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Coronavirus Updates

Westgate-on-Sea Town Council Coronavirus Updates

***Information from https://www.gov.uk/****

Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19)


What you need to know

The coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak is going to have an impact on everyone’s daily lives, as the government and the NHS take necessary steps to manage the outbreak, reduce transmission and treat those who need medical attention.

It may be difficult, but by following guidance on social distancing, or staying at home, you are helping to protect yourself, your family, the NHS and your community.

During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and to get further support if you need it.

Background

This guide provides advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

For wider guidance on how to protect yourself and others, and actions to take if you think you may have contracted the virus please see the guidance on this page.

This guidance will be updated in line with the changing situation.

What can help your mental health and wellbeing

Consider how to connect with others: Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.

Help and support others: Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Remember it’s important to do this in line with guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep yourself and everyone safe. And try to be accepting of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours.

Talk about your worries: It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too. If you don’t feel able to do that, there are people you can speak to via NHS recommended helplines or you could find support groups online to connect with.

Look after your physical wellbeing: Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise inside where possible and outside once a day, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs.

If you are able to go outside, consider walking or gardening (keeping the recommended 2 metres from others as outlined in the social distancing guidance). If you are staying at home, you can find free easy 10 minute work outs from Public Health England or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio. Sport England also has good tips for keeping active at home.

Look after your sleep: Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough.

Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. The Every Mind Matters sleep page provides practical advice on how to improve your sleep.

Try to manage difficult feelings: Many people find the news about coronavirus (COVID-19) concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared.

It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.

Manage your media and information intake: 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting to a couple of checks a day.

Get the facts: Gather high-quality information that will help you to accurately determine your own or other people’s risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) so that you can take reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can trust such as GOV.UK, or the NHS website, and fact check information that you get from newsfeeds, social media or from other people.

Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources.

Think about your new daily routine: Life is changing for us all for a while. Whether you are staying at home or social distancing, you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine.

Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (such as reading or calling a friend). You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week.

Do things you enjoy: When you are anxious, lonely or low you may do things that you usually enjoy less often, or not at all. Focussing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.

If you can’t do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online and people are coming up with innovative online solutions like online pub quizzes and streamed live music concerts.

Set goals: Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose – think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. It could be watching a film, reading a book or learning something online.

Keep your mind active: Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you.

Take time to relax and focus on the present: This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future, and can improve wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. For useful resources see Every Mind Matters and NHS’ mindfulness page.

If you can, once a day get outside, or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside much you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can.

Remember that social distancing guidelines enable you to go outside to exercise once a day as long as you keep 2 metres apart from others who are not members of your household group.

Staying at home

Recent guidance is clear about the need for people to stay at home. If you are feeling anxious it might help to think about potential challenges and make a plan for them.

Practical issues

Supplies: Think about how you can get any supplies you need – either from a neighbour, family friends or a delivery service so you don’t worry about running out. Try to pick healthy food, especially as you might not get as much exercise as normal.

Financial concerns: You may be worried about work and money if you have to stay home – these issues can have a big impact on your mental health. For guidance on what your rights are at work, what benefits you are entitled and what further support is available please see our guidance for employees or advice from citizens advice or the National Debt line.

If you care for other people: You may be worried about how to ensure care for those who rely on you – either your dependants at home or others that you regularly visit. Let your local authority know if you provide care, or support someone you don’t live with. Further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK.

If you are being treated or taking medication for existing conditions

Continue accessing treatment and support where possible: Let relevant services know that you are staying at home, and work out how to continue receiving support during this time:

  • ask about having appointments by phone, text or online. For example, this could be with your counsellor, therapist or support worker, nurse, care worker or befriender

  • if you use care services that will be affected by staying at home, you should let your local authority and care provider know so alternative arrangements can be put in place

  • make it clear if any support is still needed. Tell them that alternative arrangements are required if any of the usual support can’t continue. This may include things like carers visiting, day centre sessions, or friends and family coming over to help

Keep taking your medication: You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone, or online using an app or website if your doctor’s surgery offers this.

  • ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered or think about who you could ask to collect it for you. The NHS website has more information about getting prescriptions for someone else and checking if you have to pay for prescriptions

  • continue to order your repeat prescriptions in your usual timeframe. There is no need to order for a longer duration or larger quantities

  • your GP practice (or clinical team) may move your prescriptions to repeat dispensing arrangements so you only have to contact your pharmacy to get a repeat of your medicine rather than your practice

  • be careful about buying medication online. You should only buy from registered pharmacies. You can check if a pharmacy is registered on the General Pharmaceutical Council website

  • you can contact NHS 111 in England if you’re worried about accessing medication

Where to get further support

Managing physical symptoms that are triggered by stress and anxiety

It is quite common to experience short-lived physical symptoms when your mood is low or anxious, for example:

  • faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
  • feeling lightheaded and dizzy
  • headaches
  • chest pains or loss of appetite

It can be difficult to know what is causing these symptoms, but often people who experience them due to stress, anxiety or low mood find that they get worse when they focus on them. See advice from the NHS on managing the physical symptoms.

If you are concerned about your physical symptoms, then do contact NHS 111 online.

For advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and any symptoms see the NHS website.

If you are experiencing stress, feelings of anxiety or low mood, you can use the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and practical tools Every Mind Matters also provides simple tips and advice to start taking better care of your mental health. If you are still struggling after several weeks and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

In a medical emergency call 999. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.

Additional advice for groups with specific mental health needs

Existing mental health problems

If you already have a mental health problem, then you may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak particularly challenging. The advice above should help, but here are a few extra things that you may want to think about. This advice is part of comprehensive guidance provided by Mind.

Managing difficult feelings or behaviours to do with hygiene, washing or fears of infection

Some mental health problems can cause difficult feelings or behaviours to do with washing or hygiene. If you experience this, you might find it hard to hear advice about washing your hands.

It is important to follow government advice on helping to avoid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), but if you find you are going beyond the recommendations, if this is making you feel stressed or anxious, or if you are having intrusive thoughts here are some things you could try:

  • don’t keep re-reading the same advice if this is unhelpful for you
  • let other people know you’re struggling, for example you could ask them not to discuss the news with you
  • breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise on the NHS website and Mind’s pages on relaxation have some relaxation tips and exercises you can try
  • set limits, like washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds
  • plan something to do after washing your hands, which could help distract you and change your focus
  • it could also help to read some of Mind’s tips in their information on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Speaking to your mental health team

If you are already receiving mental health care, contact your mental health team to discuss how care will continue, and to update safety/care plans.

Managing panic and anxiety

If you have panic attacks or flashbacks, it might help to plan a ‘safe space’ in your home that you’ll go to.

You can also find ways to comfort yourself if you’re feeling anxious. For example, Mind has games and puzzles you can use to distract yourself, and breathing exercises which may help.

Managing feelings of being trapped or claustrophobia

You are probably spending more time than usual at home so try to get outside if you can, once a day. You could also open the windows to let in fresh air, find a place to sit with a view outside, or sit on your doorstep or in your garden if you have one. It can also help to regularly change the rooms you spend time in (if possible). This can help to give you a sense of space.

If you are reducing your drinking significantly

If you are reducing your drinking, remember it can be dangerous to stop too quickly without proper support. If you have physical withdrawal symptoms (like shaking, sweating or feeling anxious until you have your first drink of the day) you should seek medical advice. For further advice available in your area (including remote services) see NHS advice.

People with a learning disability

You may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak stressful. You may be worried about changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. You may also be worried about your family or those close to you.

Public Health England has easy read guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it may affect you. There is also other information available about coronavirus (COVID-19) from Mencap and how to manage difficult feelings you are having.

