What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

We explain what coronavirus (COVID-19) is, and what you should do if you have symptoms.

We know this is a worrying time and there is lots of information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) to take in. This page explains what coronavirus is, and what to do if you have symptoms.

If you have any questions or worries about coronavirus and how this may affect you and your treatment, you can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a type of virus called a coronavirus. It is a new virus that affects your lungs. It is very infectious, which means it can spread quickly from one person to another.

Symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual
  • a change to or loss of your normal sense of taste or smell.

What should I do if I have symptoms of coronavirus?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, stay at home (self-isolate) for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. Don’t go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital. Use these websites to find out what to do based on your situation. If you live in:

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you should apply for a coronavirus test on the NHS website. The tests are either home test kits or a test at a drive through testing centre. The test needs to be done in the first 5 days of having symptoms. Read more about tests on the NHS website.

If the test result is positive this means you have coronavirus, and you should continue to self-isolate. The NHS will contact you by email, text or phone as part of the contact tracing service. This aims to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The NHS will ask you where you’ve been recently and who you’ve been in close contact with. They will then contact these people and tell them to self-isolate for 14 days.

If someone you have been in close contact with recently tests positive for coronavirus, the NHS will also contact you as there is a chance you might get coronavirus. You will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day you were last in contact with the person.

The contact tracing service is slightly different in the four nations.

Where to find more information about coronavirus

There is a lot of information available from the NHS and government about coronavirus.

Updated: 15 Sep 2020