Coronavirus (Covid-19): What you need to know

06 Jan 2021
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

The world is currently dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19), which is affecting people across the UK and abroad.

It’s important we all have as much information as possible and are doing our best to reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus.

With that in mind, we want to share the latest advice from the relevant authorities and explain what steps we’re taking as the situation develops.

What is Covid-19?

Covid-19 is an illness that is caused by a virus called coronavirus and can affect your lungs and airways. The NHS states that the symptoms are:

  • A high temperature (this means that your chest or back is hot to the touch).
  • A new, continuous cough (this means coughing lots for more than one hour or three coughing episodes within 24 hours).
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If you have any of these symptoms, you should use the NHS 111 Covid-19 online service and self-isolate for 10 days. You should also ask for a test as soon as you develop symptoms.

For the latest information on Covid-19 and its symptoms, visit the NHS website.

What do we know about the new strain of Covid-19?

Scientists detected a new strain of Covid-19 at the end of 2020, which has been found to spread much quicker than the previous variant. There is no evidence to suggest that the new strain is more harmful or that vaccines will be any less effective.

However, because the new variant of Covid-19 can spread much quicker, it’s important that you follow the current government guidelines and social distancing advice to the letter.

What action is Unite Students taking?

Unite Students has been implementing official guidance to the letter since the start of this outbreak and will continue to do so. 

Our sole focus is to help our students and employees protect themselves and others, and to support them in every way we can at this difficult time. To do so, Unite Students will take the following action:

  • We will be able to support you in a number of ways while you are self-isolating, which you can read about here.
  • Our Welfare Leads will be on hand to offer any support you may need. You can get in touch with them by emailing your property team.
  • We will continue to provide you with a safe and secure home throughout this situation.
  • In the event of local lockdowns, we will act swiftly to help keep our students and teams safe. This might include closing common areas and restricting access to residents only.

While they can’t give medical advice, our team - including our dedicated Welfare Leads - are on-hand via their property-specific email address and WebChat. Please be aware that, as our teams work hard on this, there may be a delay in, or reduction to, the other services we are able to provide. We thank you for your understanding and patience at this time.

What action should I be taking?

The governments of England, Scotland and Wales are implementing different measures at different times. As such, you should follow the links below for the most up-to-date information where you are:

Guidance for England
Guidance for Scotland
Guidance for Wales

You should follow local advice to the letter. In many places, this now means not mixing households and staying home when possible.

Please also continue to follow social distancing rules, staying two metres away from anyone outside of your household and wearing a face mask in an indoor setting, such as shops, public transport or shared areas of our properties. 

In line with advice from the NHS and PHE, we also strongly encourage you to do the following:

  • Stay at least two metres from other people where possible.
  • Wash your hands regularly using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, especially after sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If possible, when you go out, try to use a face covering to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. These are now mandatory on public transport, in shops and in communal areas in Unite Students' properties.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Bin any used tissues immediately.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Do not share items that come into contact with your mouth.
  • Check that your contact phone number is up to date in MyAccount so we can contact you if we need to.
  • If you have an immune system condition or respiratory illness that might leave you vulnerable, please notify a member of the team immediately.
  • Avoid spending time in common rooms, reception areas or gyms, many of which are now closed.

For the most up-to-date advice, visit the NHS website. We also recommend taking some steps to prepare in case you have to self-isolate in the future. You can read about this here.

What should I do if I think I have Covid-19 and have to self-isolate?

NHS advice says that if you have either a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss of sense of smell or taste, you should use the 111 online Covid-19 service and then self-isolate for 10 days. Anyone you live with also needs to self-isolate in line with this official advice

In line with the latest government guidance, anyone that starts showing symptoms should get tested for Covid-19 as soon as possible. For more information on this, and to book or order a test, visit the NHS website

You will also need to tell us that you're self-isolating. To do so, download the MyUnite app (if you haven't already), and choose the 'Register as self-isolating feature'. Then, simply follow the steps on the screen. You do not need to contact 111 and should not visit a GP surgery, hospital or pharmacy

If you're still showing symptoms of Covid-19 at the end of your period of self-isolation, you may need to continue self-isolating. Please check the information on this NHS webpage to find out if you can stop self-isolating.

If you are self-isolating, please follow the below advice in line with Public Health England's recommendations:

  • Stay in your flat or home until your period of self-isolation is over and you no longer show symptoms.
  • If your symptoms get worse or you can't cope with them at home, use the 111 online Covid-19 service. If you can't get help online, call 111 or, in an emergency, call 999.
  • Do not go into work, university, lectures or public areas, and don’t use public transport or taxis.
  • If you have someone bringing supplies or have ordered shopping online, make sure the items are left outside of your room.
  • Stay away from friends or flatmates.
  • Make sure all of your rubbish is disposed of properly by tying it up in two plastic bin bags.
  • Clean anything you have touched in shared bathrooms or kitchens before and after every use.

We would also advise the following:

  • Keep in regular contact with friends and family by phone.
  • Avoid using common areas in your accommodation (apart from your shared kitchen).
  • In the event of a fire alarm, please evacuate the building as you would normally, but where possible, keep at least two metres away from other people and wear a face covering.
  • Please be aware that we’ll only carry out maintenance in your flat if it’s a safety risk to you or others.

You should also continue to follow the advice given above under the subheading ‘What action should I be taking’.

What if someone in my flat has symptoms?

Government advice now states that if you live with someone who shows symptoms, you will also need to self-isolate for 10 days from the moment they start showing symptoms. 

In that time, you should avoid leaving the flat, even for buying food and essentials. Instead, you'll need to get someone to drop off supplies outside of your flat for you or order shopping online. You should also follow the advice in the question above.

You will also need to tell us that you're self-isolating. To do so, download the MyUnite app (if you haven't already), and choose the 'Register as self-isolating feature'. Then, simply follow the steps on the screen.

If you start showing symptoms for Covid-19, you should follow the advice in the question above, titled 'What should I do if I think I have Covid-19 and have to self-isolate?'

Where can I find more information?

For more information about Covid-19, its symptoms, how to avoid catching it and what to do if you do have it, please visit the NHS website. The government’s online advice explains what you can and can’t do under the current measures.

For information about Covid-19 in relation to your student accommodation, or for more details on how we're supporting you, please read our Covid-19 FAQs.

If you’re worried about a friend, concerned about the situation or need emotional support, you can speak to your property team via your property-specific email address or contact them on WebChat. This article also explains who you can speak to if you're not feeling great.

Enjoyed this article? Give it a like
Staff writer at The Common Room