You might still be concerned about COVID-19 as infection rates continue to change. Here we provide some tips to help you cope, and information about latest government guidelines, vaccines, your health services, Long COVID and shielding.
If you're struggling to adjust
We’ve put together a few top tips for adjusting to life with COVID-19 still being a concern:
Recognise it’s normal to worry about catching COVID-19. So is having some anxiety about mixing more with others. Remember that you’re not alone.
Do things your way. Don't let anyone pressure you into seeing them in person, or meeting in a public place, if you don’t feel safe to do so. It may take time to build up your confidence to do more.
Take precautions if you need to. If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask and/or gloves to go outside, do that. Carry hand sanitiser if you need to. It’s okay to take precautions to look after yourself, and you shouldn’t feel silly about doing what you need to.
Take small steps to rebuild your confidence about socialising or being in crowds. For example, you could try going shopping at quieter times of day, or spend time with a small group of your friends at first.
Talk to someone. You might like to talk to friends and family to help you stay connected. You could also call an organisation, such as Samaritans or The Silver Line, for emotional support.
If you are struggling with your mental health, get support. Anxiety UK has online resources and practical support tools, like videos and mood self-assessments. The NHS also has lots of information about managing your mental health. If your low mood or anxiety isn’t getting better, talk to your doctor. Mental health is as important as physical health. You will not be wasting anyone's time.
What is the latest government guidance?
Although everyone has had a different experience of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, it is still a risk to many people. The government still advises people at risk to be careful, especially in crowded and indoor spaces.
In England, you can read the government’s living with COVID-19 plan. This explains the plans to protect people, even without restrictions in place. If you have tested positive for COVID, the government also has advice on isolation periods. This advice also applies if you have any symptoms of a chest infection, plus a high temperature. They suggest that you stay at home and avoid other people until you don’t have symptoms any more.
In Wales, the government suggests isolating if you have any symptoms of COVID, until you either test negative or no longer have symptoms. Visit gov.wales for more information.
In Scotland, you don’t have to wear face coverings on public transport or inside anymore, but the government still recommends that people wear them. You should isolate if you test positive for COVID, or have a high temperature and don’t feel well enough to carry out your normal routine. Your isolation should end when you feel better. Visit gov.scot for more details.
The government says people should get vaccinated and have a booster vaccine if they haven’t already.
A seasonal booster is also available to anyone aged 50 or over. You should be contacted by the NHS when you are due your booster. You will usually be offered it around six months after your last COVID-19 vaccine. When it’s the right time for you to have it, you can book your booster online.
You can find out more about the vaccines and their safety on the NHS website.
It is also important to think about getting your flu vaccine. Since we have all spent so much time inside over the past few years, our natural immunity to flu is weaker. Also, if you get flu at the same time as COVID, you are more likely to get seriously ill.
You can get both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster. You may also be able to have them at the same time.
The NHS gives the flue vaccine to people 50 and over (including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2023). You can make an appointment at your GP surgery, or a pharmacy that offers it on the NHS. You might get an invitation to book it, but, unlike with the COVID booster, you don’t have to wait to be invited to book.
Free tests are not available from the NHS in England, except for a few groups of people like health and care staff. Staff in adult social care should test twice a week with lateral flow tests. If there is a case of COVID-19 in a care home, staff should do daily testing for five days. People with certain health conditions can also still order free lateral flow tests in England, if they are also eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.
There is no law saying you need to self-isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19 anymore. But the government advises that you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five days if you do have symptoms.
COVID-19 and your health services
The pandemic has meant that some people have had their treatment delayed, or have found it more difficult to get an appointment with their GP. But it’s important to still contact your GP surgery if you have a health concern. Don’t think that your situation is not serious enough. Be persistent if you need to.
If you can’t get through on the phone, check on their website for details of how to access their services online. If you are filling in an appointment request form online, make sure you are clear about what the problem is and how urgent it is. See our page on managing your health online.
If your problem is urgent and you cannot get through to your surgery, call NHS 111 to get medical advice.
‘Long COVID’ is a term used for symptoms of COVID-19 that last for more than four weeks. The signs of long COVID can be different from person to person, but common things to look out for are:
breathing problems (shortness of breath)
‘brain fog’ (especially problems with concentration and memory)
chest pain or tightness
an ongoing cough
You might have more than one of these symptoms, or get different ones over time.
These physical symptoms may be distressing. They may also lead you to feel a low mood or anxiety.
With both physical symptoms and mental effects, you should contact your GP. They will be able to help you get treatment, and find new ways to manage your symptoms. If you want help explaining how you feel to a GP, Asthma + Lung UK has an online tool to help you describe the problems you’re having.
You may have been told at the start of the pandemic that you are clinically extremely vulnerable, and that you should ‘shield’. As of September 2021, the government lifted the rules around shielding. But it might be right for you to keep shielding, or to shield over winter. The decision to do this is yours and will depend on many factors, including how comfortable you feel about mixing with people again. Only you can decide what this balance will look like, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to do anything that would put your health at risk.
Even if you decide that shielding is the right decision for you, it may make you feel left behind or lonely. We have lots of information about staying connected and support if you feel lonely. We also have guidance on how to manage feelings of anxiety.
Remember that there is support available to you. Reach out to family and friends as much as you can. You can also call our Helpline on 0800 319 6789 for extra support.