There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

  • as you are asked to now stay at home you should keep in touch with people you trust (like friends, family and employer) over the phone or internet - follow the advice from the stay at home and social distancing guidance
  • there may also be self-advocacy groups in your area offering more support online or by phone - you can ask your families or carers for help to search for these groups
  • it is also important to get information about coronavirus (COVID-19) only from places you can trust, such as the NHS website

While it is important to be aware of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important not to forget about any other health conditions you might have. Make sure you take any medication you have been prescribed, keep any hospital appointments you have (unless you have been told otherwise by the hospital) and tell people if you can’t attend appointments.

Autistic people

You may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak stressful and be worried about getting the virus or changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

Understand what is happening

Keep up to date with information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) from sources you can trust, such as the NHS website.

Help to stop the virus from spreading

There are 4 easy steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus or spreading it to others:

  • wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • use a tissue for coughs and sneezes and bin it
  • avoid touching your face, including your mouth and eyes
  • get up to date information about staying at home or what to do if you feel unwell on the NHS 111 website. If you are unsure about your symptoms speak to someone you trust about them, like a support worker.

Plan to keep mentally well

Do the things you would usually do to keep well, like eating food you enjoy and taking exercise, once a day outside if you can. If you have support from others, plan with them how you can remain well and relaxed. There are also other things you can do to help to manage your emotions if you feel you are losing control, such as:

  • keeping a diary
  • using apps like Brain in Hand
  • learning relaxation techniques
  • creating a plan with your carer for when you feeling anxiety

You know what strategies have helped in the past, so use them again now. The National Autistic Society guidance on managing anxiety might also be helpful.

Get help if you are struggling

Hearing about coronavirus (COVID-19), and the changes it causes in your daily life, might make you feel like you don’t have control, or make you worried or scared about your health. These feelings are common. Try to speak to someone you trust such as a friend, family member or supporter.

If you do become unwell and need medical treatment, share your hospital passport or autism diagnosis so staff know the best way to support you.

If you are still feeling worried and want more help. You can call the Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104.

Older people

Government guidance is that older people are at increased risk of severe illness and need to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures and staying at home. Given this, it is natural for older people, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions, to feel concerned or affected by changes you have to make to your daily life. The following suggestions may help with any difficult feelings and look after your mental health:

Stay connected

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks. Try to stay in touch with those around you, this might be over the phone, by post, or online. If you have been advised to stay at home, let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine.

Get practical help

If you need help, for example with shopping or running errands, ask for it and let those around you know what they can do. If you need help but you’re not sure who to contact, Age UK runs an advice line (0800 678 1602 – lines are open every day 8am-7pm) that can put you in touch with local services.

People living with dementia

You may feel concerned about coronavirus how it could affect you. Alzheimer’s Society have published information on coronavirus for people affected by dementia.

If you’d like to connect and talk with other people affected by dementia, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society online community Talking Point.

A range of information on information on dementia is also available from Alzheimer’s Research UK

If you are still feeling worried and want more help you can call the Alzheimer’s Society Helpline on 0300 222 11 22

You can also speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse on Dementia UK’s Helpline, on 0800 888 6687.

Dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency

You may find that the added stress of the current situation could have a big impact on your mental health. In some cases, you may feel that you are having a mental health crisis as you no longer feel able to cope or be in control of your situation.

You may: feel great emotional distress or anxiety, feel that you cannot cope with day-to-day life or work, think about self-harm or even suicide, or experience or hear voices (hallucinations).

If this sort of situation happens, you should get immediate expert assessment and advice to identify the best course of action:

  • If you have already been given a Crisis Line number from a health professional, please call it.

  • If you’re under the care of a mental health team and have a specific care plan that states who to contact when you need urgent care, follow this plan.

  • Mind also provides information about how to plan for a crisis.

  • Samaritans has a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you want to talk to someone in confidence. Call them on 116 123.

  • Find local crisis support services near you that can support you.

  • You can contact NHS 111 if you need urgent care but it’s not life threatening.

    What you need to know

    The coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak is going to have an impact on everyone’s daily lives, as the government and the NHS take necessary steps to manage the outbreak, reduce transmission and treat those who need medical attention.

    It may be difficult, but by following guidance on social distancing, or staying at home, you are helping to protect yourself, your family, the NHS and your community.

    During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and to get further support if you need it.

    Background

    This guide provides advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

    For wider guidance on how to protect yourself and others, and actions to take if you think you may have contracted the virus please see the guidance on this page.

    This guidance will be updated in line with the changing situation.

    What can help your mental health and wellbeing

    Consider how to connect with others: Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.

    Help and support others: Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Remember it’s important to do this in line with guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep yourself and everyone safe. And try to be accepting of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours.

    Talk about your worries: It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too. If you don’t feel able to do that, there are people you can speak to via NHS recommended helplines or you could find support groups online to connect with.

    Look after your physical wellbeing: Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise inside where possible and outside once a day, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs.

    If you are able to go outside, consider walking or gardening (keeping the recommended 2 metres from others as outlined in the social distancing guidance). If you are staying at home, you can find free easy 10 minute work outs from Public Health England or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio. Sport England also has good tips for keeping active at home.

    Look after your sleep: Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough.

    Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. The Every Mind Matters sleep page provides practical advice on how to improve your sleep.

    Try to manage difficult feelings: Many people find the news about coronavirus (COVID-19) concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared.

    It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.

    Manage your media and information intake: 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting to a couple of checks a day.

    Get the facts: Gather high-quality information that will help you to accurately determine your own or other people’s risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) so that you can take reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can trust such as GOV.UK, or the NHS website, and fact check information that you get from newsfeeds, social media or from other people.

    Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources.

    Think about your new daily routine: Life is changing for us all for a while. Whether you are staying at home or social distancing, you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine.

    Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (such as reading or calling a friend). You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week.

    Do things you enjoy: When you are anxious, lonely or low you may do things that you usually enjoy less often, or not at all. Focussing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.

    If you can’t do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online and people are coming up with innovative online solutions like online pub quizzes and streamed live music concerts.

    Set goals: Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose – think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. It could be watching a film, reading a book or learning something online.

    Keep your mind active: Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you.

    Take time to relax and focus on the present: This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future, and can improve wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. For useful resources see Every Mind Matters and NHS’ mindfulness page.

    If you can, once a day get outside, or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside much you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can.

    Remember that social distancing guidelines enable you to go outside to exercise once a day as long as you keep 2 metres apart from others who are not members of your household group.

    Staying at home

    Recent guidance is clear about the need for people to stay at home. If you are feeling anxious it might help to think about potential challenges and make a plan for them.

    Practical issues

    Supplies: Think about how you can get any supplies you need – either from a neighbour, family friends or a delivery service so you don’t worry about running out. Try to pick healthy food, especially as you might not get as much exercise as normal.

    Financial concerns: You may be worried about work and money if you have to stay home – these issues can have a big impact on your mental health. For guidance on what your rights are at work, what benefits you are entitled and what further support is available please see our guidance for employees or advice from citizens advice or the National Debt line.

    If you care for other people: You may be worried about how to ensure care for those who rely on you – either your dependants at home or others that you regularly visit. Let your local authority know if you provide care, or support someone you don’t live with. Further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK.

    If you are being treated or taking medication for existing conditions

    Continue accessing treatment and support where possible: Let relevant services know that you are staying at home, and work out how to continue receiving support during this time:

  • ask about having appointments by phone, text or online. For example, this could be with your counsellor, therapist or support worker, nurse, care worker or befriender

  • if you use care services that will be affected by staying at home, you should let your local authority and care provider know so alternative arrangements can be put in place

  • make it clear if any support is still needed. Tell them that alternative arrangements are required if any of the usual support can’t continue. This may include things like carers visiting, day centre sessions, or friends and family coming over to help

  • Keep taking your medication: You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone, or online using an app or website if your doctor’s surgery offers this.

  • ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered or think about who you could ask to collect it for you. The NHS website has more information about getting prescriptions for someone else and checking if you have to pay for prescriptions

  • continue to order your repeat prescriptions in your usual timeframe. There is no need to order for a longer duration or larger quantities

  • your GP practice (or clinical team) may move your prescriptions to repeat dispensing arrangements so you only have to contact your pharmacy to get a repeat of your medicine rather than your practice

  • be careful about buying medication online. You should only buy from registered pharmacies. You can check if a pharmacy is registered on the General Pharmaceutical Council website

  • you can contact NHS 111 in England if you’re worried about accessing medication

  • Where to get further support

    Managing physical symptoms that are triggered by stress and anxiety

    It is quite common to experience short-lived physical symptoms when your mood is low or anxious, for example:

  • faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
  • feeling lightheaded and dizzy
  • headaches
  • chest pains or loss of appetite
  • It can be difficult to know what is causing these symptoms, but often people who experience them due to stress, anxiety or low mood find that they get worse when they focus on them. See advice from the NHS on managing the physical symptoms.

    If you are concerned about your physical symptoms, then do contact NHS 111 online.

    For advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and any symptoms see the NHS website.

    If you are experiencing stress, feelings of anxiety or low mood, you can use the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and practical tools Every Mind Matters also provides simple tips and advice to start taking better care of your mental health. If you are still struggling after several weeks and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

    In a medical emergency call 999. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.

    Additional advice for groups with specific mental health needs

    Existing mental health problems

    If you already have a mental health problem, then you may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak particularly challenging. The advice above should help, but here are a few extra things that you may want to think about. This advice is part of comprehensive guidance provided by Mind.

    Managing difficult feelings or behaviours to do with hygiene, washing or fears of infection

    Some mental health problems can cause difficult feelings or behaviours to do with washing or hygiene. If you experience this, you might find it hard to hear advice about washing your hands.

    It is important to follow government advice on helping to avoid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), but if you find you are going beyond the recommendations, if this is making you feel stressed or anxious, or if you are having intrusive thoughts here are some things you could try:

  • don’t keep re-reading the same advice if this is unhelpful for you
  • let other people know you’re struggling, for example you could ask them not to discuss the news with you
  • breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise on the NHS website and Mind’s pages on relaxation have some relaxation tips and exercises you can try
  • set limits, like washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds
  • plan something to do after washing your hands, which could help distract you and change your focus
  • it could also help to read some of Mind’s tips in their information on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Speaking to your mental health team

    If you are already receiving mental health care, contact your mental health team to discuss how care will continue, and to update safety/care plans.

    Managing panic and anxiety

    If you have panic attacks or flashbacks, it might help to plan a ‘safe space’ in your home that you’ll go to.

    You can also find ways to comfort yourself if you’re feeling anxious. For example, Mind has games and puzzles you can use to distract yourself, and breathing exercises which may help.

    Managing feelings of being trapped or claustrophobia

    You are probably spending more time than usual at home so try to get outside if you can, once a day. You could also open the windows to let in fresh air, find a place to sit with a view outside, or sit on your doorstep or in your garden if you have one. It can also help to regularly change the rooms you spend time in (if possible). This can help to give you a sense of space.

    If you are reducing your drinking significantly

    If you are reducing your drinking, remember it can be dangerous to stop too quickly without proper support. If you have physical withdrawal symptoms (like shaking, sweating or feeling anxious until you have your first drink of the day) you should seek medical advice. For further advice available in your area (including remote services) see NHS advice.

    People with a learning disability

    You may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak stressful. You may be worried about changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. You may also be worried about your family or those close to you.

    Public Health England has easy read guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it may affect you. There is also other information available about coronavirus (COVID-19) from Mencap and how to manage difficult feelings you are having.

    There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

  • as you are asked to now stay at home you should keep in touch with people you trust (like friends, family and employer) over the phone or internet - follow the advice from the stay at home and social distancing guidance
  • there may also be self-advocacy groups in your area offering more support online or by phone - you can ask your families or carers for help to search for these groups
  • it is also important to get information about coronavirus (COVID-19) only from places you can trust, such as the NHS website
  • While it is important to be aware of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important not to forget about any other health conditions you might have. Make sure you take any medication you have been prescribed, keep any hospital appointments you have (unless you have been told otherwise by the hospital) and tell people if you can’t attend appointments.

    Autistic people

    You may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak stressful and be worried about getting the virus or changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

    Understand what is happening

    Keep up to date with information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) from sources you can trust, such as the NHS website.

    Help to stop the virus from spreading

    There are 4 easy steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus or spreading it to others:

  • wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • use a tissue for coughs and sneezes and bin it
  • avoid touching your face, including your mouth and eyes
  • get up to date information about staying at home or what to do if you feel unwell on the NHS 111 website. If you are unsure about your symptoms speak to someone you trust about them, like a support worker.
  • Plan to keep mentally well

    Do the things you would usually do to keep well, like eating food you enjoy and taking exercise, once a day outside if you can. If you have support from others, plan with them how you can remain well and relaxed. There are also other things you can do to help to manage your emotions if you feel you are losing control, such as:

  • keeping a diary
  • using apps like Brain in Hand
  • learning relaxation techniques
  • creating a plan with your carer for when you feeling anxiety
  • Get help if you are struggling

    Hearing about coronavirus (COVID-19), and the changes it causes in your daily life, might make you feel like you don’t have control, or make you worried or scared about your health. These feelings are common. Try to speak to someone you trust such as a friend, family member or supporter.

    If you do become unwell and need medical treatment, share your hospital passport or autism diagnosis so staff know the best way to support you.

    If you are still feeling worried and want more help. You can call the Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104.

    Older people

    Government guidance is that older people are at increased risk of severe illness and need to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures and staying at home. Given this, it is natural for older people, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions, to feel concerned or affected by changes you have to make to your daily life. The following suggestions may help with any difficult feelings and look after your mental health:

    Stay connected

    Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks. Try to stay in touch with those around you, this might be over the phone, by post, or online. If you have been advised to stay at home, let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine.

    Get practical help

    If you need help, for example with shopping or running errands, ask for it and let those around you know what they can do. If you need help but you’re not sure who to contact, Age UK runs an advice line (0800 678 1602 – lines are open every day 8am-7pm) that can put you in touch with local services.

    People living with dementia

    You may feel concerned about coronavirus how it could affect you. Alzheimer’s Society have published information on coronavirus for people affected by dementia.

    If you’d like to connect and talk with other people affected by dementia, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society online community Talking Point.

    A range of information on information on dementia is also available from Alzheimer’s Research UK

    If you are still feeling worried and want more help you can call the Alzheimer’s Society Helpline on 0300 222 11 22

    You can also speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse on Dementia UK’s Helpline, on 0800 888 6687.

    Dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency

    You may find that the added stress of the current situation could have a big impact on your mental health. In some cases, you may feel that you are having a mental health crisis as you no longer feel able to cope or be in control of your situation.

    You may: feel great emotional distress or anxiety, feel that you cannot cope with day-to-day life or work, think about self-harm or even suicide, or experience or hear voices (hallucinations).

    If this sort of situation happens, you should get immediate expert assessment and advice to identify the best course of action:

  • If you have already been given a Crisis Line number from a health professional, please call it.

  • If you’re under the care of a mental health team and have a specific care plan that states who to contact when you need urgent care, follow this plan.

  • Mind also provides information about how to plan for a crisis.

  • Samaritans has a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you want to talk to someone in confidence. Call them on 116 123.

  • Find local crisis support services near you that can support you.

  • You can contact NHS 111 if you need urgent care but it’s not life threatening.

  • In in a medical emergency call 999 if you are seriously ill or injured and your life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.

  • See further advice from the NHS on dealing with a mental health crisis.

    You know what strategies have helped in the past, so use them again now. The National Autistic Society guidance on managing anxiety might also be helpful.

    In in a medical emergency call 999 if you are seriously ill or injured and your life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.

See further advice from the NHS on dealing with a mental health crisis.


***Full guidance on staying at home and away from others***

The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

NEW RULES ON STAYING AT HOME AND AWAY FROM OTHERS

The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the government is now (23 March 2020) introducing three new measures.

