Coronavirus: People with ‘minor signs’ may need to self-isolate – what does this mean?

Coronavirus cases in the UK have now surpassed 300, with five deaths confirmed on Tuesday. Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Witty has said people who who even minor signs of respiratory tract infections or a fever will soon be told to self-isolate to help tackle the outbreak. This advice could happen in the next 10 to 14 days.


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But what is a “minor” respiratory tract infection?

Dr Jennifer Cole, biological anthropologist, took to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, to offer her explanation.

When asked by GMB presenter Susanna Reid whether a minor respiratory tract infection is a mild cold, Dr Cole answered: “It would be, so it would be coughing and thinking you have symptoms of a cough.”

She added: “Coronavirus is a cold – one of the viruses that cause common cold is a coronavirus. So it’s a different coronavirus.

“We’re coming out of flu and cold season, so it’s coming into the time of year where you wouldn’t expect people to routinely be having a cold.

“So it’s perhaps something a bit unusual than it would have been in December.”

When asked what the reason behind self-isolating for “just a simple cold”, Dr Cole answered: “it’s more about that cold that you have may be coronavirus.

“We’re getting into the stage where you wouldn’t necessarily have an ordinary cold.”

This advices comes as the Foreign Office warned British residents against all but essential travel to Italy.

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said anyone who arrives from Italy from Tuesday should self-isolate for 14 days.

This response comes in light of Italy having more than 9,100 confirmed infections and more than 460 deaths.

NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell if you need medical help and advise you what to do. 


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The health body says you should use this service if:

  • You think you might have coronavirus
  • In the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus
  • You’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus

If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus you may be asked to self-isolate.

This means you should:

  • Stay at home
  • Separate yourself from other people – for example, try not to be in the same room as other people at the same time
  • Only allow people who live with you to stay
  • Stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened
  • Ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you, such as getting groceries, medicines or other shopping
  • Make sure you tell delivery drivers to leave items outside for collection if you order online
  • Clean toilets and bathrooms regularly
  • Think about a bathroom rota if a separate bathroom is not available, with the isolated person using the facilities last, before thoroughly cleaning the bathroom themselves
  • Use separate towels from anyone else in the household
  • Wash crockery and utensils thoroughly with soap and water; dishwashers may be used to clean crockery and cutlery
  • Stay away from your pets – if unavoidable, wash your hands before and after contact

You should not:

  • Invite visitors to your home or allow visitors to enter
  • Go to work, school or public areas
  • Public transport like buses, trains, tubes or taxis
  • Share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding or other items with other people in your home

If you live in shared accommodation you should:

  • Stay in your room with the door closed, only using communal kitchens, bathrooms and living areas when necessary
  • Avoid using a shared kitchen while others are using it
  • Take your meals back to your room to eat
  • Use a dishwasher (if available) to clean and dry your used crockery and cutlery; if this is not possible, wash them by hand using detergent and warm water and dry them thoroughly, using a separate tea towel

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