The UK chief medical officers have now raised the Covid-19 risk to the UK from moderate to high as the government moved from measures to contain the spread of the virus to delaying it.
The UK’s chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance said that telling those with a temperature of 37.8 degrees or above, or a new continuous cough, to self-isolate would have the biggest impact on delaying the spread of infection.
The new delay phase guidance reiterate that the best personal protection remains more frequent hand washing, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water, coughing or sneezing into a tissue, placing the tissue in a bin and washing your hands.
Sir Patrick told the BBC: "We have just asked a lot of people to isolate, stay at home, if they have got symptoms of mild upper respiratory tract infection, cough or fever. That is a big change.
"We have also talked about the possibility of whole households staying at home if one person has got [coronavirus] - that may come in later.
"And importantly we are also talking about that during the peak when people are most likely to get infected, the elderly and vulnerable are properly protected. This is not a short-term thing, it is going to go on for weeks."
He added that closing schools was a "very effective way of dealing with pandemic flu" but that with this coronavirus, "the role of children is less clear in terms of spreading the disease".
The guidance states that there is no need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation: “We are asking anyone who shows certain symptoms to self-isolate for seven days, regardless of whether they have travelled to affected areas. This means we want people to stay at home and avoid all but essential contact with others for seven days from the point of displaying mild symptoms, to slow the spread of infection.
“If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after seven days contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.”
People with confirmed or possible coronavirus infection who are required to stay at home should
- stay at home and do not leave your house for seven days from when your symptoms started
- this action will help protect others in your community whilst you are infectious
- plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home
- ask your employer, friends and family to help you to get the things you need to stay at home
- stay at least two metres (about three steps) away from other people in your home whenever possible
- sleep alone, if that is possible
- wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water
- stay away from vulnerable individuals such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions as much as possible.