1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes

2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces

3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings. These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

1. STAYING AT HOME

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons.

● Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.

● One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.

● Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.

● Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household. These measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded. If you work in a critical sector outlined in this guidance, or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school. Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes

2. CLOSING NON-ESSENTIAL SHOPS AND PUBLIC SPACES

Last week, the Government ordered certain businesses - including pubs, cinemas and theatres - to close. The Government is now extending this requirement to a further set of businesses and other venues, including:

● all non-essential retail stores - this will include clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets.

● libraries, community centres, and youth centres.

● indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.

● communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.

● places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.

● hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers). More detailed information can be found here, including a full list of those businesses and other venues that must close. Businesses and other venues not on this list may remain open.

3. STOPPING PUBLIC GATHERINGS

To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people. There are only two exceptions to this rule:

● where the gathering is of a group of people who live together - this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.

● where the gathering is essential for work purposes - but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace. In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.

DELIVERING THESE NEW MEASURES

These measures will reduce our day to day contact with other people. They are a vital part of our efforts to reduce the rate of transmission of coronavirus. Every citizen is instructed to comply with these new measures. The Government will therefore be ensuring the police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply. They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

 

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others?utm_source=a7405750-72ea-401e-8f39-0f5b6fa1eaca&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate

***Public Health England Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update***

Please see the Public Health England update below for 26 March 2020:

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed that, as of 9am on 26 March 2020, a total of 104,866 people have been tested, of which 93,208 were confirmed negative and 11,658 were confirmed positive. As of 5pm on 25 March 2020, 578 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died. DHSC will publish updated data on this page on a daily basis each afternoon until further notice. Please be aware that tests are now being prioritised for those who require hospital care for pneumonia or acute respiratory illness – while continuing to investigate outbreaks, ie where several cases are connected, especially in a particular setting such as a care home. This change is being reflected in the surveillance data we report which will monitor, support and inform the public health actions we are taking while no longer providing a running commentary of individual cases, or individual deaths.

The Chancellor has outlined measures to support the self-employed. They will be paid 80% of profits, up to £2,500 a month if affected by the coronavirus outbreak. HM Treasury guidance on support for those affected by coronavirus has also been updated.

Latest PHE guidance can be found here.

  • Any further guidance to support schools and educational settings remaining open for children of key workers will be published here.

DfE has set up a helpline offering guidance for anyone with education related questions.

  • Follow us on Twitter: @PHE_SouthEast

Public Health England and Kent County Council statement on confirmed COVID-19 case in Kent

Specialists from Public Health England (PHE) are working with Kent County Council and NHS colleagues following a confirmed case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the county.

The case is now in a treatment centre in London. Dr James Mapstone, Acting Regional Director, Public Health England South of England, said: “Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with one of the latest confirmed cases of COVID-19. The case is a resident of Kent and had recently travelled to Italy. Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed case. This tried and tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public.”

Kent County Council’s Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “I’d like to reassure people that the risk to the general public remains low and we are working with health colleagues to do everything we can to stop the virus spreading and ensure the people of Kent are protected.

“If you have not been contacted by Public Health England as a close contact of the confirmed case you do not need to take any action at this time.”

Health and local authorities are appealing for people to follow national Government guidance to prevent further spread of the illness and limit the numbers affected.

This guidance includes taking basic hygiene precautions as the best way of significantly reducing the chances of spreading any virus: sneeze or cough into a tissue, bin it, wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face unless you’ve just washed your hands.

Current evidence indicates that most cases appear to be mild, with patients experiencing flu-like symptoms. Older residents or those with weakened immune systems or long-term conditions may experience more severe symptoms.

Andrew Scott-Clark added: “These are the same simple steps we all should be taking to avoid other illnesses such as flu which is also prevalent during the winter and it is important that residents help protect themselves and others.

“If you have recently travelled to an affected area or been in contact with someone who has, and you think you have symptoms associated with the coronavirus, you should not go to A&E or your doctor but self-isolate yourself at home and ring NHS 111 which has an online coronavirus service that can tell if you need medical help and advise you what to do.”

The symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are:

a cough

a high temperature

shortness of breath

Self-isolation means you should:

stay at home

not go to work, school or public places

not use public transport or taxis

ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you

try to avoid visitors to your home – it's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food

You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection. For more information on the symptoms and steps to take, go to www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

For the latest advice on travellers returning from affected areas, plus guidance to schools and care homes, visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Details on testing are published daily at 2pm and includes a breakdown of negative and positive tests https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public

This is the link to a BBC News online article - Coronavirus: Advice for People with Health Conditions - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51703892

 

Westgate-on-Sea Town Council Coronavirus Updates

NALC Chief executive's bulletin - Coronavirus and cybersecurity

Microshade VSM works in close co-operation with cybersecurity experts to ensure the safety of local (parish and town) councils' data. We wish to share this information with the sector that has given to us.

Since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has identified 21 reports of fraud where coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses totalling over £800k. It's expected that reporting numbers will rise as the virus continues to spread across the world.

What are the risks?

The two most common risks are:

  • Viruses — These are malicious software programmes loaded onto the user's computer without their knowledge and performs malicious actions, leading to corruption of data/files, or even altogether disabling the computer.
  • Phishing — This is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and bank details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Of the reported coronavirus related fraud cases, ten of these reports were made by victims that attempted to purchase protective face masks from fraudulent sellers. Fraudsters are also sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails in an attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial details.

Some of the tactics we've identified from victim reports include fraudsters purporting to be from research organisation's affiliated with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) contacting potential victims over email. They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. To access this information, the victim needs to click on a link which takes them to a malicious website or requested to make a payment in Bitcoin.

What should I do next?

  • Watch out for scam messages — Don't click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details,
  • Protect devices from the latest threats — Always install the latest software and app updates to protect devices from the latest threats. The National Society for Cyber Security provides useful information on how to update your devices.
  • Shopping online — If you're making a purchase from a company or person you don't know and trust, carry out some research first and ask a friend or colleague for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases. Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has produced advice on how to shop online safely.

NALC and Microshade VSM are in partnership to support local councils of all sizes to improve their cybersecurity.

AUTHOR: STUART WILBUR, MICROSHADE VSM

***PHE South East Coronavirus (COVID-19) links***
 

Number of UK cases and latest figures - updated at 2pm every day:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public#number-of-cases

 

Dashboard showing reported cases of coronavirus in the UK by upper tier local authority (mobile and desktop versions):

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-track-coronavirus-cases

 

Key source of information for the public:
www.nhs.uk/coronavirus


FAQ for the public:
https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ 

 

Useful overview of local and global situation, including updated daily case numbers:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

 

Countries and areas affected and specific advice (including maps):

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-specified-countries-and-areas

 

Guidance

 

Stay at home: guidance for people with confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-people-with-confirmed-or-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

 

Guidance for educational settings:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

 

Guidance for residential care, supported living and home care guidance:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-residential-care-supported-living-and-home-care-guidance

 

Guidance for employers and businesses on providing advice to staff:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Guidance for prisons and other prescribed places of detention:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-prisons-and-other-prescribed-places-of-detention-guidance

 

Guidance for shipping and sea ports:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-shipping-and-sea-ports-guidance

Guidance for primary care settings:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wn-cov-guidance-for-primary-care

Guidance for those working in the transport sector:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-staff-in-the-transport-sector

Guidance for hostels or day centres for people rough sleeping:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-shipping-and-sea-ports-guidance

 

Resources for universities:

https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/Pages/coronavirus.aspx

 

Guidance for boarding schools:

http://www.boarding.org.uk/media/news/article/13449/Coronavirus-disease-COVID-19-guidance-update-as-of-25-2-20

 

Guidance for health professionals:
https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/wuhan-novel-coronavirus

 

Guidance covering decontamination and cleaning of environments in the community:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

Other resources

Resources available for the public information campaign, incl posters, press ads
https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/101-novel-coronavirus-/resources.

