Asthma patients should self-isolate for 12 weeks to avoid coronavirus

Millions of asthma patients and any Britons who get the flu jab on the NHS should self-isolate for 12 weeks to avoid serious illness caused by the coronavirus, top doctor warns

  • The NHS gives adults with respiratory diseases a free flu jab every winter
  • The advice to social distance is ‘very strong’ for those people, a minister said
  • Jonathan Van-Tam said the measures were not so necessary for children
  • Asthma sufferers are more likely to get seriously ill if they catch coronavirus
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Millions of asthma patients and any Britons who get the flu jab on the NHS should self-isolate for 12 weeks, a top doctor has warned. 

The NHS deems adults with long term conditions, including respiratory diseases, necessary to receive a free flu jab every winter.

Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said the advice to social distance for those high risk groups was ‘very strong’. 

It follows the Governments advice that those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures announced yesterday.

Britons demanded more clarity about who exactly fall into that bracket, considering health conditions are so common today. 

Asthma sufferers are more likely to get seriously ill if they get COVID-19. But they are not more likely to catch the bug than anyone else. 

Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said people who receive a free flu jab should be extra cautious about socialising on BBC breakfast 

Asthma sufferers are more likely to get seriously ill if they get COVID-19. But they are not more likely to catch the bug than anyone else (stock)

Speaking from Westminster, Professor Van-Tam said that isolation for 12 weeks applies to all those who would be given the flu jab, other than children. 


The Government has now advised that everyone start to reduce the amount of contact they have with others. This is called ‘social distancing’ and it helps cut down the spread of the virus. 

If you have asthma and have no symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.
  • Use tissues to wipe your nose or catch a sneeze, and then put them in the bin straight away. 
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands aren’t clean. 
  • Avoid unnecessary interactions with other people. This means avoiding large gatherings, shaking hands with people or hugging them, and unnecessary travel, especially on public transport. 
  • Avoid going to public venues like bars, restaurants and cinemas.
  • If it’s possible in your job, try to work from home. 
  • Carry on taking all your usual asthma medicines as normal.
  •  If someone you live with develops symptoms of COVID-19, you will need to stay in your home for 14 days.  

If you have asthma and you have mild symptoms of COVID-19 (a cough or fever) you should stay at home for seven to 14 days.

If symptoms get worse or haven’t gone after seven days, or you have difficulty breathing, you should ring 111 for advice or 999 for emergency care.

For more of Asthma UK’s advice, click here.

Asked specifically about asthma sufferers, he told BBC Breakfast: ‘I don’t want to go into enormous detail into every single risk group but we are saying it is the people who are offered flu vaccines, other than children, who fit into that risk category, people for whom the advice is very strong about social distancing.’    

Asthma affects more than five million people in the UK, according to Asthma UK. Some 200,000 have a severe form of the condition. 

The leading charity said it was aware of increased concern among sufferers about what exactly this would mean for them. 

The condition causes the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs – to narrow, making it harder to breathe.

Coronavirus is a respiratory illness, and so can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. It could lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

After a fever and persistent cough, COVID-19 can cause shortness of breath and chest in the pain, and in rare cases, pneumonia. 

According to a study in China, around six per cent of COVID-19 patients who also had a chronic respiratory illnesses died.

The research, by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on 72,314 COVID-19 patients, also found 10 per cent of patients with heart disease did not survive. 

Government guidance says those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should expect to self isolate for a long period of time. 

The high-risk group also includes people with other chronic long term respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis.  

Healthy people below the age of 70 have been urged to work from home if they can, to avoid socialising or going out and to stop all non-essential travel

Data from China shows 6.3 per cent of people who had COVID-19 and a chronic respiratory disease like asthma died compared to 0.9 per cent of healthy people


Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.

It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.

The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.

Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.

Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.

Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.

If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.

Source: NHS  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the new COVID-19 prevention advice yesterday, and said particularly vulnerable people should stay indoors for 12 weeks. 

He said: ‘In a few days time, by this coming weekend it will be necessary to go further and to ensure that those with the most serious health conditions are largely shielded from social contact for around 12 weeks. 

‘Again, the reason for doing this in the next few days rather than earlier or later is that this is going to be very disruptive for people who have such conditions.’

But No 10 were pressed for more details on who the most ‘vulnerable’ people really are. 

Baffled Britons took to social media with one Twitter user saying: ‘What are these underlying health issues? Most adults I know have some sort of underlying health issue… very vague all this’.

A massive 43 per cent of adults in England – around 18million people – are living with long-term health conditions, according to an NHS survey. 

Five per cent of those people have asthma, according to NHS England’s Health Survey for England.

According to Asthma UK, anyone with severe asthma that is hard to treat will be contacted from March 23 for advice. 

The Government is also being urged to reveal exactly what health problems the UK’s 53 coronavirus fatalities had before they died.  

There are currently more than 1,500 cases recorded in the UK. However, it is likely this figure is far higher in reality.

The ‘period of shielding’ has been implemented at a time where there will be maximum protection, coinciding with the peak of the disease.

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