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There are currently many coronaviruses known to infect humans. On 12th January 2020 it was announced that a new coronavirus species had been identified, and the disease became known as COVID-19.
COVID-19 usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. The risk of spreading is increased when people are:
- in close proximity (within two metres)
- in poorly ventilated indoor spaces
- in the same room together for an extended period of time
These respiratory droplets can also be deposited on surfaces where there is the risk they can be picked up and transferred to your face, eyes, mouth and nose.
The rate of spread between people is currently very high. Therefore, it is important to follow the precautions below, to ensure you do not become infected or, infect others.
Face coverings are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection. This is because they cover the nose and mouth which are the main sources of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 infection.
This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.
The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets helping to protect others.
As face coverings are mainly intended to protect others from coronavirus rather than the wearer, they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing.
Find out more about face coverings on the government's website.
How to wear a face covering
A face covering should:
- cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
- fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
- be secured to the head with ties or ear loops
- be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
- ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organization recommends three, depending on the fabric used)unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged
When wearing a face covering you should:
- wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on
- avoid wearing on your neck or forehead
- avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus
- change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you've touched it
- avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession (for example, when leaving and entering shops on a high street)
When removing a face covering:
- wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing
- only handle the straps, ties or clips
- do not give it to someone else to use
- if single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle
- if reusable, wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric
- wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed
Wear a face covering and social distancing after having the vaccine
The first dose of the vaccine should give you good protection from COVID-19. You need to have two doses of the vaccine to give you longer lasting protection.
It is possible you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccines. This means it's important to:
- continue to follow social distancing guidance
- if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where it's hard to stay away from other people
- wash your hands with soap and water frequently, for at least 20 seconds
It's important that we all keep following these measures, until we are told that we can stop
How long COVID-19 lasts on surfaces
An American study found that COVID-19 survives on different surfaces for different lengths of time.
The study found that viable COVID-19 virus was found on cardboard for 24 hours, stainless steel for 48 hours and on plastic for 72 hours.
The risk of infection from a COVID-19 contaminated surface gets less over time but it is not yet clear at what point there is no risk from the virus.
Studies suggest that, in non-healthcare settings, after 48 hours the risk of residual virus that is infectious is likely to be significantly reduced.
Public Health England are studying how COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person by determining how long it can survive in the air and on different materials found in hospitals and households like fabric, plastics, metals and ceramics.
Further research is ongoing but it is important that you keep washing your hands regularly and clean down frequently touched surfaces with household cleaner.
Coronavirus and food shopping
Guidance from the government says there is no need to sanitise the outer packaging of food.
Businesses are required to have systems in place which include things like keeping food packaging clean.
The World Health Organisation have also said that people do not need to disinfect food packaging as coronavirus cannot multiply on them.
You are recommended to wash your hands after touching food packages and before eating.
Catching COVID-19 more than once
Scientists have found that people’s immunity from having already having COVID-19 gives them 83% protection against getting it again, compared to people who have not had COVID-19.
This immunity appears to last for at least five months from first becoming sick. We are still learning about the virus, but scientists believe that people who have already caught COVID-19 could be at risk of catching it again. The study has also shown that people who have had the infection, can still carry the virus and pass it onto other people.
For all these reasons it’s key to keep following prevention measures such as the hands, face, space, guidance.
If you are showing any symptoms of Covid 19 then you need to book a test. You will then be booked into a testing centre to receive a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.
This test looks for the genetic code of the virus and involves taking a swab of the throat and nose.
The PCR test is sent away to a lab and will confirm if you have COVID-19. Most people get results within 24 hours but it could take up to three days.
It will not confirm whether you have had COVID-19 and have now recovered.
None of the tests are 100% accurate all of the time. That can be because people are in the early stages of infection and there isn’t a high enough viral load. Tests also only tell you if you have the virus at that point in time: a negative result doesn’t mean you can stop wearing a mask or social distancing.
The benefit of testing is that it breaks the chain of infection: one in three people with COVID-19 doesn’t have symptoms and that person could go on to infect many others without knowing it. By getting tested people are protecting themselves, their loved ones and their communities, and it is a vital part of breaking the chains of transmission and getting back to a more normal life.
If you have a positive test result for COVID-19 you also need to follow the necessary rules including self-isolating for 10 days. All close contacts should also self-isolate.
Testing with no symptoms
Asymptomatic testing (testing for people without symptoms), also known as mass testing or community testing, is being carried out in various locations across Derbyshire.
This type of testing uses a rapid test – also known as lateral flow tests and you should get your results within 30 minutes.
Testing people without symptoms is important because around one in three people have coronavirus do not display any symptoms. Mass testing makes it easier to find people who may be unaware that they are infected.
They can then be told to isolate and be prevented from spreading the virus. If more people with COVID-19 self-isolate this will then protect those who cannot work from home and our services such as the NHS.
Page last updated on 28 January 2021.