Many other people may be asked to self-isolate themselves to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the UK, the NHS warned. But what should you do if you could be at risk?
More than 80 people who spent two weeks in quarantine were hailed as “an important example” by NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, as he said people could be asked more and more to isolate themselves.
There is no official data on the number of people who are advised to isolate themselves, but the approach is seen as a crucial way to minimize the spread of the virus.
But what does self-isolation mean and how is it guaranteed to work?
Who should isolate themselves?
You just need to isolate yourself if you have been told by Public Health England (PHE) or the Department of Health and Social Care.
People who have been in “close and sustained” contact with confirmed individuals for having the virus are being tracked – spending 15 minutes two meters from an infected person is considered a significant risk.
The exception is if you have traveled to China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the past 14 days and are experiencing symptoms such as coughing, fever or shortness of breath.
In these cases, do not go to the family doctor or hospital.
Instead, stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if the symptoms are mild. (In parts of Wales where 111 is unavailable, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 and in Northern Ireland you should call your family doctor.)
What should you do when you’re in solitary confinement?
PHE’s advice is to take “common sense” measures to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible, just as you would if you had the flu.
This means staying home for 14 days and not going to work, school or other public places.
You should be in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, separate from other people in the house.
Ask for help if you need groceries, other purchases or drugs: it is right that friends, family or delivery drivers leave the supplies to let you spend the two weeks.
But you shouldn’t invite visitors, says PHE.
What happens if you live with someone who isolates himself?
Although you may not be able to separate yourself from family members or roommates, the advice is to limit contacts as much as possible.
The advice given to people living with potential coronavirus patients recommends washing your hands often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coming into contact with the patient or something they have managed.
He says you shouldn’t share household items with someone in solitary confinement and, if possible, they should have a separate bathroom and toilet.
The board also says to clean household surfaces daily, using disposable gloves if you have them. The waste that has been in contact with the isolated person must be placed in a plastic bag and tied, then tied in a second bag.
Do you still get paid if you can’t go to work?
You may be asked to self-isolate yourself even if you only have mild symptoms. But you should still get paid, just as if you were too sick to work.
“If you are asked by a doctor to self-isolate, then you should receive sick pay even if some unscrupulous employers may attempt to circumvent the payment,” says a United union spokesman.
But the union warns that some casual workers and gigantic economy workers may not have sick pay in their contract. An Uber driver found that his account was suspended after taking a coronavirus patient to the hospital, although Uber claims to “support” the driver.
What do people who have self-isolated say?
A nurse who self-isolated after coming into direct contact with a patient at risk said she had long delays in being told what to do after contacting the NHS 111.
And he said it was painful to be isolated from loved ones.
“When I got home, my family had packed up and left. I have children, and they were understandably angry that they had to leave,” Argus told Brighton.
Fear of risking spreading the virus, he delivered fish and chips and asked the driver to leave him at home – although PHE now says it’s okay to let them deliver the deliveries.
Others complained of boredom and the suspense of not knowing if they could be infected. But some reported getting the go-ahead from the lab after a few days, shortening their isolation period.
And what do you do when you’re finally free? As one of Wuhan’s displaced persons, Matt Raw said after leaving the quarantine: “It is absolutely beautiful to go out and I will definitely go out for a pint a little later.”