Blog about contact tracing:
https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/02/13/expert-interview-what-is-contact-tracing/

 

Blog about self-isolation:
https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/02/20/what-is-self-isolation-and-why-is-it-important/

 

Blog about the five things you can do to protect yourself and your community:

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/04/coronavirus-covid-19-5-things-you-can-do-to-protect-yourself-and-your-community/
 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): What is social distancing?

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/04/coronavirus-covid-19-what-is-social-distancing/

 

 

Kent County Council is working in close partnership with all organisations to ensure health and social care systems are prepared for further increases in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, following the announcement of a second case in Kent.

The second person is connected to the first case which was announced on Monday – a man who had returned from Italy.

Following the publication of the national Action Plan, all organisations in Kent and Medway are looking closely at their own business continuity plans and how these can be adapted as the situation develops.

To ensure the health and social care system is prepared to respond to all eventualities, the NHS and local authorities have plans in place to ensure people receive the essential care and support services they need. Plans are flexible ranging from a mild, low impact on services, through to a severe prolonged impact. All social care providers are required to have business continuity plans in place so that in the event of any emergency, services continue for our clients, with emphasis on our most vulnerable people.

Social care staff and providers are also receiving the national Public Health England guidance including information on what to do if someone in the setting has contact with a confirmed case. In these cases, the person affected will be asked to self-isolate and they will be actively followed up by Public health England’s Health Protection team which will also provide advice on cleaning.

KCC is ensuring that schools, children’s centres, libraries and other public community settings including early years, are also being regularly reminded of the national guidelines. We are aware that some schools have taken the decision to self-isolate pupils or teachers, even if they are not showing symptoms, as a precaution but this is a matter for the headteacher.

Director of Public Health for Kent Andrew Scott-Clark says: “The work Kent County Council has been carrying out with Public Health colleagues and Kent Resilience partners means we have very well-developed plans in place to deal with whatever comes next.

“I firmly believe that we should be calm and proportionate in our response. I am asking all Kent residents to keep washing their hands, be aware of personal hygiene and think carefully about the things you can do to minimise the spread, such as catching coughs and sneezes in tissues and then disposing of those tissues. This is the best thing we can all do to slow the spread of the virus.

We anticipate an increase in numbers which is why our services have planned for, and are ready, for this situation.

I’d like to reassure people that the risk to the general public remains low and that we continue to work with health colleagues and partners to do everything we can to stop the virus spreading and ensure the people of Kent are protected.”

At Kent County Council, we are engaging with our own staff and provider services to ensure they are aware of the latest national guidelines at www.phe.gov/uk/coronavirus. We would like to reassure people that the risk to the wider public remains low and you can only catch it if you have been close to someone who has the virus.

The national guidance stresses that if you have travelled to an affected area recently, or have been in close contact with someone who has, and you think you may have symptoms, the advice is to self-isolate at home, avoid public transport and call NHS 111 for the next steps or use the online NHS 111 service at https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19.

You can find more information at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus Do not go to hospital or your doctor’s surgery.

We have been advised that there is no need to do anything differently in any care setting at present. If any staff do become infected through travel to affected countries, they will be contacted by the local Health Protection Team to take them through a risk assessment for your particular setting. Health Protection Teams are part of Public Health England and will provide advice and guidance on infectious disease and non-infectious environmental hazards, manage and control outbreaks of infectious disease in the community and are a source of expert advice on new infections.

The main message remains that all residents and staff should consider basic hygiene advice to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and other infections such as flu.

 

Guidance to schools https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

 

Guidance to social or community care and residential settings https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-social-or-community-care-and-residential-settings-on-covid-19

 

Guidance to employers and businesses https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Coronavirus action plan: a guide to what you can expect across the UK

1. Introduction

The current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which began in December 2019, presents a significant challenge for the entire world.

The UK government and the devolved administrations, including the health and social care systems, have planned extensively over the years for an event like this, and the UK is therefore well prepared to respond in a way that offers substantial protection to the public.

Of course, this is a new virus, and new technology and the increasing connectivity of our world mean that our plans need to be kept up to date, to reflect that illnesses – and news and information about them – travel much more quickly today than even 10 years ago.

Recognising the respective roles and responsibilities of the UK government and devolved administrations, this document sets out what the UK as a whole has already done – and plans to do further – to tackle the current coronavirus outbreak, based on our wealth of experience dealing with other infectious diseases and our influenza pandemic preparedness work.

The exact response to COVID-19 will be tailored to the nature, scale and location of the threat in the UK, as our understanding of this develops.

This document sets out:

  • what we know about the virus and the disease it causes
  • how we have planned for an infectious disease outbreak, such as the current coronavirus outbreak
  • the actions we have taken so far in response to the current coronavirus outbreak
  • what we are planning to do next, depending upon the course the current coronavirus outbreak takes
  • the role the public can play in supporting this response, now and in the future

2. What we know about the virus and the diseases it causes

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses common across the world in animals and humans. Certain types cause illnesses in people.

For example, some coronaviruses cause the common cold; others cause diseases which are much more severe such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), both of which often lead to pneumonia.

COVID-19 is the illness seen in people infected with a new strain of coronavirus not previously seen in humans.

On 31 December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, which was later classified as a new disease: COVID-19.

On 30 January 2020, WHO declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC).

Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, a high temperature and, in severe cases, shortness of breath.

As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively. The current data seem to show that we are all susceptible to catching this disease, and thus it is also more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected.

Among those who become infected, some will exhibit no symptoms 1. Early data suggest that of those who develop an illness, the great majority2 will have a mild-to-moderate, but self-limiting illness – similar to seasonal flu 3.

It is, however, also clear that a minority of people who get COVID-19 will develop complications severe enough to require hospital care 4, most often pneumonia. In a small proportion of these, the illness may be severe enough to lead to death 5.

So far the data we have suggest that the risk of severe disease and death increases among elderly people and in people with underlying health risk conditions (in the same way as for seasonal flu) 6 7.

Illness is less common and usually less severe in younger adults 8. Children can be infected 9 and can have a severe illness 10, but based on current data overall illness seems rarer in people under 20 years of age.

So far, there has been no obvious sign that pregnant women are more likely to be seriously affected 11 12.

Given that the data are still emerging, we are uncertain of the impact of an outbreak on business. In a stretching scenario, it is possible that up to one-fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks. This may vary for individual businesses.

We do not yet have entirely complete data on this disease. But as we learn more about the virus, its effects and its behaviour (for example, the timing and extent of the peak of an outbreak, its precise impact on individuals), we will be able to revise estimates of its potential spread, severity and impact 13. We will then review, and (where necessary) adapt this plan accordingly.

Work is in hand to contain the spread of the virus. This includes extensive guidance provided to individuals returning from areas where there are cases being reported, and encouraging self-isolation as the primary means to contain the spread of the disease. Given that there is currently neither a vaccine against COVID-19 nor any specific, proven, antiviral medication 14 15, most treatment will therefore be towards managing symptoms and providing support to patients with complications.

The majority of people with COVID-19 have recovered without the need for any specific treatment, as is the case for the common cold or seasonal flu. We expect that the vast majority of cases will best be managed at home, again as with seasonal colds and flu.

3. How the UK prepares for infectious disease outbreaks

The table below shows the impact of some of the major respiratory virus pandemics and epidemics in the last 100 years.

Major respiratory virus outbreaks

OutbreakArea of emergenceEstimated case fatality ratioEstimated attributable excess mortality worldwideEstimated attributable excess mortality in the UKAge groups most affectedSpanish Flu 1918 to 1919

Severe influenza pandemicUnclear≥ 2%20 to 50 million200,000Young adults, elderly and young childrenAsian Flu 1957 to 1958

Moderate influenza pandemicSouthern China0.1 to 0.2%1 to 4 million33,000ChildrenHong Kong Flu 1968 to 1969

Moderate influenza pandemicSouthern China0.2 to 0.4%1 to 4 million80,000All age groupsSwine Flu 2009 to 2010

Very mild influenza pandemicMexico<0.025%18,000457Children, young adults and pregnant womenMiddle East Respiratory Syndrome 2012

Continuing coronavirus pandemic threatMiddle East>30%8610Elderly (60+)Serious Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2002 to 2003

Severe coronavirus pandemic ‘near-miss’China<10%7740Middle-aged adults (45 to 65)Seasonal flu epidemic 1989 to 1990

Severe influenza seasonal epidemicUKData not availableNot applicable26,000 excess deaths in England and WalesElderly 75+

Note: ‘Estimated case fatality ratio’ is the proportion of people who became ill with symptoms and subsequently died.

The UK is well prepared for disease outbreaks, having responded to a wide range of infectious disease outbreaks in the recent past, and having undertaken significant preparedness work for an influenza pandemic for well over one decade (for example, our existing flu plans).

Our plans have been regularly tested and updated locally and nationally to ensure they are fit for purpose. This experience provides the basis for an effective response to COVID-19, which can be tailored as more specific information emerges about the virus.

These plans ensure the UK is equipped to deliver a co-ordinated multi-agency response to minimise wider societal impact that could arise from a significant outbreak. An effective response also requires the active participation of a well-informed public and all service providers.

Planning draws on the idea of a ‘reasonable worst case’ (RWC) scenario. This is not a forecast of what is most likely to happen, but will ensure we are ready to respond to a range of scenarios.

Planning principles

In preparing for, and responding to, a serious disease outbreak, the UK government and the devolved administrations aim to:

  • undertake dynamic risk assessments of potential health and other impacts, using the best available scientific advice and evidence to inform decision-making
  • minimise the potential health impact by slowing spread in the UK and overseas, and reducing infection, illness and death
  • minimise the potential impact on society and the UK and global economy, including key public services
  • maintain trust and confidence among the organisations and people who provide key public services, and those who use them
  • ensure dignified treatment of all affected, including those who die
  • be active global players – working with WHO, the Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and neighbouring countries, in supporting international efforts to detect the emergence of a pandemic and early assessment of the virus by sharing scientific information
  • ensure that the agencies responsible for tackling the outbreak are properly resourced to do so, that they have the people, equipment and medicines they need, and that any necessary changes to legislation are taken forward as quickly as possible
  • be guided by the evidence, and regularly review research and development needs, in collaboration with research partners, to enhance our pandemic preparedness and response

The UK government and the devolved administrations have been planning an initial response based on information available at the time, in a context of uncertainty, that can be scaled up and down in response to new information to ensure a flexible and proportionate response.

The fundamental objectives are to deploy phased actions to Contain, Delay, and Mitigate any outbreak, using Research to inform policy development.

The different phases, types and scale of actions depends upon how the course of the outbreak unfolds over time. We monitor local, national and international data continuously to model what might happen next, over the immediate and longer terms.

The overall phases of our plan to respond to COVID-19 are:

  • Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
  • Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
  • Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
  • Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy

4. Our response to the current coronavirus outbreak

Current planning

There is similarity between COVID-19 and influenza (both are respiratory infections), but also some important differences. Consequently, contingency plans developed for pandemic influenza, and lessons learned from previous outbreaks, provide a useful starting point for the development of an effective response plan to COVID-19.

That plan has been adapted, however, to take account of differences between the 2 diseases. Annex A sets out the structure for the UK’s response to a disease outbreak.

Our response to COVID-19 is guided by the international situation, the advice of organisations such as WHO, surveillance, data modelling based on the best available evidence and the recommendations of our expert bodies (Annex B).

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) provides expert medical scientific advice.

The 4 UK governments’ Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) continue to advise the health and social care systems across the UK, and government agencies in all parts of the UK involved in responding to this outbreak.

System-wide response plans for pandemic influenza, focused on the continuity of public and critical services and the stability of the economy, have been adapted for COVID-19, based on the best available scientific evidence and advice.

For the latest information on the current situation please refer to Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice.

The nature and scale of the response depends on the course of the disease, which cannot be predicted accurately at this point. As our understanding of the disease increases and its impact becomes clearer, we will issue further detailed advice about what to expect if/when further measures become necessary.

The phased response – what we have done so far

As there are already cases in the UK, the current emphasis is on the Contain and Research phases, but planning for Delay and Mitigation is already in train.

The Contain phase – actions to date

Across the whole of the UK, public health agencies and authorities, the NHS, and Health and Social Care NI (HSCNI) have established plans and procedures to detect and isolate the first cases of COVID-19 as they emerge in the UK.

Each nation’s public health agencies have worked with Border Force, port operators and carriers to enhance port health measures. Public Health England (PHE) teams are on site at appropriate international ports, and health advice and information has been widely cascaded, as part of our public communications plan, with appropriate arrangements also put in place in the devolved administrations (given that some aspects relating to the arrival of aircraft and shipping are devolved).

Border Force and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have assisted the repatriation of British nationals and their dependants from affected areas overseas. Where foreign nationals in the UK have been unable to return to affected areas, the Home Office has provided support enabling them to remain in the UK.

New regulations introduced in England under public health legislation provide new powers for medical professionals, public health professionals and the police to allow them to detain and direct individuals in quarantined areas at risk or suspected of having the virus.

In Scotland Health Boards have powers to place restrictions on the activities of individuals who are known to have the disease, or have been exposed to the disease, and to prohibit them from entering or remaining in any place. Boards may also apply for court orders for quarantine and medical examination.

In Wales, local authorities have powers to apply for an order to be made by the Justice of the Peace to isolate, detain or require individuals to undergo medical examination. Similar powers are available to the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. Welsh Ministers also have powers to make regulations equivalent to those now in place in England if the level of risk increases.

As part of the port health measures, direct flights arriving into the UK from countries within the UK’s CMOs’ case definition are required to provide a declaration (General Aircraft Declaration) to airport authorities stating that all their passengers are well, 60 minutes prior to landing. Similarly, The Maritime Health Declaration Form is required for all vessels arriving from any foreign port. For Scotland parallel measures are in place.

The health and social care systems and public health authorities in all parts of the UK have cascaded information widely to all health professionals on steps to take if they identify patients who may have COVID-19.

The NHS/HSCNI have well rehearsed plans that have enabled the provision of excellent care for all patients affected by this disease. The initial confirmed patients are being cared for by specialist units with expertise in handling such cases, using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus. When necessary, the provision of care may move from specialist units into general facilities in hospitals.

The NHS/HSCNI have expert teams in every ambulance service and a number of specialist hospital units with highly trained staff and equipment ready to receive and care for patients – these provide coverage across the whole of the UK. If the current outbreak takes a greater hold, we will use those lessons about effective treatment methods and apply them throughout our health services, across all hospital sites and into community settings.

Once a case has been detected, our public health agencies use tried and tested procedures for rapid tracing, monitoring and isolation of close contacts, with the aim of preventing further spread.

The UK maintains strategic stockpiles of the most important medicines and protective equipment for healthcare staff who may come into contact with patients with the virus. These stocks are being monitored daily, with additional stock being ordered where necessary.

We have provided UK residents and travellers with the latest information to make sure they know what to do if they experience symptoms and worked with NHS 111, NHS Direct Wales and NHS 24 in Scotland, to ensure people with symptoms are given appropriate advice.

Public health advice has been widely publicised and is regularly updated. See Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice.

FCO Travel Advice gives British nationals advice on what they need to know before deciding whether to travel and what to do if they are affected by an outbreak of COVID-19 while travelling. Our travel advice and consular assistance also help to contain the spread of COVID-19 to the UK.

Advice has been provided to first responders, employers, the justice system (including prison and probation services), educational settings, and the adult social care sector.

The Department for Education (DfE) provides advice about educational settings in England, which can be found on PHE’s website. A DfE helpline is being set up to manage the flow of increasing queries, from providers and from parents of pupils.

