SINCE the outbreak of coronavirus, doctors have been routinely testing those who are believed to be infected.
But now that the UK has moved into the second "delay" phase, the government has announced that Brits won't be routinely tested anymore.
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People who are worried they may have symptoms but don't require medical help are no longer required to call NHS 111.
It comes after calls to the helpline in the first week of March were up by more than a third compared to the same time last year.
The number has been so overwhelmed, the NHS launched an online service – but that system has also struggled to cope with demand too.
So what should you do if you're worried you may have Covid-19? Here's the latest guidance from Public Health England…
What to do if you have coronavirus symptoms?
The latest advice from health officials is for those displaying coronavirus symptoms to stay at home – however mild.
The most common symptoms of the new coronavirus are the recent onset of:
- new continuous cough and/or
- high temperature
Experts say that most people will experience mild symptoms, so limiting your contact and self-isolating will help protect others.
Therefore, they're advising those who are infected not to leave your house for seven days from when the symptoms first started.
People are urged not to go to their GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, unless your symptoms worsen.
Instead, the government advises planning ahead to ensure you can successfully stay at home – and ask your employer, friends and family to help get you things you need.
It's believed that after seven days most people are no longer infectious.
When should I call 111?
People are no longer encouraged to call the NHS 111 number if they have coronavirus symptoms.
If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days contact NHS 111 online.
In the first instance, you should refer to the NHS 111 online service, especially if:
- You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home,
- Your condition is getting worse,
- Your symptoms do not get better after seven days.
If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.
Callers will be asked some basic personal details, questions about your symptoms and whether your concerns are related to coronavirus.
They will then have an over-the-phone assessment for more in-depth details, including what you're most worried about.
You might be told to self-isolate or to expect a call back from a clinician to discuss it further.
If you're deemed a "possible case" you may then be tested for the virus.
For a medical emergency dial 999.
Why are doctors not testing for coronavirus anymore?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a COBRA meeting on Thursday where he announced that the UK was no longer in the 'containment' phase of the disease and moving to 'delay'.
Prior to that, those who had returned from a high risk area or those who had come into contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19 were considered a "possible case" and tested.
But with the virus no longer contained and cases expected to rise, the health service doesn't have the capacity to test everyone with potential signs.
Instead, those who have symptoms are asked to stay at home to help protect friends, colleagues and the wider community and control the spread of the virus.
It's understood that this will free up testing for those that need it most, such as people who are unwell in hospital or medics on the front-line.
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and Clinical Director of Patient Access, explained: "In terms of moving to the delay phase, we now know we have the virus circulating in the UK and not just being in from abroad.
"That means we’re going to have far more cases and everyone in the NHS is going to be extremely busy.
"We also know that virtually everyone who has coronavirus and is going to be seriously ill will start getting worse symptoms within a week.
"The tests take at least a couple of days to do and the results aren’t 100 per cent reliable, especially if you have very mild symptoms.
"If we start doing far more tests, it may take longer for the results to come back.
"If people self-isolate for a week and their fever has gone by the end and they feel well, they can go back to their normal lives.
"If they’re still unwell, they need to take an online test like the Patient Access one, before they leave home and start mixing with other people.
"That means the NHS wants to concentrate on people who are seriously unwell, where we need to know really urgently if they have coronavirus.
"By limiting testing to people with serious illness who go into hospital, we won’t be putting people with milder symptoms at risk.
"We’ll also be able to get the results more quickly for the people who really need rapid testing."
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