The Answers to Common Coronavirus (COVID-19) Questions

Last Updated: 02/07/2020 at 14:34

There's a lot of information out there about coronavirus (COVID-19). Because the situation is changing so fast, it can be very confusing trying to keep up with the latest quality-assured information, so we've collected some of your most frequently asked questions right here.

What is a coronavirus and how is COVID-19 different?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named for their spiky surface (corona means 'crown') which were first identified in the 1960s. There are seven different coronaviruses which can infect humans. Four of these are very common around the world. Sometimes, coronaviruses that affect animals can evolve and spread to humans. There are three examples of this:

  • MERS-CoV
  • SARS-CoV
  • SARS-CoV-2

SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. COVID-19 produces more serious symptoms including fever, tiredness, loss of or change in sense of smell and taste, and dry cough. It was unknown until the outbreak began in December 2019. Because it's new, there isn't a vaccine that will help our bodies fight it yet, so we should be very careful and try to delay its spread by self-isolating, quarantining, and distancing ourselves from others. If you want to know more, visit NHS Inform or the WHO (World Health Organisation).

How long are we in 'lockdown' for and what's next? 

On 18th June, The First Minister introduced Phase Two of the plan to ease lockdown restrictions. Changes are staggered throughout but include those shielding (who don't live in a care home or nursing home) being allowed to go outdoors to exercise or to meet with others from one other household and those not shielding being able to meet with up to two households at a time. Over the coming weeks a range of changes are taking place and these are explained in more detail in our article about the different phases, what phase we are in and what they mean

Each phase will continue to be reviewed every three weeks and may last longer or shorter than the three-week period. The next review is due on 9th July when it is expected that we will move into Phase Three. Phase Four is the final stage of easing lockdown, but there is currently no date for this at the moment. 

As restrictions do lift, physical distancing (staying two metres apart) and good hygiene (washing your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow) will be very important and will play a vital role in helping to reduce the spread of the virus. Everyone in Scotland has an important part to play.

The Scottish Government have advised that if these changes happen and the evidence shows that the virus starts to spread more rapidly again, there could be a return to tougher lockdown measures. 

Can I go outside?

As we move through phases, more rules will be changed. Find out more about what's happening when in our article about the route map

Meeting others outdoors

Unless you are shielding, you can now meet up outdoors with people from three other households in groups of no more than eight in a park or a garden. You should do the following while meeting members of other households:

  • Stay at least two meters apart from people who don't live in your household;
  • Avoid touching the same surfaces as people from another household (e.g sharing cutlery, plates, cups etc.);
  • Meet people from only two other households per day;
  • Continue to practice good hygiene and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

You may enter the home of another one of these households to use the toilet, but you should avoid touching hard surfaces unnecessarily and the surfaces you do touch should be cleaned thoroughly afterwards.

If you are shielding, you may meet up with people from one other household. You must follow the rest of the guidelines above, and you should not enter another household to use their toilet. In the next few weeks, your doctor/clinician will have a chat with your parents/carers to see whether you can be removed from the shielding list. You don't need to do anything, but should receive a letter and contact from your clinician soon.

If you are aged 11 or under

Unless you are shielding, you do not need to physically distance from children or adults outdoors. However, you must not meet more than three households at the same time, and you can't meet more than eight people at the same time.

The adults you are with will have to stay physically distanced from other adults from different households. 

If you are aged 12-17 years old

You can still only meet three households with a maximum of eight people at the same time, but you can meet different groups at different times of the day, as long as everyone is following the rules. You must remain physically distant (2 metres apart) and only meet people outdoors.

This means, for example, you can meet two friends from different households in the morning and then in the afternoon, meet two other friends from two different households. 

Exercise

You can now take part in non-contact sports outdoors such as tennis and golf if you can also follow the above guidelines. This applies also if you are shielding. If you can, when taking part in any activity or exercise you should only do so if you can do so safely, maintain a physical distance of two metres or more and not put yourself or others at risk. You can have a look at the guidance for playing each sport safely on the Sportscotland website.

Meeting outside for exercise with people from more than two households at a time is not allowed, for example having a game of football with friends from three or more different households.

Travelling to exercise or to meet friends or family 

From 3rd July, the previous travel restriction where people were asked to stay within 5 miles of their home will be removed. However, due to a rise in the number of cases in the areas of Annan, Gretna, Dumfries, Lockerbie, Langholm and Canonbie people are being asked to stick to the 5 mile travel restriction. 

Remember that when you travel you will still need to follow the above restrictions. The Scottish Government is also advising that you avoid crowded places where social distancing could be difficult (like popular spots such as the beach).

If you or someone in your household has the virus, has been contacted by a contact tracer to advise you to self-isolate, you should follow advice to stay at home and you should not go out at all. 

For more information visit the Scottish Government website

What if I'm shielding?

If you are shielding, you should still follow the usual shielding guidance. This includes keeping 2 metres (6 feet) away from everyone, even those you live with. You should not go shopping or pick up prescription medication, and instead ask to get things delivered by someone you know, through a supermarket or by your local authority. You cannot go inside a building other than your home, including shops, pharmacies or other people’s houses. You shouldn't meet with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus, or go to any large gatherings.

