Terms explained

Many of the words used during the coronavirus emergency are new to us all and so are understandably causing confusion. Here we hope to explain them in a simple way. For each we have also provided a link to the full government guidance.

Social distancing

This is something everyone should be doing, regardless of age or health.

The goal is to reduce contact with other people as much as possible.

  • You should stay at home unless leaving the house is essential.
  • If possible, you should work from home.
  • Leave the house to do essential tasks like shopping only, ideally only once a week.
  • You can leave the house once a day to exercise, but only with other members of your household.
  • If you must leave the house, try to keep 2 meters away from others.

Unless you meet the criteria for social shielding (see below) your employer is currently not under any obligation to allow you to stay off work. Please do not call us about this as we can’t offer any further advice.

Click here to see the full government guidance.


This is something that people with symptoms should do until they have a test, and beyond that if it is positive.

  • Stay in your home at all times. You can go to the garden if you have one. Get others to do your shopping.
  • Try to avoid others in your own home as much as possible. Keep 2 meters away and if possible sleep in separate beds.
  • People with a positive COVID test will need to self isolate for 10 days.
  • Others in the household or extended household will also need to self isolate for 10 days, from the first day of the other person’s illness.
  • You may be contacted by the TTP service and told to self-isolate because you have been identified as a contact of a positive case of coronavirus.

If you need a note for your employer you can access an online tool to produce one here.

Click here to read the full government guidance.

Social shielding

This is to protect people with serious health conditions who are extremely vulnerable. They include;

  1. People who’ve had organ transplants.
  2. People with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  3. People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
  4. People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
  5. People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  6. Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

If you have any of the above conditions you are strenuously advised to avoid as much face to face contact as possible, for twelve weeks. Essentially you should self isolate – do not leave the house:

  • Stay in your home. You can go to the garden if you have one.
  • Avoid people with symptoms of cough or fever at all costs
  • Get friends, family, or neighbours to do your shopping and collect prescriptions.
  • Only essential visitors should enter your home, such as carers and health professionals.

If anyone lives with you they do not need to also practice social shielding – rather social distancing as above.

The NHS intends to contact all people who fall into the categories above before Sunday 29th March.

Click here to see the full government guidelines.


Hand washing

It is essential that you frequently wash your hands. Do so for 20 second with soap.


Cough into a tissue, bin it, then wash your hands