What to do if you think you have the new coronavirus

13 March 2020

Update: official UK guidance on what to do if you, or someone in your household, has symptoms of the new coronavirus has changed. You can read the latest advice on the NHS website here.


The main symptoms of the coronavirus infection, officially known as Covid-19, are a new, continuous cough and a high temperature.

Additionally, if you have Covid-19, you may also experience other symptoms in addition to the ones above (for example, shortness of breath, aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea).

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the new coronavirus. These symptoms are also similar to more common illnesses, such as cold and flu. However, if you are suffering from the major symptoms (a new, continuous cough and a high temperature) then the government advice is for you to stay at home for seven days

 New advice published on 18 May now says that anyone experiencing loss of taste or smell (known as 'anosmia') should also self-isolate.

 If you live with others, they should stay at home for at least 14 days to stop the virus spreading. After 14 days, anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine. Anyone who has had symptoms should remain at home for seven days from the first day of their symptoms (even if this means they stay at home for more than 14 days in total). If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition or a weakened immune system or is pregnant, you should try and find somewhere else for them to stay. If you have to stay at home together, try and keep away from each other as much as possible. 

You should self-isolate while at home, avoiding close contact with other people in your household where possible and regularly washing your hands.

Do not visit your GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

You don’t need to contact the NHS simply because you have some symptoms and are staying at home. However if your symptoms get worse, if they don’t get better after seven days, or if you feel like you can’t cope with them at home, you should contact the NHS 111 service.

The NHS says you should try to use the 111 online service for advice on what to do. If you cannot get help through that service, you should call 111.

If you have a medical emergency, you should still call 999 as you would normally.

Further information about self isolation is available here.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

If you’ve returned from travelling abroad

The official government advice no longer suggests that you should behave differently if you have recently returned from abroad. You should stay at home and self-isolate if you show symptoms of Covid-19 regardless of whether you have been abroad. 

We’ve written more about how to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

We’ve written more about the symptoms of Covid-19.

Update 17 March 2020

This piece was updated following changes to NHS guidance

Update 18 May 2020

This article was updated to reflect new government guidance about symptoms including a loss of taste or smell.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.