However you may meet up with people from one other household, but you can't meet more than eight people at the same time, and go outside to exercise (try and go outside at times of day that are less busy and stick to areas that don't get crowded). 

You must follow the rest of the guidelines, which are:

  • Stay at least two meters apart from people;
  • Avoid touching the same surfaces as people from another household;
  • Continue to practice good hygiene and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

You should not enter another household to use their toilet.

In the next few weeks, your doctor/clinician will have a chat with you and your parents/carers to see whether you can be removed from the shielding list. This is because new research has found that some young people no longer need to shield. 

You don't need to do anything, but should receive a letter and contact from your clinician/doctor in July so you will know what to do before schools are due to go back on August 11th. If your clinician/doctor says you no longer need to shield, you will need to follow the advice that everyone else follows.

Can I use public transport?

From Monday 22nd June, it is compulsory to wear a face mask when on public transport in Scotland. 

Public transport is running on a reduced service. You should only be using public transport for essential reasons and/or if you need to travel to work, and this is only if you cannot work from home. If you are self-isolating due to symptoms, you should avoid using both taxis and public transport.

Reduced services are likely to continue for a while on public transport, the Scottish Government has said that this will begin to increase in phase two of the plan to lift restrictions however the time that this will be introduced isn't known yet.

Should I wear a face mask or covering?

It is now compulsory to wear a face mask or covering when on public transport in Scotland. From Thursday 9th July it will be compulsory to wear them in shops too.

There are some exceptions, under 5's, those with medical certain medical conditions (for example, if you have trouble breathing) or if you need to communicate with someone who is lip reading, do not need to wear a face covering. Face coverings are something that covers the mouth and nose, is made of cloth or other textiles, and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf. It doesn't mean surgical or other medical grade masks.

When applying or removing a face covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face. After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of safely. Face coverings should not be used for children under the age of two years. 

Washing your hands and keeping your distance from other people are still the most important things you can do to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

If you have coronavirus or a member of your household does, it is still important that you follow self-isolation advice and stay at home.

Which things can Scotland do differently to the rest of the UK?

Scotland is what’s called a devolved nation. This means that, although it’s part of the United Kingdom, the Scottish Government controls how certain things are done in Scotland, and these might be different to how things are done in the rest of the UK (rUK). The areas of the law which the Scottish Parliament is responsible for are known as devolved powers.

Devolved powers include:

  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health and social work
  • Housing
  • Justice, policing and courts
  • Local government
  • Fire service
  • Internal transport 

The main things that the UK Government at Westminster controls are:

  • The constitution 
  • Defence and national security
  • Foreign policy
  • Immigration and citizenship 

This means that most decisions about coronavirus are ultimately up to the Scottish Government. This includes when lockdown is eased and, eventually, lifted, as well as when schools will reopen and how this will work in practice. In England, on 10th May a different plan for easing lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, which has meant that some guidelines and rules are different between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you live in Scotland, you should follow the information provided by the Scottish Government 

What if I'm unhappy with my exam results?

If you're unhappy with your results, you should speak to your school - any appeals must go through them. Appeals can only be made where you have received a lower grade than that which was estimated by your school. If successful, the appeal may result in your grade being marked higher, but changes in band are not possible.

If you need to appeal your results so that you can accept a conditional university offer, your appeal should be submitted as a 'priority appeal' by your school.

Your school should gather and submit evidence that shows you should have been awarded a higher grade. This may include:

  • Prelims and mock tests
  • Commercially-produced question papers
  • SQA past papers or specimen question papers
  • Class tests
  • Classwork
  • Completed or partially-completed course assessments
  • Performance evidence

They may also include a commentary that explains why they believe you should be awarded a higher grade.

For more information about how coronavirus might impact your education.

When should someone start self-isolating?

It's recommended that if you start displaying certain symptoms that are related to COVID-19, you should begin to self-isolate. The symptoms to look out for according to the current Government and NHS advice are:

  • a high temperature/fever of above 37.8C – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back.
  • a new, continuous cough – you've started coughing repeatedly.
  • a loss of or change in smell or taste 

NHS Scotland are now operating a system called 'Test and Protect' which will involve carrying out tests to identify positive cases of coronavirus. If you're tested for coronavirus and it comes back positive, you will be asked and supported to self-isolate for seven days. As part of this process, you will also be asked for the details of people who you have come into close contact with. Contact tracers will then get in touch with anyone who may have come into close contact with you and will ask them to self-isolate for fourteen days. 

If you need to book a test, go online to www.nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816.

You could also be asked to self-isolate for fourteen days if you have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Currently, even if you've had coronavirus previously but have come into contact with someone with the virus, you will still be asked to self-isolate as not enough is known about the virus yet. It is important that you do self isolate if asked as it will make a difference in helping to control the virus. 

What happens when you get tested for coronavirus?

The test involves taking a cotton swab from your nose and the back of your throat. It's most effective if you get tested within the first three days of showing symptoms, but tests will still be considered up until five days after symptoms start.

