Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying safe when helping others
During coronavirus (COVID-19) if you are looking out for family, friends and neighbours, there is information available on how you can help. There are also things you can do to stay safe when helping others.
Who can volunteer
Anyone can volunteer during the coronavirus pandemic. However, people should volunteer from home where possible.
If you’re volunteering in a workplace, follow guidance at:
If you are at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable), you can volunteer outside your home, if you take extra steps to protect yourself. For example, reduce:
- your social interactions
- the time you spend in places where you cannot social distance
Who you can help
You can help households who are isolating. This could include friends and family members as well as your neighbours.
There are a number of ways you can help in your local community, for example, you can apply to:
You should only provide support in person where it is essential for the health or care of a vulnerable person.
How you can help
For most people, coronavirus causes mild symptoms. For others, such as older people and those with underlying medical conditions, it can be more serious.
It’s important to look out for family, friends and neighbours who may need help. You can help by:
- doing their shopping or collecting prescriptions
- delivering a newspaper or magazine
- staying in contact, over the phone or via social media, to help reduce feelings of loneliness
- encouraging them to stay mentally and physically active
- sharing trusted sources of information, for example, the Public Health Agency and the Department of Health
What to do if you are worried about someone’s health
If you are worried about someone’s health, you can encourage anyone you are in touch with or supporting to use the COVID-19 NI app, which offers immediate advice and links to trusted information. An online version of the app is also available:
They can also use the NHS 111 coronavirus service. They should only call 111 if they can’t get online, their symptoms worsen or they have been instructed to do so. Call 999 if you believe someone’s life is at risk.
A remote interpreting service for British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) users in Northern Ireland is available to give access to NHS 111 and Health and Social Care services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More information is available on the Health Services page.
Staying safe while helping others
When supporting others, it is important you help safely:
- wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds
- stay at least two metres (six feet) away from people you’re helping
- do not go inside the homes of anyone you do not live with, especially people who are vulnerable or self-isolating
If you are picking things up for others, try to limit the amount of time you spend outside of your home by picking up essential items for them when you do your own shopping or collect their medicines during the same trip.
If you have offered to help other people, do not place yourself in positions where you may feel unsafe, for instance helping late at night.
Find out how to travel safely if you're volunteering.
If you or someone in your household has shown symptoms, you must stay home. You still play an important role but will need to do this from home.
Rapid COVID testing for volunteers
If you cannot volunteer from home, you are encouraged to take part in the asymptomatic testing programme. The programme aims to prevent those infected with COVID-19, who have no symptoms, from unknowingly passing the virus to others. If the test result is positive, you and your close contacts must self-isolate.
You should only take part in the asymptomatic programme if you have no symptoms of COVID-19.
Where possible, organisations who involve volunteers should make arrangements to test volunteers.
Contact your voluntary organisation to find out if they offer testing.
If your organisation does not offer rapid COVID-19 testing, you can access the test using one of the following options:
Further information can be found at: