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Covid: what’s the situation in England, and what should I do if I get it? | Coronavirus

As schools and universities prepare for the return of students after the summer break, we take a look at the rules and advice on Covid.

What’s the current situation?

It’s a mixed picture. According to the latest data for England from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Covid case rates and hospital admission rates – as detected through hospital testing – have stabilised after recent rises, albeit from quite a low level.

Some data, however, for example that based on swabs of GP patients collected as part of a monitoring scheme, has hinted at a rise in case rates, and A&E attendances for Covid-like illness have also increased.

There is also a new variant in the mix, called BA2.86. Scientists are monitoring it closely because it shows a large number of genetic mutations, raising concerns it could evade immunity from vaccination and previous infection. But experts say as yet there is too little data to be sure of the risk the variant might pose.

Are there any rules and regulations?

The last legal restrictions related to Covid were removed last year, meaning the end of rules about social gatherings, regulations on mask wearing and requirements to self-isolate.

In England, a “living with Covid” strategy was introduced instead. The government said the shift was largely down to the success of the vaccination programme and the development of better treatments for people with the virus.

What should I do if I get Covid?

Rules and regulations may have gone, but experts say there are still measures worth taking.

If adults or children have Covid-like symptoms, have either a fever or feel unwell, the NHS recommends they try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. Children with mild symptoms, however, can still be sent to school or childcare if they feel well enough.

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The health service says under-18s should try to stay at home and avoid contact with others for three days after testing positive. Over-18s should do the same for five. Both groups should avoid meeting vulnerable people the next 10 days.

Prof John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said other behaviours could also be useful.

“I doubt whether we’ll see much of a return to mask wearing and hand washing, but those things can help reduce spread as well,” he said.

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