Coronavirus - What you need to know - Arthritis Action

Coronavirus – What you need to know

Updated 8th April 2021


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 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


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 request a test, to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.
  • You and anyone you live with should stay at home and not have visitors, until you get your test result – only leave your home to have a test.
  • Stay at home until your test results arrive, or for at least seven days if you live alone.
  • You’ll usually need to self-isolate for 10 days if:
    • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
    • someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
    • you’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
  • 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 of 5th January 2021, the government has announced a National Lockdown in England, with similar action taking place in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. People are urged to stay at home in all regions, only leaving the home for exercise with members of their household, or meeting one other person for the purposes of exercise. The guidance is scheduled to change from 12th April. Visit the Spring Roadmap out of Lockdown to find out more.

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)

The government has updated their guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable, and their advice on shielding, which has ended as of 1st April 2021. Please consult the government guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable to find out more.

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

If you’re at high risk from coronavirus, you may have received a letter from the NHS with information on shielding. Speak to your GP or hospital care team if you have not been contacted and think you should have been.

UPDATED: Shielding is scheduled to stop from 1st April 2021

Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. Make sure you consult the updated guidance here.



You may have already been contacted by your GP with an invitation to receive your covid-19 vaccinations. If you are 50 or over, or are in the clinically extremely vulnerable category, you can now also apply for a vaccination directly, please check your eligibility by visiting the NHS website here.  You can also call 119 to book your vaccination.

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.


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.


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