Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Advice
Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and advice - what you need to know (Updated - 20th April 2020)
Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
Check out the information below to find out more about coronavirus, how it's affecting our work and frequently asked questions.
Stay up to date with the latest coronavirus advice on NHS Inform here.
If English is not your first language, you can translate this page using our accessibility features.
- Click the purple Accessibility button at the top of the page
- Select the Flag icon and then your chosen language
You can also access translated coronavirus resources from the following links:
Due to ongoing coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) developments, we have taken the decision to suspend our in-person support and testing services across Scotland.
That means our Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh offices will now be closed until further notice.
However, our residential support centre, Waverley Care Milestone, will remain open with a reduced service, taking no new admissions.
We will be continuing to provide support to people who need it by phone, text, and email, and through our live chat service.
A coronavirus is a type of virus. Typical symptoms include a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature (37.8C or greater).
Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and people with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China. This is a rapidly changing situation which is being monitored carefully.
You can keep up to date on latest advice about coronavirus from the NHS Inform website.
If you've developed a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature in the last 7 days, stay at home for 7 days from the start of your symptoms even if you think your symptoms are mild. Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital.
Phone 111 if your symptoms:
- are severe or you have shortness of breath
- worsen during home isolation
- have not improved after 7 days
You should also phone 111 if you develop breathlessness or it worsens, especially if you:
- are 70 years old or over
- have underlying poor health
- have heart or lung problems
- have a weakened immune system, including cancer
- have diabetes
If you have a medical emergency, phone 999 and tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms.
Check out the NHS Inform website which is regularly updated for further information.
You can also use NHS Inform's symptom checker here.
You can reduce your risk of catching and spreading respiratory infections like coronavirus by practising good respiratory hygiene. That means:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands
- Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser. You should do this after coughing or sneezing, after going to the toilet, and before eating or drinking
- Avoid direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness where possible and, avoid using their personal items like mobile phones or pens
- Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and, dispose of them in the nearest bin after use
There is currently no evidence to support the use of face-masks as a way of preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Like when you have the flu, self-isolating means you should stay at home, indoors and should not go to work, school or public areas.
You should avoid having visitors to your home, but it is okay for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.
Why do I need to self-isolate if I don't have any symptoms?
If you have recently visited or returned from a risk area, you should self-isolate as a cautionary measure to limit the potential spread of infection. This is because the spread of coronavirus is a changing situation globally, with this advice based on recent information from China about the number of cases and spread of the infection from person to person. Keep up to date on latest advice about coronavirus from the UK government here.
Am I allowed to go out to the shops to get food?
During self-isolation you should stay at home and avoid all public places. Where possible, contact a friend, family member or delivery services to bring you food.
What should I do if I need to collect medicine from the pharmacy?
During self-isolation you should stay at home and avoid all public places. Where possible, contact a friend, family member or delivery services to collect medicine from the pharmacy. You can also call your pharmacy to check if they have a medication delivery service.
To find out more about self isolation, visit the NHS Inform Staying at Home advice page here.
Social distancing refers to steps that everyone can take to help reduce the spread of coronavirus by cutting down on social interactions.
People at increased risk of coronavirus are particularly advised to follow social distancing.
What's the difference between self-isolating and social distancing?
- Self-isolation is when you stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as a way of reducing the spread of coronavirus. You should self-isolate for 14 days if you have coronavirus or might have been exposed to it.
- Social distancing means the steps you take to reduce social contact with other people as a way to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
What are the different social distancing measures I should be taking?
- Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) - these symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport - when possible, alter your travel times to avoid rush hour
- Work from home, where possible - your employer should support you to do this
- Avoid large gatherings and small gatherings in public spaces - pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently closed as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together
- Avoid gatherings with friends and family - keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
Everyone is being strongly advised to follow these measures as much as they can, and to significantly limit face-to-face interaction with their friends and family. This is especially important if you:
- are over 70
- are pregnant
- have an underlying health condition
Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically at high risk from the coronavirus, by supporting them to self-isolate to minimise all interaction with others.
Those identified should:
- not leave their homes
- minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household
This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) from coming into contact with the virus.
