As we learn to live safely with coronavirus (COVID-19), there are actions we can all take to help reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 and passing it on to others. These actions will also help to reduce the spread of other respiratory infections, such as flu, which can spread easily and may cause serious illness in some people.

COVID-19, along with many other respiratory infections such as influenza (flu), can spread easily and cause serious illness in some people. You may be infected with a respiratory virus such as COVID-19 and not have any symptoms but still pass infection onto others.

The risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 is greatest when an infected person is physically close to other people and is sharing an enclosed or poorly ventilated space. When someone with a respiratory viral infection such as COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release small particles that contain the virus which causes the infection. These particles can be breathed in or can come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. The particles can also land on surfaces and be passed from person to person via touch.

You will not always know whether someone you come into contact with is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. They could be strangers (for example, people you sit next to on public transport). Or people you may have regular contact with, such as friends and work colleagues.

Free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for COVID-19, for the general public, came to an end on the 31 March 2022, in line with the move to the Living with COVID-19 strategy.

People at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and eligible for treatments, will continue to get free tests to use if they develop symptoms, along with NHS and adult social care staff and those in other high-risk settings.

Find out more about Changes to COVID-19 testing in England from 1 April 2022

Living safely with COVID-19

As we move to the next phase of the pandemic, we can all play our part in practicing safe behaviours, as we have been doing throughout the pandemic, to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

This can mean:

  • Making sure you are fully vaccinated
  • Making sure you take care to avoid others as much as possible if you have COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed COVID-19 infection
  • Considering wearing a face covering in crowded or enclosed spaces while infection rates are high
  • Regular hand washing and good hygiene like covering our mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing

All these behaviours can help to reduce the risk of infection and help us live safely with COVID-19.

You can also buy lateral flow tests (LFTs) if you are concerned about COVID-19 and are not eligible for free tests. Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way for people to check that they are not spreading the virus without knowing. Research shows that LFTs are a reliable test for COVID-19. They give a quick result and do not need to be sent to a lab. Even if you are fully vaccinated, you could still catch the virus or pass it on without knowing, so this could be a consideration if you are visiting vulnerable or elderly family and friends.

You can find further information on NHS – Testing for coronavirus (COVID-19)

What to do if you feel unwell

Whilst there is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate, if you test positive for COVID-19 with an LFD or PCR test, or have symptoms, we still strongly advise you to try to stay at home if possible. And avoid contact with other people for five days, as this is the period when you will be most infectious. Advice will be provided for individuals who need to leave their home when they have symptoms or have tested positive. This includes avoiding close contact with people with a weakened immune system, wearing a face-covering and avoiding crowded place.

People with symptoms of a respiratory infection including COVID-19 – Guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection including COVID-19, or a positive test result for COVID-19.

Eligibility for symptomatic testing (for people who have symptoms)

The following groups will be eligible for symptomatic testing from 1 April 2022:

  • Patients in hospital, where a PCR test is required for their care and to provide access to treatments and to support ongoing clinical surveillance for new variants.
  • People who are eligible for community COVID-19 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. If you are in this group, you will be contacted directly and sent lateral flow tests to keep at home to use if you develop symptoms. You will also be given instructions how to reorder tests using the GOV.UK website or NHS 119. If you test positive, you may then be eligible for antiviral treatment. Further information can be found here: COVID-19: guidance for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk
  • People living or working in some high-risk settings where infection needs to be identified quickly to minimise outbreaks. For example, staff in adult social care services such as homecare organisations and care homes, and residents in care homes and extra care and supported living services, NHS workers and those working and living in hospices, and prisons and places of detention (including immigration removal centres).

Eligibility for Asymptomatic testing (for people who do not have symptoms)

From 1 April 2022, the general public will no longer be able to order test kits online or collect them from pharmacies. During periods of high prevalence of COVID, asymptomatic testing will be provided to:

  • adult social care staff and a small number of visitors providing personal care
  • hospice staff
  • patient-facing staff in the NHS and NHS-funded independent healthcare provision
  • some staff in prisons and other places of detention, and some refuges and shelter

For testing in Adult Social Care services, visit Somerset Provider Network – Coronavirus.

If you need to test with an LFT, please see the table below for information on different types of LFTs.


Test kit Innova Orient Gene Acon Flowflex
Package colour Blue and white Green and white Blue with brown
Nasal swab Yes Yes Yes
Throat swab Yes NoNo
Resting time None 1 minute None
Wait time 30 minutes 15 to 20 minutes 15 to 30 minutes

More guidance on LFT testing can be found below

Latest guidance and information on COVID-19 for settings

More information and downloads

Diversity Voice has lots of translated COVID-19 resources available

Last reviewed: June 2, 2023 by Jenny

Next review due: December 2, 2023

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