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Coronavirus: latest guidance

What you need to know


Latest COVID-19 updates

New coronavirus variant - Omicron

A new COVID-19 variant has been identified which is capable of spreading to others effectively. The variant was initially named B.1.1.529 and has now been named a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and named Omicron. Cases of the variant have been identified in the UK.

You can view the Downing Street Briefing of 27 November here, BSL version here.

New rules in response to Omicron

Precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant in the UK come into force from Tuesday 30 November:

  • Face coverings are compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.
  • All close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant are required to isolate for 10 days regardless of whether they have been vaccinated
  • All travellers arriving into the country from 4am on Tuesday 30 November will be required to take a PCR test on or before day 2 and self isolate until they have received a negative test result.
  • Travel restrictions for international travel have been implemented to slow the spread of the variant

Work is underway to determine whether and to what extent it presents a changed pattern of infection or disease severity (more severe or less severe or similar), to determine whether this variant is better at evading the vaccine and to gain an exact picture of the spread of the variant.

Further information is available in the following guidance:

COVID-19 booster and vaccination programme

Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, including confirmed cases in the UK, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has urgently reviewed vaccine response measures and has advised that in addition to those aged aged over 40 years and those at higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) those aged 18 to 39 will also be eligible for a booster when the NHS calls them forward. The booster will now be given no sooner than 3 months after the last primary course jab.

You can view the latest Downing Street Data Briefing with Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England), 29 November.

  • You can book your booster vaccine when you are eligible via the NHS National Booking Service. Local information is available from the Hertfordshire vaccination programme including walk-in sessions.
  • You can still get your first and second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine if you haven't already done so, if you are 18 or over or will turn 18 within 18 months.
  • The JCVI has advised that all children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of vaccine no sooner than 12 weeks after the first dose. 
  • The JCVI has advised that all 16 to 17 year olds who are not in an at-risk group should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The second vaccine dose should be given 12 weeks or more following the first vaccine dose. This advice is in addition to the existing offer of 2 doses of vaccine to 16 to 17 year olds who are in at-risk groups.

Guidance on travelling abroad

Precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant in the UK came into force on Tuesday 30 November. All international arrivals must take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

Further information is available in the current guidance:

Winter flu vaccination campaign

In the winter campaign those eligible for the free flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster jab are being urged to book their appointments to help people give themselves and their loved ones the best possible protection this winter. Information on the importance of the flu vaccination campaign this winter is available via GOV.UK.


Avoid catching and spreading COVID-19

Your actions can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help reduce the pressure on the NHS during the winter months. All of us can play our part by understanding the situations where risks of COVID-19 infection and transmission are likely to be higher, and taking action to reduce these risks.

By using a combination of measures (e.g. the 'Swiss Cheese' model) each measure, insufficient on its own but when combined becomes very effective, will help suppress the virus:

  • Wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces
  • Get vaccinated if you haven’t already
  • Let fresh air in if you meet indoors. Meeting outdoors is safer.
  • If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild. All close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant are required to isolate for 10 days regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.
  • Take rapid lateral flow tests if you do not have symptoms to help manage your risk. Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms, this means you could be spreading the virus without knowing it.
  • Try to stay at home if you feel unwell. If you feel unwell but do not have COVID-19 symptoms, or your COVID-19 test is negative, you may still have an illness which could be passed on to other people. Staying at home until you feel better reduces the risk that you will pass on an illness to your friends, colleagues, and others in your community.
  • Wash your hands with soap regularly, and for at least 20 seconds, and cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Download and use the NHS COVID-19 app to know if you’ve been exposed to the virus.
  • Limit close contact with other people. You may choose to limit the close contact you have with people you do not usually live with. You may also choose to take a lateral flow test before being in close contact and also encourage those people you are meeting with to do so, which will help to manage periods of risk.

You are at higher risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and where there is limited fresh air.

You may wish to take a rapid lateral flow test if it is expected that there will be a period of high risk that day. This includes spending time in crowded and enclosed spaces, or before visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19.

Stop COVID-19 hanging around

Let fresh air in if you meet indoors. Meeting outdoors is safer

A new campaign demonstrates the importance of simple ventilation techniques to reduce the risks of catching COVID-19 this winter. An explainer film demonstrates the positive impact of reducing COVID-19 levels indoors by opening a window for just 10 minutes every hour when socialising with others.

Coronavirus spreads from person to person through small droplets, tiny airborne particles known as aerosols and through direct contact. While larger droplets fall quickly to the ground, smaller droplets and aerosols containing the virus can remain suspended in the air. If someone breathes in virus particles that are suspended in the air, they can become infected with COVID-19. This is known as airborne transmission. Airborne transmission is a very significant way that COVID-19 circulates.

In poorly ventilated rooms the amount of virus in the air can build up, increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19, especially if there are lots of infected people in the room. The virus can also remain in the air after an infected person has left. Bringing fresh air into a room and removing older stale air that contains virus particles reduces the chance of spreading COVID-19. The more fresh air that is brought inside, the quicker any airborne virus will be removed from the room.

Guidance on ventilation and how you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is available on GOV.UK:


Government and NHS guidance

If you have symptoms

Get a test

Self-isolation

Staying safe 

Test and Trace

  • Test and Trace: what to do if you are contacted - an overview of the Test and Trace service, including what happens if you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive
  • Test and Trace Support Payments - To support those who are self-isolating and are struggling financially as a result, the new Test and Trace Support Payment scheme is for people on low incomes who are unable to work from home and will have a reduction in their income

NHS COVID Pass

  • The NHS COVID Pass allows easy access to view your vaccination status as well as GP appointment booking, ordering repeat prescriptions and viewing GP and hospital records

Advice and support

Tracking the pandemic (including vaccination data)