Latest information about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) risks
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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Introduction 

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection which is spread by droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The content of this page changes as more information about COVID-19 becomes available.

Risk for Travellers

COVID-19 is present in all countries and poses a risk to all travellers.

Your risk of being exposed to COVID-19 during travel relates to:

  • the number of confirmed cases in the country you are travelling to (your destination)
  • your means of travel, for example by car, boat or aircraft
  • the activities you undertake at your destination

The number of positive cases in a country will vary over time, as will the public health measures that each country implements to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures may include:

Recommendations for All Travellers

You should ensure that you have had the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the UK COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, if you are eligible.

Before planning or booking international travel, you should read the information on the COVID-19 Health Considerations for Travel page, which details the points you must consider before, during and after travel to comply with public health measures and stay healthy. 

Reducing your risk of exposure to COVID-19 during travel

There is an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 when travelling in enclosed shared spaces, such as on trains, buses and aircraft, due to the close proximity of people.

Follow these simple measures to help reduce your risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) during your trip.

Physical distancing

Try to maintain physical distancing (1-2 meters) from others as much as possible:

  • Avoid crowded public areas and enclosed spaces, including elevators, cafes, bars, night clubs as much as practically possible, and comply with local guidance on physical distancing.
  • Avoid the use of indoor gyms, swimming pools or exercise areas if physical distancing and hygiene measures are not in place.
  • Only visit cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars if physical distancing is maintained. Consider using room service, or purchase take-away meals to eat in your room or other non-crowded areas.
  • Walk or cycle where possible. Try to limit your use of shared or public transport, and wear a face covering if you have to do so.

Hygiene Measures

Pay strict attention to your personal hygiene:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, particularly before eating and drinking, after being in public areas, using public transport and using the toilet.
  • Carry an alcohol based hand sanitiser, containing at least 60% alcohol, for use when soap and water is not immediately available. Remember this should be 100mls or less to comply with airport liquid/gel restrictions.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue. Dispose of used tissues immediately in a waste bin.
  • Wear a face covering when physical distancing isn't possible in public areas or enclosed spaces.
  • Purchase travel tickets online and use e-tickets and contactless payment where possible.
  • Sanitise your tray table and arm rests on public transport with disinfectant wipes, remember to sanitise your hands afterwards.

Try to avoid:

  • touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • sharing food, drinks and personal items such as mobile phones
  • touching common surfaces such as handrails and doorknobs as much as possible

You must isolate yourself immediately if you become unwell during your trip with symptoms such as:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change in taste or smell

If your symptoms become severe, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Follow the guidance of local public health authorities at all times to avoid spreading the virus.

Overview of the Disease

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe infections like MERS-CoV and SARS.

In January 2020 China discovered a new coronavirus when it was investigating cases of pneumonia (from December 2019) in people in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China.

  • This new infection was named COVID-19 and the virus causing it is called SARS-CoV-2.
  • The virus spread quickly around the world, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on the 11 March 2020.
    • This meant COVID-19 had spread worldwide.

The virus spreads from person to person through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

  • If you are near the person when they cough or sneeze (within 2 metres) these droplets might land in your eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.
  • Infected droplets also land on surfaces and objects such as handles, tables, telephones.
    • If your hands touch these surfaces or objects, the virus passes onto your hands.
    • When your hands come into contact with your face the virus can cause infection through your mouth, nose, eyes.

The Illness

Symptoms of COVID-19 start up to 14 days after catching the virus.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • a new continuous cough
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia).

Most people with COVID-19 have a mild illness and fully recover. A small percentage of people develop more severe illness and require hospital care. More severe infections can lead to death.

Severe illness is more likely in people who:

  • are aged over 70 years or frail
  • those at any age who:
    • have weakened immune systems including cancer 
    • have long term medical conditions that affect their brain, heart, lungs, liver or kidneys
    • are diabetic
    • are pregnant
    • are severely overweight

Treatment and Testing

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19. For those who require admission to hospital, therapies that make the illness less severe and save lives are available.

Antibiotics do not work because it is a viral infection.

Testing

Guidance on testing in the UK nations is available from the following websites:

COVID-19 testing for the purposes of international travel is not available on the NHS.

Vaccination 

COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for use in the UK.

If you are in a group that is entitled to the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the UK vaccination programme, and you have not yet received it, then you should consider making arrangements to be vaccinated.

Further information on COVID-19 vaccines is available from:

At this time, there are no COVID-19 vaccines available just for the purposes of travel. 

Further Information

Links to the UK 4 nations guidance on COVID-19, including information on local measures and restrictions:

Further information on COVID-19 is available from the World Health Organization

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