Equivalent guidance for educational settings in Scotland can be found on the Health Protection Scotland website. This guidance provides links to further advice via NHS Inform and contact details for local Health Protection Teams. Scottish local authorities can also provide advice and support to education settings in their areas, working closely with local Health Protection Teams and local and regional resilience partnerships.

In Wales, guidance for educational settings is provided on the Welsh Government website which also provides links to further public health advice.

Department for International Trade teams around the globe continue to support British companies facing disruption due to the coronavirus. The department’s officials across the globe are already working with UK businesses on the ground to relay public health advice and FCO travel advice, and provide practical and concrete support to firms, including engaging with local government and suppliers, and working with business associations to disseminate latest information on UK consular and visa services, and accessing existing UK Export Finance facilities.

All NHS and HSCNI emergency and urgent care facilities are working to establish coronavirus assessment services to lessen impacts on emergency departments and other clinical settings. This enables them to identify, isolate and contain cases, separate from other patients and the public, and in a way scalable to cope with expanding need. Specifically tailored and effective services responding to this outbreak have protected GPs, ambulance and hospital services for other patients.

The safety and security of British Nationals overseas will always be our top priority. Our initial focus has been helping those Britons who have found themselves at the greatest risk of exposure to the virus. Our crisis response team in the FCO has been working around the clock with our embassies throughout the world to provide them with the care they need and reduce the risk of importation of coronavirus into the UK. This includes the use of quarantine and self-isolation measures for those returning from at risk areas.

The Delay phase – actions to date

Many of the actions involved in the Contain phase also act to help Delay the onset of an epidemic if it becomes inevitable. These include case finding and isolation of early cases.

Many of the actions that people can take themselves – especially washing hands more; and the catch it, bin it, kill it strategy for those with coughs and sneezes – also help in delaying the peak of the infection.

Our experts are considering what other actions will be most effective in slowing the spread of the virus in the UK, as more information about it emerges. Some of these will have social costs where the benefit of doing them to Delay the peak will need to be considered against the social impact. The best possible scientific advice and other experts will inform any decision on what will be most effective.

Delaying the spread of the disease requires all of us to follow the advice set out below. The benefits of doing so are that if the peak of the outbreak can be delayed until the warmer months, we can reduce significantly the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges (societal or medical) that the colder months bring.

The Delay phase also buys time for the testing of drugs and initial development of vaccines and/or improved therapies or tests to help reduce the impact of the disease. There is therefore a strong dependency between the different elements of our approach.

The Research phase – actions to date

The UK government is liaising with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) including the Medical Research Council (MRC) and other funders such as the Wellcome Trust to support and co-ordinate research during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Our public health agencies are supporting the rapid development of specific tests for this coronavirus, in partnership with WHO and a global network of laboratories. This has been rolled out to NHS/HSCNI laboratories across the UK to enable faster confirmation of positive diagnoses.

The UK government has already pledged £20 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop new vaccines to combat the world’s deadliest diseases, including vaccines for COVID-19, as quickly as possible, and is actively considering further investment.

The UK government has also additionally announced £20 million for COVID-19 research via a joint rapid research call between UKRI and, through the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NIHR. This asks for proposals for projects to develop vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics; or to address the epidemiology, spread or underpinning knowledge of COVID-19.

Our health and social care departments across the UK are seeking to build on the relationships they have with institutions involved in health protection research. A number of these are involved in research in relation to the COVID-19 epidemic.

This includes one on Emergency Preparedness and Response led by King’s College London. It brings together experts on how to conduct important research that includes research on how to respond to infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19.

The UK is a world leader in the field of outbreak modelling and data analytics. The NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Modelling Methodology led by Imperial College London has developed novel analytical and computational tools which exploit novel data streams on infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

This group and other leading academic groups have developed tools to prepare for infectious disease outbreaks, which include real time infectious disease models, allowing policy decisions to be made using the best possible data and are actively modelling questions of relevance to dealing with the COVID–19 outbreak.

The role the public can play in supporting this response

Everyone can help support the UK’s response by:

  • following public health authorities’ advice, for example on hand washing
  • reducing the impact and spread of misinformation by relying on information from trusted sources, such as that on www.nhs.ukwww.nhsinform.scotwww.publichealth.hscni.nethttps://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19 and www.gov.uk
  • checking and following the latest FCO travel advice when travelling and planning to travel
  • ensuring you and your family’s vaccinations are up to date as this will help reduce the pressure on the NHS/HSCNI through reducing vaccine-preventable diseases
  • checking on elderly or vulnerable family, friends and neighbours
  • using NHS 111 (or NHS 24 in Scotland or NHS Direct Wales) (including online, where possible), pharmacies and GPs responsibly, and go to the hospital only when you really need to. This is further explained on the NHS website: When to go to A&E and Choose Well Wales
  • being understanding of the pressures the health and social care systems may be under, and receptive to changes that may be needed to the provision of care to you and your family.
  • accepting that the advice for managing COVID-19 for most people will be self-isolation at home and simple over-the-counter medicines
  • checking for new advice as the situation changes

The phased response – what we will do next

In the event of the outbreak worsening, or a severe prolonged pandemic, the response will escalate, and the focus will move from Contain to Delay, through to Mitigate. During this phase the pressures on services and wider society may start to become significant and clearly noticeable.

The decision to step up the response from Contain to Delay and then Mitigate will be taken on advice from the UK’s CMOs, taking into account the degree of sustained transmission and evident failure of measures in other countries to reduce spread.

To ensure that the health and social care system is prepared to respond to all eventualities, at all phases of a potential future pandemic, the NHS/HSCNI and local authorities have plans in place to ensure people receive the essential care and support services they need – and sometimes this might mean that other services are reduced temporarily.

Plans are flexible to respond to different types of pandemics, ranging from a mild pandemic with a low impact on services (for example the 2009 H1N1 pandemic), through to a severe prolonged pandemic as experienced in 1918 (‘Spanish Flu’).

Similarly, potential pandemics are one of a wide range of risks that the owners and operators of our most essential services and systems plan for. The UK government and devolved administrations are currently working with our critical national infrastructure partners to ensure that these plans are appropriate for COVID-19, and that we minimise any impacts that could disrupt the daily services on which the UK depends.

The Ministry of Defence has put in place plans to ensure the delivery of its key operations in the UK and overseas. There are also well practised arrangements for Defence to provide support to Civil Authorities if requested.

The UK government will also step up the central co-ordination of its overall response using its proven crisis management mechanisms: COBR would meet as often as needed, bringing in system leaders to co-ordinate vital public services; and there will be more communication with Parliament, the media and the public. Ministers from across government will be designated to lead for their department on handling the outbreak, with senior officials and system leaders working intensively alongside them.

The respective crisis management mechanisms across the devolved administrations have also been stood up and will operate in very similar terms to that of COBR within their own nations, and all 4 co-ordination centres are linked up on UK-wide planning and delivery of the response to COVID-19.

There will be regular meetings between the UK government, and NHS/HSCNI and public health leaders, chaired alternately by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and his Permanent Secretary, to discuss the most recent advice from scientific experts and those delivering key services, and to decide next steps.

The Delay phase – next steps

If the disease becomes established in the UK, we will need to consider further measures to reduce the rate and extent of its spread. Based on experience with previous outbreaks, it may be that widespread exposure in the UK is inevitable; but slowing it down would still nonetheless be beneficial.

For example, health services are less busy in the summer months when flu and other winter bugs are not driving GP consultations and hospital admissions. In the 2009 ‘swine flu’ pandemic school holidays significantly slowed transmission of the virus.

We will increase publicity about the need for good hygiene measures (hand washing, and catch it, bin it, kill it) and further promote the need for people with symptoms to stay at home for the full duration of their illness.

Other action will be considered to help achieve a Delay in the spread of the disease. We will aim to minimise the social and economic impact, subject to keeping people safe. Such judgements will be informed based on the best available and most up-to-date scientific evidence, and take into account the trade-offs involved.

Action that would be considered could include population distancing strategies (such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large-scale gatherings) to slow the spread of the disease throughout the population, while ensuring the country’s ability to continue to run as normally as possible. The UK governments’ education departments’ planning assumptions include the possibility of having to close educational settings in order to reduce the spread of infection.

We would consider such measures in order to protect vulnerable individuals with underlying illnesses and thus at greater more at risk of becoming seriously affected by the disease. The effectiveness of these actions will need to be balanced against their impact on society.

The Research phase – next steps

It is possible that an outbreak or pandemic of COVID-19 could occur in multiple waves (it is not known yet if the disease will have a seasonal pattern, like flu) and therefore, depending upon what the emerging evidence starts to tell us, it may be necessary to ensure readiness for a future wave of activity.

The intention is to gather evidence about effective interventions in order to inform decision-making going forward. The UK government will keep emerging research needs under close review and progress research activities set out above.

The Mitigate phase – next steps

As and when the disease moves into different phases, for example if transmission of the virus becomes established in the UK population, the nature and scale of the response will change. The chief focus will be to provide essential services, helping those most at risk to access the right treatment. This means that:

  • there will be further publicity of advice to individuals about protecting themselves and others
  • treatment and the requirement for medicines and other clinical countermeasures might start to increase, with the need to draw down on existing stockpiles of the most important medicines, medical devices and clinical consumables
  • health and social care services will work together to support early discharge from hospital, and to look after people in their own homes
  • emergency services, including the police and fire and rescue services, will enact business continuity plans to ensure they are able to maintain a level of service that fulfils their critical functions. For example, with a significant loss of officers and staff, the police would concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order
  • for businesses facing short-term cash flow issues (for example, as the result of subdued demand), an effective mitigation already exists in HMRC’s Time To Pay system. This is offered on a case-by-case basis if a firm or individual contacts HMRC about falling behind on their tax
  • as NHS/HSCNI staff also start to become affected, and more seriously ill patients require admission, clinicians may recommend a significantly different approach to admissions. Some non-urgent care may be delayed to prioritise and triage service delivery. Staff rostering changes may be necessary, including calling leavers and retirees back to duty
  • there could well be an increase in deaths arising from the outbreak, particularly among vulnerable and elderly groups. The UK government and devolved administrations will provide advice for local authorities on dealing with this challenge
  • there will be less emphasis on large-scale preventative measures such as intensive contact tracing. As the disease becomes established, these measures may lose their effectiveness and resources would be more effectively used elsewhere

Everyone will face increased pressures at work, as well as potentially their own personal illness or caring responsibilities. Supporting staff welfare will be critical to supporting an extended response.

We will implement a distribution strategy for the UK’s stockpiles of key medicines and equipment (for example, protective clothing). This will cover the NHS/HSCNI, and extend to social care and other sectors as appropriate.

We will consider legislative options, if necessary, to help systems and services work more effectively in tackling the outbreak.

The UK’s health and social care systems will start to implement their business continuity plans, which cover:

  • continuing to minimise the risk of infection to patients and those receiving care
  • further identification of vulnerable persons to be supported
  • arrangements for the continuation of essential services, to maintain normal business for as many people as possible for as long as possible
  • plans to reduce the impact of absentees during the pandemic
  • systems to lessen the impact of disruption to society and the supply chain

The UK remains in a high state of readiness to respond robustly to any disease outbreak, and our track record of success means that we can offer a high degree of assurance that we will be able to maximise the effectiveness of our health and care systems, and in doing so also respond effectively to the outbreak.

As and when we discover more about the disease and what, if any, impact its course has on the UK, we will provide further updates on how our plans are being adapted to respond to specific, changing circumstances.

The UK government is advising businesses to build their own resilience by reviewing their business continuity plans and following the advice for employers.

Businesses should also ensure that they keep up to date with the situation as it changes, at www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Annex A: responsibilities for pandemic preparedness and response

National responsibilities

DHSC is the lead UK government department with responsibility for responding to the risk posed by a future pandemic.

The 4 UK CMOs provide public health advice to the whole system and government throughout the UK. SAGE is responsible for ensuring that a single source of co-ordinated scientific advice is provided to decision makers in COBR.

The NHS works in partnership with Local Resilience Forums on pandemic preparedness and response delivery in healthcare systems in England and Wales.

PHE provides specialist technical expertise to support both planning and delivery arrangements in England, working closely with public health agencies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

These organisations have developed plans for co-ordinating the response at a national level and supporting local responders through their regional structures. The tri-partite partnership of DHSC, PHE and NHS England provides strategic oversight and direction for the health and adult social care response to an influenza pandemic, with DfE leading on the children’s social care response.

In the devolved administrations, there are similar arrangements for multi-agency working with strategic oversight provided by the appropriate departments. These arrangements are supported by national co-ordination structures.

PHE and its equivalent in the devolved administrations leads the provision of expert advice on health protection issues and actively contributes to the planning and delivery of a multi-agency response. PHE provides health protection services, expertise and advice, delivering specialist public health services to UK national and local government (in England), the NHS/HSCNI and the public, working in partnership to protect the public against infectious diseases. There are comparable public health expert advisory support arrangements in each of the other 3 UK countries.

Local/regional responsibilities

In England and Wales, local organisations (working jointly through the Local Resilience Forums and Local Health Resilience Partnerships in England, and NHS emergency planning structures in Wales) have the primary responsibility for planning for and responding to any major emergency, including a pandemic.

Similar arrangements exist in Scotland working through Regional Resilience and Local Resilience Partnerships. In Northern Ireland, Emergency Preparedness Groups co-ordinate emergency planning at the local level.

Multi-agency working

Multi-agency working at both a national and local level ensures joint planning between all organisations. A co-ordinated approach to ensure best use of resources to achieve the best outcome for the local area.

NHS England and NHS Improvement and partners have published a series of quick guides to assist multi-agency working and support local health and care systems manage increasing demand on their services.

Integration Authorities in Scotland have access to a range of government advice on priorities for multi-agency working, which supports existing local plans to optimise care pathways.

Social care is provided by a diverse range of local authority, private and third sector bodies. It is important that the role of social care provision in all sectors is central to contingency planning. Social care providers should remain in contact with local commissioners and resilience partners, review their business continuity plans and continue to practise proper infection control and good respiratory hygiene practice.

Other key public services

The Ministry of Justice’s HM Courts & Tribunal Service has well established plans to deliver key services to protect the public and maintain confidence in the justice system. Similar plans are in place in the devolved administrations.  

Annex B: expert advice and guidance

The UK government and the devolved administrations have ensured that all of our actions are based on the best possible evidence, and are guided by the 4 UK CMOs.

The UK health departments’ preparations and response are developed with expert advice, ensuring that staff, patients and the wider public can be confident that our plans are developed and implemented using the best available evidence. These groups include:

  • the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) – chaired by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and co-chaired by the CMO for England – provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies, ensuring that timely and co-ordinated scientific advice is made available to decision makers to support UK cross-government decisions in the UK Cabinet Office Briefing Room

  • the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) is an expert committee of DHSC and advises the CMOs and, through the CMOs, ministers, DHSC and other government departments, and the devolved administrations. It provides scientific risk assessment and mitigation advice on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory virus threats and on options for their management

  • the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) provides independent scientific advice to the Health and Safety Executive, to ministers in DHSC and DEFRA, and to their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on all aspects of hazards and risks to workers and others from exposure to pathogens

  • the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) gives expert advice to DHSC and wider UK government and the devolved administrations on scientific matters relating to the UK’s response to an influenza pandemic (or other emerging human infectious disease threats). The advice is based on infectious disease modelling and epidemiology

  • the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises UK health departments on immunisation

  • FCO Travel Advice is informed by PHE and DHSC advice and gives British nationals advice on what they need to know before deciding whether to travel and what to do if they are affected by an outbreak of COVID-19 while travelling

The actions we are taking to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak are being informed by the advice of these committees.

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