Tests are being carried out at five drive-through sites across Scotland and mobile sites will visit towns for a short time. Home testing kits may also be available if you're unable to attend a drive-through test centre.

Drive-through sites are located at

  • Glasgow Airport
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • Aberdeen Airport
  • Inverness - University  of the Highlands and Islands campus
  • Perth - University of Highland and Islands campus

Priority is still being given to key workers so that they are able to return to work when it's safe to do so.

You should receive the results of your test by text to the mobile phone of the person who booked the test, these should be received within 48 hours. If you test positive, you should follow the guidance on the NHS Inform website about self-isolating.

If you would like to book a test, go online to www.nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816.

What if I live with someone who has started showing symptoms?

The advice being given is that everyone that you stay with should self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person starting showing symptoms. So if the person you live with started coughing a lot, lost their sense of smell or taste or had a fever on Thursday, you would all stay in self-isolation for 14 days after that point. 

What if I start to get symptoms when everyone I live with has already started self-isolating for 14 days?

You will need to self-isolate for seven days after you started experiencing symptoms, no matter how many days you've self-isolated already. 

What do you need to do to self-isolate?

Self-isolating means staying at home for seven days from the day you start to experience symptoms or 14 days from the day someone you live with shows symptoms. If someone you live with causes your household to self-isolate, and you later begin to show symptoms, start counting seven days from the day you yourself show symptoms. Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director for Scotland, shared this helpful illustration, which is also available in a more accessible format:

According to the NHS, if you're self-isolating, you should not:

  • go to work, school or public areas
  • use public transport or taxis
  • have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
  • go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home

You may use your garden if you have one. You can also exercise at home with these quick, 10-minute cardio workouts.

If you feel you need medical advice, do not go to your GP, as this could help the virus spread to other people. Do not phone your GP if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Instead, use NHS Inform's online service to help you find out more about your symptoms, when you can use self-care, and what to do if your condition worsens and you need medical help.

What if I show symptoms and live with a vulnerable person?

The NHS describes 'vulnerable' people as those who:

  • are aged 70 years or older
  • has a long-term health condition (further information on what this means can be found on the Government website)
  • receive the flu jab for medical reasons
  • are pregnant

If you live with a vulnerable person, you should try and distance yourself from them. This might mean you, or they, live with a friend or relative for a while. If this isn't possible, stay at least two metres (three steps) away from them, open windows in shared areas, sleep in separate rooms if possible, and use different towels, including tea towels and hand towels.

What should I do if I'm not feeling well but not showing coronavirus symptoms?

It's important that you don't ignore the early signs of what could be a serious illness. A&E and GPs are still open to advise and assist those who aren't showing symptoms of coronavirus.

If you have new symptoms, get them checked out by your GP or, if the symptoms are urgent or life-threatening, A&E. If you're worried about leaving your house because of coronavirus, a phone or video consultation with your GP may be available. Phone your GP for more details.

If you're having difficulty breathing, showing signs of a stroke (face dropping on one side, speech slurred, unable to lift one or both arms) or are otherwise in immediate danger, phone 999.

How do I see my doctor? 

GP surgeries and A&E are open to see you. Don't ignore the early signs of what could be a serious illness

Many doctors surgeries have now set up telephone and video consultations. If you feel like you need to see a doctor, phone your GP and follow their advice.

You can also see your doctor digitally using the Near Me service. It is a secure and free way to have video consultations for health and social care appointments without having to leave home and is backed by NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government.

All you need is a device that allows you to make a video call, an internet connection, a Chrome or Safari web browser and a well-lit space to have the call in. Your health and social care provider will give you a web address to use for the video call as well as a date and time and all you have to do is visit that web address at that time to begin. 

Not all consultations will be suitable for the Near Me service though, for example if you need a physical examination.

A&E is open as usual and you should still visit if you experience:

  • loss of consciousness
  • sudden confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe burns or scalds
  • stroke
  • major trauma such as a road traffic accident.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) do not phone your GP. Instead, use NHS Inform's online service to help you find out more about your symptoms, when you can use self-care, and what to do if your condition worsens and you need medical help. NHS Inform has lots of excellent information available online.

If you are showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) it's important that you don't go to a hospital, GP surgery, or pharmacy, unless you have been told to do so.

If you're having difficulty breathing, showing signs of a stroke (face dropping on one side, speech slurred, unable to lift one or both arms) or are otherwise in immediate danger, phone 999.

I can't go to work because I'm self-isolating. How do I get a sick note?

If you're experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does, you can get a note to let your employer know you aren't able to work because you need to self-isolate. If you have to stay at home but you feel well enough to work, you can ask your employer if you can work from home. If you can work from home, you will not need an isolation note. Get a self-isolation note from the NHS. 

You can also get an isolation note for someone else.

For more information about how you work might be impacted by coronavirus, take a look at our article.

What about my pets?

There is official Scottish Government guidance on how to look after dogs, cats and other pets whether you have no symptoms or if you are self-isolating because you have symptoms. If you or someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, you should keep your cat indoors wherever possible. More information is available from the British Veterinary Association.

All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided, but if your pet needs treatment you must call the vet before going to see them.

More information from Young Scot on Coronavirus (COVID-19)