Coronavirus - What you need to know - Arthritis Action

Coronavirus – What you need to know

Updated 24 August 2022


What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.


What are the symptoms?

Common signs of infection are similar to other illnesses, such as the cold and flu and may include:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • an aching body
  • a headache
  • a sore throat
  • a blocked or runny nose
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • feeling or being sick

What if I am showing symptoms?

If you are showing any symptoms and you think you might have coronavirus, or you’ve been in close contact with someone who has it:

  • Check your symptoms and try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have symptoms such a high temperature, of feel unwell.
  • You can no longer request a free PCR or Lateral Flow test to confirm your condition, but some people may qualify for free testing. Visit the NHS website to see if you qualify, and to order yours today. Alternatively, you can purchase tests from a private vendor or pharmacy, at your discretion.
  • Take extra care to avoid close contact with anyone who is at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

    You can go back to your normal activities when you feel better or do not have a high temperature.

  • Follow the latest NHS advice on staying at home, if you are unwell
  • Remember to avoid close contact with other people in the meantime, and do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
  • You can use the online 111 coronavirus service to find out what to do next. Only call 111 if you are unable to get help online.


What is the latest national advice?


As the information is changing due to the ongoing and evolving nature of the pandemic, it is advisable to check the latest government guidance here, which is updated frequently.


People at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable)

Please consult the government guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable to find out more. You can also find guidance for people at high risk here.

You may be at high risk from coronavirus if you:

  • are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppressant medicine)
  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
  • are having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
  • are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  • have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • have been told by a doctor you have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD)
  • have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
  • have a serious heart condition and are pregnant
  • are an adult with Down’s syndrome
  • are an adult who is having dialysis or has severe (stage 5) long-term kidney disease
  • have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgment and an assessment of your needs

Shielding, a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, has now ended as of April 2021. Make sure you consult the updated guidance here.


Vaccinations and Boosters – Autumn 2022

The national booking site will open in the week commencing 5 September for people aged over 75 and self-declaring frontline health and social care workers. Vaccinations for these groups will begin the week commencing 12 September.

The booking system will extend to people aged over 65, self-declaring pregnant women, carers, household contacts of immunosuppressed and those at increased risk to book. Vaccination sites have been told that immunosuppressed people can self-declare and it is recommended to take some kind of evidence.

By 1 December everyone eligible (age 50 and above plus all the groups mentioned above) should have been offered a booster of the vaccine.

People have already been offered first, second, third and Spring booster doses. If you have not yet had the vaccine you can still get it. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended a Spring booster for those who are immunosuppressed (aged 12 and over), people who are 75 and over, and residents of care homes for older adults.

To check your eligibility to get the vaccine booster, visit the NHS website here.

The flu vaccination programme begins 1 September.  Some sites may offer both vaccines at the same time.

Find out more about the Autumn 2022 Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine on the NHS website

Read the latest government guidance on the COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots.


What to do if you’re at high risk
If you’re at high risk from coronavirus, there are things you can do to help keep yourself safe. Consult the NHS website to see what to do if you’re at high risk from coronavirus.

If you have been identified as ‘high risk’ it is important to access the free test ordering service, to register your test with the system. The NHS is now offering new treatment for people at higher risk of serious infection, which requires a positive test. Depending on your circumstances, you may receive a new treatment in the form of neutralising monoclonal antibodies or antivirals, which will be available for non-hospitalised patients with COVID-19. If you have any queries, you can call the You can find out more about all the latest updates on the ARMA COVID-19 webpage.

Find out more about your free testing eligibility here.


People at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable)

People at moderate risk from coronavirus include people who:

  • are taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids)
  • are 70 or older
  • have a lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • have heart disease (such as heart failure)
  • have diabetes
  • have chronic kidney disease
  • have liver disease (such as hepatitis)
  • have a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy)
  • have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections
  • are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • are pregnant


Our recommendations

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

ARMA has put together a helpful guide with recommendations on keeping safe, now restrictions have ended: Making decisions about keeping safe

You should also: 

  • speak to your healthcare practitioner if you have any concerns regarding your medication
  • use the online 111 coronavirus service if you are worried about your health or the possibility of having coronavirus. Only call 111 if you are unable to get help online
  • request a test if you have developed a new cough, fever, or are experiencing a loss of taste or smell. You can request a test through the NHS website:


Key websites and links

The following websites provide further information on the outbreak and how to protect yourself:


From the Government website


Information about coronavirus


Other resources