Shielding is for your personal protection. While it is your choice to decide whether to follow these measures, the Chief Medical Officer strongly urges you to do so.
If you have not been sent a letter from the Chief Medical Officer asking you to shield then you do not need to do so, but you should continue to follow social distancing advice.
You should follow the most up to date guidance on social distancing, which will protect you and others from picking up the virus.
Adults who are eligible for an annual flu vaccine for medical reasons, will not all be proactively contacted but are asked to take additional steps to reduce their social interactions by following social distancing measures in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus.
A helpline has been set up to provide essential assistance to those who don’t have a network of support, or who are at increased risk if they contract Coronavirus (COVID-19). It is for anyone who cannot get online, is over 70, is disabled, requires the support of mental health services, is pregnant and who receives a flu jab for health reasons. This service is in addition to localised support already available for people who have received letters advising them to shield themselves. However, any of those in the shielding category who are not yet receiving assistance, who do not have a network of support and cannot get online can access support via this new helpline.
The helpline – 0800 111 4000 – will operate during core working hours of Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
Callers will be automatically connected to their local authority who will support them to access the service they need, such as:
- essential food and medication
- links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults
- emotional support
- contact with local volunteer groups
Regardless of whether you are the person at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 you can help protect people who are at risk by staying at home.
Find out more on the Scottish Government's website here.
The most up to date and comprehensive advice and information about coronavirus in Scotland is available from the NHS Inform website here.
If you’re living with HIV, you should follow the advice given to the general population.
If you are on treatment, with an undetectable viral load and a good CD4 count, then you should be at no greater risk.
If you’re living with HIV and do not have an undetectable viral load or have a low CD4 count, you should avoid situations where you may be at risk of coronavirus if the virus becomes more widespread.
For more information on HIV and coronavirus, read advice and information for people living with HIV from NHS Lothian Sexual Health Services here.
BHIVA (British HIV Association) have also shared answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about HIV and coronavirus, including:
- Although there are research trials investigating the use of HIV antiretroviral medications against COVID-19, there is no strong evidence that they are effective. There is no evidence that being on HIV medication will stop you getting COVID-19.
- People on HIV treatment with a good CD4 and undetectable viral load are not usually considered to have a "weakened immune system" as specified in the recent Public Health England guidance (16 March 2020.) BHIVA aims to provide specific advice for people living with HIV based on viral load and CD4 count as things become clearer, and government guidance is updated with specific reference to HIV.
Read more on BHIVA's website here.
You can also read about information on the new virus, guidance for people living with HIV and answers to frequently asked questions by Dr. Michael Brady from Terrence Higgins Trust here.
During this time, PrEP will continue as a top priority for the NHS in Scotland to help reduce the transmission of HIV.
Many clinics will speed up their PrEP service to reduce risks for patients. This might include some virtual services and shorter times at the clinic.
The likelihood is that people using PrEP will be able to get tested for HIV and syphilis only. Testing for other STIs might be cut back if you don’t have symptoms.
PrEP is still very safe and effective, even with reduced testing.
Find out more about PrEP and coronavirus here.
If you’re living with hepatitis C, or have previously been successfully treated, you should ensure that you follow the advice given to the general population.
If you're living with hepatitis C, or have previously been successfully treated, and also have other conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, you may be at increased risk of serious illness if you get COVID-19.
This is also the case if you have developed advanced liver diseases (including cirrhosis) and deteriorating health as a result of hepatitis C.
If you are living with hepatitis C and currently undergoing treatment, you should not change or stop treatment unless you have been advised to do so by your doctor.
If you are looking for support, you can find out about how to get in touch with us during the coronavirus situation here.
If you’re taking drugs that aren’t prescribed, there are a few things you need to be aware of:
- Viruses (such as the common cold, flu and hep C) and bacteria (such as E. coli and Staph), can be passed on when you take drugs with unclean or shared equipment. To help prevent the spread, you should practice good hygiene and never share your equipment.
- Always rest well before and after taking drugs, stay hydrated and eat nutritious meals. This helps give your immune system the best possible chance against coronavirus should you become infected.
