As we move to an endemic approach to COVID-19, our response to the virus will change. There will continue to be challenges and there will still be times when we are all faced with a degree of uncertainty and concern. However, the Isle of Man as a whole will be prepared to deal with those times effectively, efficiently and proportionately through the Isle of Man Government’s Moving to An Endemic Approach, our roadmap for living with COVID-19.
There will inevitably be people in our community who are understandably feeling anxious about this new approach, especially those who are more vulnerable. If you are worried about going back to a more ‘normal’ life, read our advice on ‘What to do if you feel nervous about COVID-19’.
Below is some helpful information to guide you on a gradual return to the lifestyle you lived pre-pandemic.
COVID-19, along with many other respiratory infections such as influenza (flu), can spread easily and cause serious illness in some people. You may be infected with a respiratory virus such as COVID-19 and not have any symptoms but still pass infection onto others.
The risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 is greatest when someone who is infected is physically close to, or sharing an enclosed and/or poorly ventilated space with, other people. When someone with a respiratory viral infection such as COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release small particles that contain the virus which causes the infection. These particles can be breathed in or can come into contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth. The particles can also land on surfaces and be passed from person to person via touch.
You will not always know whether someone you come into contact with is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from respiratory infections, including COVID-19. They could be strangers (for example people you sit next to on public transport) or people you may have regular contact with (for example friends and work colleagues).
There are simple things you can do in your daily life that will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections and protect those at highest risk. Things you can choose to do are:
Be SAFE – Adopt healthy habits to protect yourself and others from Coronavirus. Remember the protective measures including Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air.
Be SMART – Vaccination is our first line of defence against the virus. People are encouraged to have their booster when offered. Make sure you use trusted data sources to make informed decisions about the vaccination and your response to COVID-19.
Be KIND – Lateral flow tests will remain available to the public. By self-testing when you have symptoms of COVID-19, you are playing your part in protecting those most vulnerable.
Be AWARE - Respect the personal choices of others. There may still be people who decide to wear face coverings in certain settings to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
COVID-19 Vaccination Programme
The vaccines are safe and effective. Getting your initial course of a COVID-19 vaccine and any boosters you are invited for is the best way of protecting yourself and others against COVID-19.
If you have not yet received 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated.
A full course of a COVID-19 vaccine provides protection against severe disease, including against the Omicron variant, but this protection wears off over time. Booster doses significantly improve the protection offered by vaccines. You should get a booster vaccine for COVID-19 if you are offered one.
You may be eligible for other vaccinations, particularly if you are at risk of becoming seriously ill. Get vaccinated as soon as you are able to.
Let fresh air in if you meet indoors. Meeting outdoors is safer.
The amount of respiratory virus in the air can build up in poorly ventilated areas. This increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, especially if there are lots of infected people in the room. The virus can also remain in the air after an infected person has left.
Meeting outdoors vastly reduces the risk of airborne transmission, but this may not always be possible. If you’re indoors, you should let fresh air in to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.
Bringing fresh air into a room and removing older stale air that contains virus particles reduces the chance of spreading COVID-19. The more fresh air that is brought inside, the quicker any airborne virus will be removed from the room.
Ventilation is most important if someone in your household has COVID-19 or another respiratory virus, to try and stop the virus spreading.
Good ventilation has also been linked to health benefits such as better sleep and fewer sick days off from work or school.
There is further advice on what you can do to improve ventilation.
Remember the basics of good hygiene
Following these basic rules of good hygiene will help to protect you and others from COVID-19 as well as many other common infections:
- cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze
- wash your hands
- clean your surroundings
GermDefence is a useful website that can help you identify ways to protect yourself and others in your household from COVID-19. It provides scientifically proven advice on reducing the risks from COVID-19 and other viruses in your home.
Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze
Coughing and sneezing increases the number of droplets and aerosols released by a person, the distance they travel and the time they stay in the air. If an infected person coughs or sneezes without covering their nose and mouth, it will significantly increase the risk of infecting others around them. Covering coughs and sneezes will help reduce the spread of particles carrying COVID-19 and other viruses, including those that cause coughs and colds.
Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in a bin and immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitiser. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not into your hand.
Wash or sanitise your hands
Hands touch many surfaces and can become contaminated with viruses and other germs. Once contaminated, hands can transfer these to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the germs can enter your body and infect you.
Washing or sanitising your hands removes viruses and other germs, so you are less likely to become infected if you touch your face. Using soap and water is the most effective way to clean your hands, especially if they are visibly dirty. Hand sanitiser can be used when soap and water are not available. You should do this regularly throughout the day.
It is particularly important to wash your hands:
- after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose
- before you eat or handle food
- after coming into contact with surfaces touched by many others, such as handles, handrails and light switches
- after coming into contact with shared areas such as kitchens and bathrooms
- when you return home
Clean your surroundings
Surfaces and belongings can be contaminated with COVID-19 and other germs when people who are infected touch them or cough, talk or breathe over them. Cleaning surfaces will reduce the risk of you catching or spreading infections.
Clean surfaces in your home often. Pay particular attention to surfaces that are touched frequently, such as handles, light switches, work surfaces and electronic devices such as remote controls.
Consider wearing a face covering
Wearing a face covering or face mask can reduce the number of particles containing viruses that are released from the mouth and nose of someone who is infected with COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Face coverings can also protect the person wearing the face covering from becoming infected by some viruses. Using a face covering does not replace the need to follow the guidance on ventilation and good hygiene. A face covering may give added protection if you, or someone you are in close contact with, are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 or other respiratory infections.
When to wear a face covering
- when you are coming into close contact with someone at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19 or other respiratory infections
- when COVID-19 rates are high and you will be in close contact with other people, such as in crowded and enclosed spaces
- when there are a lot of respiratory viruses circulating, such as in winter, and you will be in close contact with other people in crowded and enclosed spaces
If you have symptoms or have a positive COVID-19 test result and you need to leave your home, wearing a well-fitting face covering or a face mask can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. See further advice in the guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection or a positive test result.
You may be asked to wear a medical grade mask in healthcare settings and in care homes.
Those attending education or childcare settings will not normally be expected to wear a face covering. Face coverings for children under the age of 3 are not recommended for safety reasons.
What makes a good face covering
Face coverings work best if they are made with multiple layers (at least 2 and preferably 3) and form a good fit around the nose and mouth. A wire nose bridge can improve the fit and may also help to prevent glasses from fogging. Scarves, bandanas or religious garments are likely to be less effective if they do not fit securely around the mouth and nose, and are of a single layer.
Reusable face coverings should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged. Single-use disposable masks should not be washed or reused and should be disposed of responsibly.
Stay at home if you are unwell
It is important that you stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you have COVID-19, you can infect other people from 2 days before your symptoms start, and for up to 10 days after. You can pass on the infection to others, even if you have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
If you have symptoms, you should stay at home and take a lateral flow test. Find out what to do if you test positive.
There is additional guidance for people who have been informed by Manx Care that they are at highest risk of becoming severely unwell and who might be eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.
If you feel unwell but do not have COVID-19 symptoms, or your COVID-19 test is negative, you may still have an illness which could be passed on to other people. Many common illnesses, like the flu or the common cold, are spread from one person to another by releasing respiratory particles into the air or through contaminated surfaces or belongings. Staying at home until you feel better reduces the risk that you will pass on an illness to your friends, colleagues, and others in your community. This will help reduce the burden on our health services.
Transmission of the virus is most likely to happen within 2 metres, with risk increasing exponentially at shorter distances. Remaining mindful of your surroundings and continuing to make space has a powerful impact when it comes to containing the spread. Stay respectful of others around you who continue to practise social distancing.
The above guidance has been adapted from Living safely with respiratory infections, including COVID-19 – GOV.UK