, but may still pass on the virus to others.
Further advice on testing if you have symptoms is available at:
You should self-isolate if you test positive. Self-isolating is important because you could pass the infection on to others, even if you do not have symptoms.
You should stay at home for the full amount of time advised, because this is the period when the virus is most likely to be passed on to others.
Further advice on how long to self-isolate for is available at:
Take a test before visiting higher risk settings
You will continue to be eligible to access free lateral flow tests if you work in or are visiting a higher risk setting, such as a hospital or care home. Testing before visiting higher risk settings helps to protect those at greater risk of serious illness.
Further advice on testing before visiting higher risk settings is available at:
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.
It is strongly recommended that no more than 30 people should gather indoors in a private dwelling.
If you are planning an indoor gathering in a private dwelling, 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 frequently touched 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.
Understanding your personal risk outside your home
Whether you are going shopping, to meet a friend for coffee or heading out for the night, thinking about location, proximity, and time can help you make safer choices.
Where are you going? Going somewhere indoors and poorly ventilated is higher risk than meeting someone outdoors.
You are strongly recommended to wear a face covering in any indoor public space.
Depending on where you're going, you may be asked to provide proof of COVID-19 status. More information on the COVID-19 Certification Scheme can be found at the following link:
If you are going somewhere small or crowded, the COVID-19 risk is greater. It is always safer if you can keep your distance from people that you do not live with. You should consider going at a time or to a place that you think it won’t be busy or crowded.
The more time you spend with others, the more chance there is of COVID-19 spreading. Less time means less risk.
You can watch a short video animation to see how considering the three key factors of location, proximity and time can help you make safer choices: