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Coronavirus: Ill must stay at home to protect others, says Norfolk public health director

PUBLISHED: 19:01 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:57 13 March 2020

Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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It is essential that people with even the mildest symptoms of coronavirus do not risk the health of others by ignoring advice to stay at home, Norfolk’s director of public health has warned.

People have been urged to continue regularly washing their hands. Picture: GettyPeople have been urged to continue regularly washing their hands. Picture: Getty

Dr Louise Smith said government advice that ill people should self-isolate for seven days should be heeded - and bosses need to support them to do so.

While Norfolk has not yet had any confirmed cases of coronavirus, Dr Smith said the announcement by the government's chief scientific adviser that the actual number of people infected in the UK at the moment could be between 5,000 and 10,000, should serve as a sobering warning. The number of people officially recorded as testing positive for coronavirus is 596.

Prime minister Boris Johnson gave a warning as he described coronavirus as 'the worst public health crisis for a generation' and set out measures that could 'cause severe disruption' for many months.

He said families would continue to 'lose loved ones before their time' as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

Mr Johnson said anyone with coronavirus symptoms, however mild, such as a continuous cough and/or high temperature, must now stay at home for seven days.

And Dr Smith said it was crucial that people did that, particularly given the risks the virus poses to older people, particularly those with underlying health conditions.
She said: 'It's really important that people do that and that employers support their staff to comply with what they are asked to do.

'Sir Patrick [chief scientific advisor] was saying that if that advice is followed to stay at home, then we can drop the number of people ill at the peak by up to 25pc. And if we move to household isolation, which may be a future step, then that would reduce it by another 25pc.

'The more weeks we can spread this out, the fewer people there will be needing hospital treatment from the NHS on an individual day.'

Dr Smith said people with symptoms such as a high temperature and a cough do not need to call NHS111 to go into self-isolation. She said they should visit the NHS website and only call 111 if really necessary.

She said, while Norfolk has yet to have any confirmed cases, people should not be complacent. She said: 'This will go on for weeks and months and the peak could be some weeks away. We are asking people not to overreact, but to get their plans together for how they will run their lives, look after their loved ones and look after themselves in the coming months.'

She added that handwashing, for at least 20 seconds, remained vital. She said people should make sure they wash them before and after eating and when arriving somewhere after travelling, such as at work or at home.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)

The most common symptoms are recent onset of:

New continuous cough and/or

High temperature

Prime minister Boris Johnsonafter the latest COBRA meeting to discuss the government's response to coronavirus crisis. Pic: Simon Dawson/PA WirePrime minister Boris Johnsonafter the latest COBRA meeting to discuss the government's response to coronavirus crisis. Pic: Simon Dawson/PA Wire

For most people, it will be a mild infection

What should I do?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus infection, however mild, stay at home and do not leave your house for seven days from when your symptoms started.

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That 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.

you do not need to call NHS111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after seven days contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

Will I be tested if I think I have COVID-19?

Those self-isolating with mild symptoms will not be tested.

Why has the advice on self-isolation changed from 14 days to seven days?

The 14 day period is for those who have had exposure to a confirmed case but have not shown symptoms. The 14 days represents the potential incubation period (the time it takes for symptoms to show if you have been infected).

Most people will no longer be likely to transmit the virus seven days after the onset of symptoms. You do not need to call NHS111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms persist past seven days you should contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

Why is staying at home so important?

It is very important that you stay at home. This will help to protect your friends, colleagues and the wider community and will help control the spread of the virus.

You should remain in your home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis. You cannot go for a walk.

You will need to ask friends or relatives if you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication.

Alternatively, you can order medication by phone or online. You can also order your shopping online. Make sure you tell delivery drivers to leave items outside for collection if you order online. The delivery driver should not come into your home.

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