Preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses
As we continue to learn to live with 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. The key actions are:
- get vaccinated
- avoid mixing with other people when you are unwell
- let fresh air in if meeting others indoors
- practise good hygiene - wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes and clean and sanitise your surroundings frequently
- wear a face covering or a face mask
If you are eligible and you have not yet received your full course of a COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated. You may be eligible for other vaccinations, particularly if you are at risk of becoming seriously ill. Get vaccinated as soon as you are able to. Read the most up to date information on COVID-19 vaccinations on the NHS website.
Keep spaces well ventilated
Letting fresh air into indoor spaces helps remove air that contains virus particles before you breathe them in, reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections such as flu. Good ventilation has also been linked to health benefits such as better sleep and concentration, and fewer sick days off from work or school.
There are simple things you can do to help improve indoor air quality. Windows do not need to be open all the time to improve ventilation – opening a door or a window even for a few minutes at a time helps remove older stale air that could contain virus particles and reduces the chance of spreading infections. Opening windows by a small amount will also give some benefit and will limit cold draughts. Use of extractor fans and making sure air bricks or vents are unblocked can also help. You can read more information on ventilation to reduce the spread of respiratory infections on the government website.
Carbon dioxide monitors can help identify spaces with poor ventilation. If simple measures such as opening windows are not possible or not effective enough at improving indoor air quality, consider using air filters to help clean the air. You can find out more about air filters on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
Advice on face masks
Face coverings and face masks help reduce the spread of respiratory infections including COVID-19 and flu. You should consider wearing a face covering in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces when there are high levels of respiratory viruses circulating (for example during winter), or if you have symptoms of a respiratory virus.
Many people choose to wear cloth masks that are washable and reusable. They are not the best option, but they do offer some protection and are better than wearing no mask. The best cloth masks have multiple layers of breathable fabric and fit snugly over your nose and mouth. If you do choose this option, it's a good idea to buy ones that come with a nose wire and are made with fabric that can block light.
If you choose to wear a disposable mask, try to wear one that has several layers of non-woven material. Choose a size that fits properly over your nose and mouth and comes with a nose wire. Do not wear one that has gaps around the sides of your face or nose.
Remember, for any type of face covering or mask, use the one available to you that offers the best protection and, if it's wet or dirty, get another one.
Read more information on face masks on the World Health Organisation’s website.
COVID-19 tests are no longer free for most people. Some people can still get free COVID-19 rapid lateral flow tests from the NHS. Read more about who can get COVID-19 tests on the NHS website including:
- who may be eligible for a free NHS test
- how to get a test
- what you can do if you are not eligible for a free COVID-19 test
You can also read the latest information on living safely with respiratory infections, including COVID-19, on the government website.
The most representative data for coronavirus can be found in the Office For National Statistics' COVID-19 infection survey weekly report.
You can also see the COVID-19 data the weekly infection survey report is based on on the Office for National Statistics’ website.
You can also see an interactive map of cases which you can search by postcode on the government website.
You can read guidance covering principles for workplace management to reduce the spread of respiratory infections including COVID-19, on the government website.
The guidance covers actions which 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.
Ventilation remains a key measure in keeping workplaces safe. You can read general guidance on ventilation on the Health and Safety Executive’s website and Covid-19: ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus guidance on the government website for more detail.
Support staff to stay at home if they are unwell. You can read more information in the guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection such as COVID-19 on the government website.
Education settings should consult the United Kingdom Health Security’s health protection in education and childcare settings guidance on the government website for advice on managing specific infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Updated guidance is also available on emergency planning and response for education, childcare, and children’s social care settings on the government website.
For our latest guidance for education settings, covering a wide range of subjects such as infection control, Strep A/Scarlet fever, healthy weight, nutrition and oral health, please visit our CYPSinfo website for early years, schools and children's services professionals in North Yorkshire.
Read our latest advice for care settings. (pdf / 925 KB)
You can find more information on the adult social care guidance page on the government website.
There is more information on ventilation in care settings on the government’s social care blog.
- our Public Health events guidance (pdf / 156 KB)
- reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, in the workplace on the government website
- living safely with respiratory infections, including COVID-19, on the government website