It is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should arrange to take a PCR test as soon as possible, even if you’ve had one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.
All of us can play our part by understanding the situations where risks of COVID-19 infection and transmission are likely to be higher, and taking action to reduce these risks.
Following this guidance will help you to understand situations where there is a greater risk of catching or spreading Coronavirus and the steps that you can take to stay safe and protect others. Every action you can take to help reduce the spread will help reduce pressure on the NHS during the winter months.
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. Airborne transmission is a very significant way that the virus circulates. 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.
Close contact with an infected person is also a significant way COVID-19 is spread. 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.
In general, 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 situations where there is a higher risk of catching or passing on COVID-19, you should be particularly careful to follow the guidance on keeping yourself and others safe. Every little action helps to keep us all safer.
Keeping yourself and others safe
There are still cases of COVID-19 in England and there is a risk you could catch or pass on the virus, even once you are fully vaccinated. This means it is important that you understand and consider the risks of catching or spreading COVID-19 in all situations.
While no situation is risk free, there are easy and effective actions you can take to protect yourself and others around you.
If you are worried about going back to a more ‘normal’ life, there is information from the NHS on how to cope with anxiety about lockdown lifting.
All adults in England have now been offered at least 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and all eligible adults have now also been offered a booster. The vaccines are safe and effective. Getting your initial course of a COVID-19 vaccine and a booster is the best way of protecting yourself and others against COVID-19.
If you have not yet received 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated. Evidence indicates that 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine continues to provide protection against severe disease, including against Omicron, but this protection declines slowly over time. Boosters provide a high level of protection against Omicron. You should therefore get a booster vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible.
Whilst the vaccines, particularly booster doses, provide a high level of protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, it is still possible to get COVID-19 and to pass it on to others. We all need to do what we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect others and to reduce the risk of new variants developing and spreading.
Following the advice in this guidance will help you to protect your friends, family, and communities.
Get tested and self-isolate if required
If you have symptoms or test positive
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild. This is because many people experience mild symptoms from COVID-19, but may still pass on the virus to others.
The main symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of any of the following:
- a new continuous cough
- a high temperature
- a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
You should self-isolate at home while you get a PCR test and wait for the results. You must self-isolate from the day your symptoms started, or from the day you receive a positive test result if you do not have any symptoms. You can end your self-isolation on the sixth day of self-isolation following 5 full days isolating and 2 negative rapid lateral flow test tests taken on consecutive days.
The first rapid lateral flow test should not be taken before the fifth day. The self-isolation period remains 10 full days for those without negative results from 2 rapid lateral flow tests taken a day apart. This is the law, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated. Self-isolating is important because you could pass the infection on to others, even if you do not have symptoms. You must self-isolate for the full amount of time you are told to, because this is the period when the virus is most likely to be passed on to others.
If you have received a positive rapid lateral flow test result but do not have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, you should report your result and self-isolate. You do not need to take a follow-up PCR test unless:
- you wish to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment
- you have a health condition that means you may be suitable for new COVID-19 treatments
- you are taking rapid lateral flow tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks you to do so
- you are an international arrival and have a positive day 2 rapid lateral flow test.