Please find below the latest guidance regarding Covid symptoms and absence management.
Summary points –
- Testing is no longer advised
- If you experience symptoms (detailed below) but have not tested. You are advised to stay off school/work if you feel unwell. Return to school/work when you feel well enough and you no longer have a high temperature.
- If you have symptoms and have tested positive. Under 18s are advised to stay home (or work from home if able to) for 3 days after taking the test.
- If your child is absent from school please phone the school absence line.
Detailed guidance below –
Q. What key changes have there been in the guidance?
There are a number of key changes outlined in the guidance, such as:
Testing access: from 1st April, free universal testing ended, meaning it will only be provided for certain groups from now on, including;
- Patients in hospital, where a test is required.
- People who are eligible for COVID-19 treatments because they are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.
- Individuals who live or work in high-risk closed settings, for example, in some NHS and social care and prison settings where infection needs to be identified quickly to minimise outbreaks.
Official definition of symptomatic presentations: The similarities between the symptom profiles of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses means that people presenting with acute respiratory viral symptoms from 1st April will be unable to distinguish one viral illness from another based on symptoms alone. Therefore, in the absence of testing, advice will be provided to people with a range of acute respiratory viral symptoms. The symptoms list now includes:
- continuous cough
- high temperature, fever or chills
- loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
- shortness of breath
- unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
- muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise
- not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
- headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual
- sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
- diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick
- Differentiation within the guidance between adults and u18 individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test.
- Discontinuation of the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment, after 7th April 2022.
Q. What advice is there for adults who have COVID-19 symptoms, or a positive COVID-19 test e.g. setting staff?
Adults who are displaying symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID- 19, or who have taken a positive test for COVID-19, should follow the relevant guidance, which is differentiated dependent on the presence of a positive test.
No positive test
In the absence of testing, the guidance is clear that the symptoms of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections are very similar. It is not possible to tell if you have COVID-19, flu or another respiratory infection based on symptoms alone. Most people with COVID-19 and other respiratory infections will have a relatively mild illness, especially if they have been vaccinated.
The guidance states that:
‘If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, and you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, you are advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people’.
This is until they no longer have a high temperature (if they had one) or until they no longer feel unwell. During this time, individuals in this situation are advised to avoid close contact with individuals who are at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19, and to try and work from home if they can. If they are unable to work from home, they are advised to talk to their employer about options available to them.
If there is a positive test
If an individual has a positive COVID-19 test result, UKHSA’s position is that it is currently very likely that they have COVID-19 even if they do not have any symptoms, and that they can pass on the infection to others, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Consequently, over 18s with a positive test are now being advised to ‘try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days after the day [they] took [their] test’.
They are advised to try and work from home if they can. If they are unable to work from home, they are advised to talk to their employer about options available to them. There is further advice on what measures they can take to keep others safe if they leave their house.
The guidance still recognises that some people may be infectious to other people for up to 10 days from the start of their infection. Individuals are advised to avoid meeting people at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID- 19, especially those whose immune system means that they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, despite vaccination, for 10 days after the day they took your test.
Q. What advice is there for children and young people aged under 18 who have COVID-19 symptoms, or a positive COVID-19 test?
The guidance acknowledges the commonality of respiratory illnesses amongst children and young people and advises that ‘Symptoms can be caused by several respiratory infections including the common cold, COVID-19 and RSV’, and that for most children and young people, these illnesses will not be serious and they will ‘soon recover following rest and plenty of fluids’.
Again, the guidance differs dependent on the presence of a positive test or not.
Children and young people with mild symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, or slight cough, who are otherwise well, can continue to attend their education setting.
Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can. They can go back to school, college or childcare, and resume normal activities when they no longer have a high temperature and they are well enough to attend.
If a child or young person has a positive COVID-19 test result they should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days after the day they took the test, if they can. After 3 days, if they feel well and do not have a high temperature, the risk of passing the infection on to others is much lower. This is because children and young people tend to be infectious to other people for less time than adults.
Q. What is the guidance for those who are close contacts of someone who has had a positive test for COVID-19?
People who live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 are at the highest risk of becoming infected because they are most likely to have prolonged close contact. People who stayed overnight in the household of someone with COVID-19 while they were infectious are also at high risk.
For the next 10 days after exposure, these individuals are advised to
- avoid contact with anyone they know who is at higher risk of becoming severely unwell if they are infected with COVID-19, especially those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, despite vaccination
- limit close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
- wear a well-fitting face covering made with multiple layers or a surgical face mask if they do need to have close contact with other people, or they are in a crowded place
- wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitiser
If you are a contact of someone with COVID-19 but do not live with them or did not stay in their household overnight, they are at lower risk of becoming infected. There is guidance on protecting yourself and others in living safely with respiratory infections, including COVID-19.
You may want to advise staff who are household close contacts to follow the relevant parts of the guidance. You may also want to ask them to notify you to support you in reducing the risk to any staff members whose immune systems means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
Children and young people who usually go to school, college or childcare and who live with someone who has a positive COVID-19 test result should continue to attend as normal.
Q. Has the guidance for people who are at higher risk changed? What about children who are immunosuppressed?
The guidance for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk from COVID-19 was updated on 4th April, and continues to be focused on the individuals whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, despite vaccination.
Most people with immunosuppression will be under the care of a hospital specialist and will usually have been identified in one of 2 ways:
- Eligibility for a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or spring
- Eligibility for new treatments for COVID-
The guidance advises those individuals who fall within this scope to:
- ensure they have had all the vaccines they are eligible to receive
- continue to follow any condition-specific advice they may have been given by their specialist
- avoid meeting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (and anyone in their household) until 10 days after they received a positive test.
- try to avoid people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory infections and have a temperature or feel unwell.
- if it feels right for them, work from home if they can. If they cannot work from home, speak to their employer about what arrangements can be made to reduce the risk.
- consider continuing to wear a face covering in crowded public
The above advice is aimed at adults. Children and young people can continue to attend education settings unless their clinician has advised otherwise.