- Taking some drugs by smoking can harm your respiratory system, and may lead to an increase in your risk of coronavirus. Cutting down on or avoiding tobacco can also help keep your lungs prepared to fight off any illness. Your local Stop Smoking Service can offer resources and advice if you want to stop or cut down.
Crew have lots of helpful advice about coronavirus for people who are taking drugs. Read more on their website here.
We do not know if coronavirus is contained in sexual fluids such as semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal secretions and anal mucus.
However similar to other flu-like viruses, sexual contact will likely lead to the transmission of this virus. This is because you are in close physical contact with someone who may be carrying the virus and being intimate might expose you to it.
- If you are living with someone who might have been infected and is told to self isolate, you should follow the guidance given to the general population through NHS Inform.
- If you have sex with someone and you are worried about coronavirus, you should follow general coronavirus advice and guidelines on hygiene and preventing its transmission.
- If you are meeting people for sex, whether it's online, group situations, public sex environments or other venues, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any symptoms, or if they have travelled to a high risk area recently.
- If you meet other people for sex, continue to use precautions to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections.
As coronavirus is a developing situation, NHS sexual health services you might normally use are changing.
Here's where you can stay up to date how services are changing in each area, as well as finding contact details for each location:
Lothian Sexual Health Services are providing a severely restricted service during the COVID19 outbreak.
- They will continue to provide care for urgent problems including medical abortion, painful or distressing symptoms and sexually transmitted infections. All of their services will be accessed by phone.
- To self-refer to the abortion service phone 0131 536 2454 between 10am to 12.30 and 1pm to 3pm, Monday to Friday
- For all other services phone 0131 536 1070 between 10am and 12.30 and 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday
Sandyford services are now operating a reduced service, from two locations only; Sandyford Central and Sandyford Renfrewshire (Paisley).
All other locations are closed until further notice. Sandyford will continue to provide the following care during this time:
- Urgent sexual health care
- Abortion services
- Archway - Sexual Assault & Rape service
- PEP -Sexual exposure to HIV & Hep B
- Emergency Contraception
- PrEP - return appointments only for people already prescribed PrEP.
Call them on 0141 211 8130 if you need an urgent appointment.
All routine outpatient appointments including their walk-in Teen Service, have been cancelled in NHS Highland.
- Call them on 01463 888300 if you have an urgent enquiry.
Lanarkshire Sexual Health Services are temporarily changing all LARC (long-acting reversible contraception) and generic walk-in sexual health clinics to booked for priority conditions.
- Call them on 0300 303 0251 if you have an urgent enquiry.
- Call them on 01294 323 226 if you have an urgent enquiry.
Borders Sexual Health are now providing a reduced service, and have temporarily suspended their online booking system.
- Call them on 01896 663700 from 9am-1pm, Monday to Friday - if you have an urgent enquiry.
Dumfries and Galloway Sexual Health Services are temporarily restricted due to coronavirus.
- If you need an appointment, call them on 0345 702 3687.
- If you already have an appointment, please attend this unless you are notified otherwise.
In light of most recent advice regarding COVID 19 Sexual Health Fife is no longer providing a drop-in service.
- Cancellations of booked appointments are also expected.
- You may be phoned by members of Sexual Health or BBV Team using an 0800 number.
- If you require urgent advice (e.g. if you have symptoms of sexually transmitted infections or are running out of contraception or medication) call them on 01592 647979 and you may be offered a telephone consultation.
All appointments for Sexual Health Clinics in Stirling are now relocated to Falkirk Community Hospital. Clinics will only operate from Falkirk Community Hospital and Clackmannanshire Community Health Care Centre until further notice.
- Forth Valley Sexual Health Services have limited appointments available due to coronavirus. Please call the triage line on 01324 673554, Mon-Fri, 0830-1230 and a member of staff will advise if an appointment is required.
- Alternatively, you can call the helpline on 01324 673563, Mon-Fri, 2pm - 4pm.
- Where possible, please attend clinic appointments on your own to reduce the risk of exposure to NHS staff.
Call them on 0345 337 9900 if you have an urgent enquiry.
Drop-in clinics are now suspended due to coronavirus.
- Call them on 01856 888917 if you have an urgent enquiry.
Call them on 01851 708305 if you have an urgent enquiry.