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What to do if you have Covid 2023: Should you test and isolate if you have symptoms?

Some people, including the over 65s, are eligible for the autumn vaccine booster (Dominic Lipinski / PA)
Some people, including the over 65s, are eligible for the autumn vaccine booster (Dominic Lipinski / PA)

More than three years on from the first UK Covid pandemic, the highly contagious virus still poses risks. The latest data for England from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that 144 people died with Covid during the week ending Friday, September 1, with 12,187 new cases.

There were 3,047 people in hospital with Covid in England between September 16 and 22, with hospital admissions in England at their highest rate since the end of April, which shows hints the virus is likely to be circulating more widely among the population.

The UKHSA’s most recent risk assessment identifies a new variant, BA.2.86, otherwise known as Pirola, as having a large number of mutations and showing up in people without a history of travel in multiple nations.

Although BA.2.86 is not officially listed as a variant of concern, the UKHSA advises that accelerating the autumn vaccination plan will provide better protection, assisting individuals who are most at risk of serious illness and minimising any potential negative effects on the NHS.

Should you test and should you isolate?

Though there are no current rules and regulations, experts say there are still measures worth taking.

It’s recommended by the NHS that you stay home if you have Covid-like symptoms, have either a fever or feel unwell. Take a test and avoid contact with other people. Children with mild symptoms, however, can still be sent to school or childcare if they feel well enough.

The NHS says under-18s should try to stay at home and avoid contact with others for three days after testing positive, while adults over 18 should do the same but for five days. Both groups should avoid meeting vulnerable people for the following 10 days.

How to get tests?

The NHS website states: “If you want to get tested but are not eligible for free NHS rapid lateral flow tests, you need to pay for the test yourself.

“You can buy rapid lateral flow tests from some pharmacies and retailers, in person or online.”

Those who have a specific health condition (you can check the NHS website for the list of conditions) and those who work in healthcare or in a hospice are entitled to free lateral flow tests.

Who can get booster vaccines?

People at greatest risk of serious illness from Covid, including care home residents, those over 65, and frontline health and social care workers, are eligible for an autumn vaccine booster.