Answers to the most common topics asked about by the public for the coronavirus press conference

Read answers to the questions that best capture the most common topics people asked about.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This page has been withdrawn because the coronavirus press conferences have finished. It is no longer being kept up to date. Read more about what you can and cannot do during lockdown.

Applies to England

Over 350,000 questions have been submitted through the ‘Ask a question at the coronavirus press conference’ service. We analyse them regularly and answer the questions that cover the most common topics people ask about. This page is updated with the most recent questions and answers.

The Test and Trace service

How do I know that I’m being contacted by an authorised NHS contact tracer?

The NHS Test and Trace service will contact you by email, text message or phone. If the service calls you, it will be from 0300 0135000. If it texts you, it will be from ‘NHStracing’.

You’ll be asked to sign into the NHS Test and Trace website. You’ll then need to provide your contact information, as well as details of the places you’ve been and the people you’ve been in close contact with.

You will not be asked:

  • for bank details or to make a payment
  • for details of any other accounts, such as your social media
  • to set up a password or PIN number over the phone
  • to call a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087
  • for anyone to visit you at home

Children under 18 will be contacted by phone wherever possible and asked for their parent’s or guardian’s permission to continue the call.

What if I’ve already had coronavirus? Will I still need to self-isolate?

You will be told to self-isolate, even if you have had coronavirus before. This is because there is no guarantee that someone who has already had coronavirus cannot get it again or pass it onto other people.

Will I be asked to self-isolate repeatedly?

If you have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus then you need to self-isolate. It does not matter whether you have self-isolated before.

You will significantly reduce the risk of needing to self-isolate if you follow the social distancing rules. This will reduce the chance of you coming into close contact with someone who has the virus. Close contact is spending over one minute with someone at a distance of one metre, or over 15 minutes at a distance of 2 metres. It could also happen in a restricted space, like a car. Following the workplace guidance will help you to keep a safe distance from people at work.

How long do I have to wait for my results, after I have been tested?

You should get your test results back within 48 hours, if you are tested at a regional test centre or mobile testing unit. We are aiming to reduce this to 24 hours by the end of June. Tests which are posted may take longer.

You must self-isolate while you wait to get your test results. If you are being tested because you are displaying symptoms, then members of your household must also self-isolate until you get the results. You should inform others with whom you have been in close contact that you are displaying symptoms. They do not need to self-isolate unless you receive a positive test result.

NHS Test and Trace

Social distancing

Working safely during coronavirus

When schools are reopening

What’s the rationale behind sending reception, year 1 and year 6 students back to school?

Early childhood is the most important time for cognitive, social and emotional development. That’s why we are prioritising places for the youngest children learning the essentials of reading, writing and counting. This also helps parents return to work, or work more effectively from home, given these children need the greatest care.

Pupils in other years will continue to be educated remotely until they return to school.

How do we make sure our children keep their distance from each other at school?

Through gradually increasing the number of children and young people attending schools and colleges, we’re able to take measures to reduce transmission, such as small group and class sizes, and altering the environment such as classroom layout and staggering break times. This all helps children to keep their distance from each other.

Schools are also putting in place measures to ensure the highest standards of safety. This will include more frequent washing of hands, encouraging good respiratory hygiene (cough etiquette) and regular cleaning of surfaces that are touched frequently.

The guidance is that if a child becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature, or loss of, or change in, their normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia) they must be sent home and advised to follow the COVID-19 guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

Is it safe to send my child back to school if we’re shielding?

For the vast majority of children and young people, coronavirus is a mild illness.

However, if someone in your household is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the guidance on shielding and protecting people, then your child should only go to school or a childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be followed while they are both there and at home.

This may not be possible in the case of young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing.

If social distancing rules cannot be followed, those children should be supported to learn or work at home.

Will I be fined if I choose not to send my child back to school because I don’t believe it’s safe?

No. We urge as many children in eligible groups as possible to attend. However, we will not fine parents for keeping their children at home.

What parents and carers need to know about schools

Using protective equipment in schools

Opening schools from 1 June

Rules for reopening businesses

Can small gyms and clubs reopen if they follow social distancing and hygiene measures?

No, gyms and leisure centres remain closed, because the risk of transmission in these indoor environments is higher. You cannot exercise in an indoor fitness studio, gym, swimming pool, or other indoor leisure centres or facilities. They will reopen in phases provided it is safe to do so.

Are hairdressers and beauty salons classified as hospitality or retail? When can they reopen?

Hairdressers and beauty salons remain closed, at least until 4 July, because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher due to the indoor environment and closer physical contact. We will work with the personal care sector to develop safe ways for them to open at the earliest point at which it is safe to do so.

Businesses and venues that cannot open yet

Plans to reopen non-essential retail

Blood donors and immunity

Will blood donors be tested?

No, we do not test blood donors for coronavirus because there is no evidence it is transmitted through blood donation.

However, we are asking donors with symptoms of the virus to wait 14 days after recovery before coming to a donation session. We have also put extra safety measures in place to make sure blood donation is as safe as possible.

Does having had the virus result in immunity and how long does it last?

We do not currently know if having had the virus results in immunity. COVID-19 is a new disease and the science around immunity to the virus remains uncertain. There is currently no firm evidence that the presence of antibodies means someone cannot be re-infected with the virus or will not pass it on to someone else.

If you test positive for antibodies, or think you have previously had the virus, you must still follow social distancing measures.

We are conducting some of the largest studies in the world to help inform our understanding.

Coronavirus data

Giving blood during COVID-19

Published 15 May 2020
Last updated 17 June 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added a new topic on the Test and Trace service

  2. Edited the introduction, to update the number of questions submitted, and to explain why questions and answers will change over time.

  3. We've removed the question about how the alert level is calculated while we update the answer.

  4. In light of the changes to the rules beginning tomorrow (1 June 2020), we’ve removed the questions about parks and gardens, a question about large gatherings, and shop reopening.

  5. Reinstating previous questions and answers, they were inadvertently removed too soon.

  6. In light of the changes to the rules beginning 1 June 2020, we've removed the questions about parks and gardens, a question about large gatherings, and shop reopening.

  7. Added a fourth topic area: COVID alert level, blood donors and immunity. This includes 3 new questions about testing blood donors, how the COVID alert level is calculated, and if people who have had the virus are immune from catching it again.

  8. We have added loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia) as a symptom of coronavirus.

  9. First published.