The UK Government is regularly releasing updated guidance for people in England to help deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
On this page are some of the key points that you should be aware of.
What are the latest changes?
The government is introducing extra Plan B measures to deal with the new Omicron variant of the virus.
You must wear face coverings in most indoor public spaces, at large venues and events, and on public transport. This is now the law.
The government is also speeding up the rollout of booster vaccines.
You can read more about the changes on the government website.
If you’re meeting friends and family, you can decide for yourself whether to keep your distance, but the government still advises people to be cautious. There is more guidance on the government website.
The government has simplified the rules for travelling abroad. Before you go, you should check the travel advice for any countries you will be visiting or travelling through.
You should also find out what you will need to do when you return. From 7 December, there are new rules about testing and quarantining for people who are coming to the UK from abroad. You can read more on the government website.
If you’re in the clinically extremely vulnerable group
The government has updated its guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. This is the group of people who were advised to shield earlier in the pandemic. The shielding programme has now ended in England.
People in the clinically extremely vulnerable group should follow the guidance that is in place for everyone. However, it’s for you to decide what you feel comfortable doing.
You can protect yourself by limiting the number of people you meet, and by asking by friends and family to test themselves at home (called a rapid lateral flow test) before you meet with them, for example. You should meet people outside where possible or open doors and windows if you meet inside. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. There is some general advice for people in this group on the government guidance page.
Reducing the spread of the virus
You are still expected to self-isolate and get a PCR test straightaway if you have any of the following symptoms:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
You should also self-isolate for 10 full days if you test positive for COVID-19, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
As of 17 January, you can end self-isolation at the start of day 6 if you’ve had two negative lateral flow tests, taken 24 hours apart, and you don’t have a temperature. You should take the first one on day 5 and the second on day 6.
If you come into contact with someone who’s been infected with COVID-19 (any variant) and you are not fully vaccinated, you’ll need to self-isolate for 10 days.
If you come into contact with someone who has the virus (any variant) and you are fully vaccinated, you should take daily lateral flow tests for 7 days. If a lateral flow test is positive, you should self-isolate as soon as possible. As of 11 January, you no longer have to get a PCR test to confirm the result, except in certain circumstances.
Protecting people in care homes
Visiting care homes
The government guidance about visiting people in care homes says that each care home resident can have 'named visitors', who can visit as long as they follow the care home’s policies and guidelines for testing and infection control measures, such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). From 15 December, this will be limited to 3 named visitors who can visit regularly. Every care home resident should also be able to nominate an 'essential care giver', who should be allowed to visit more often.
The government have published a summary of the key points for care home visitors.
Spending time outside of the care home
Residents may also spend time outside the care home – for example, to visit family or friends, or attend medical appointments. There is separate guidance for visits outside of care homes. This says that as of 15 December, care home residents who spend time outside of the home must take a lateral flow test on alternate days for two weeks after their visit out (if they are fully vaccinated). Care home residents who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 14 days following their time outside of the care home.
Testing and isolating in care homes
There is also detailed guidance for care home managers about how to keep their staff and residents safe, and deal with any outbreaks of coronavirus. People who are moving from their own home into a care home no longer need to be isolated for 14 days when they arrive, as long as they satisfy certain requirements. These are set out in the government guidance.
If you’re moving (or returning) to a care home from hospital, you must be tested for COVID-19 48 hours before moving and have the results confirmed. If the results are positive, you can only be discharged to a setting that has certain infection prevention control standards in place. This could be a care home or an NHS community hospital for example. Even if the results are negative, you will need to self-isolate in your own room for 14 days.
If you have suspected COVID-19 symptoms and are living in a care home, you must be tested and isolated quickly. As some care home residents may not be able to report COVID-19 related symptoms, these residents should be checked twice daily for possible symptoms, such as a high temperature.
Residents who have been in contact with someone with possible or confirmed COVID-19 do not need to self-isolate, as long as they have had a negative PCR test and have daily lateral flow tests for up to 10 days. They should avoid contact with extremely vulnerable residents during this period.
Government guidance says that care home staff should be tested for coronavirus with a weekly PCR test and lateral flow tests 3 times a week. Residents should have a PCR test every 28 days.
Help during coronavirus (COVID-19)
Visit our FAQs page for more practical advice on things like getting help with shopping, access to cash if you need to stay at home, and seeing your GP.
If you are worried about how to cope with the changing situation, see our page about managing anxiety as the pandemic continues.