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

01 Jun 2020
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 coronavirus (Covid-19)?

Covid-19 is a new 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 coronavirus online service and self-isolate for seven days. You should also ask for a coronavirus test as soon as you develop symptoms.

For the latest information on coronavirus and its symptoms, visit the NHS website.

What action is Unite Students taking?

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. 

Unite Students has been monitoring the national and international situation around coronavirus carefully. We have been implementing the guidance of PHE and other expert authorities to the letter since the start of this outbreak. 

  • Should a case be confirmed, we’ll act quickly and decisively, following the relevant authorities’ specific instructions and advice to the letter.
  • If a case is confirmed, we’ll also organise a professional deep clean of any areas that the affected customer may have come into contact with, as directed by the relevant authorities.
  • If someone in your property is diagnosed with coronavirus, we’ll relocate anyone that may be vulnerable due to an existing respiratory illness or immune system condition.
  • We’ve closed gyms, common rooms and reception areas to limit the risk of staff and students coming into contact with each other unnecessarily.
  • We will continue to work closely with our university partners across the UK to ensure our response to the situation is fully aligned and coordinated and that our students receive the very best help.

We want to ensure that everyone has the practical advice and assistance they need to do what’s right, but also that they feel fully supported by the people around them. 

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 government has said that everyone must now stay home unless it is for one of the following reasons:

  • To shop for basic essentials.
  • To spend time outside (e.g. sitting in the fresh air, having a picnic or sunbathing).
  • For exercise, which is no longer limited to one session a day.
  • For medical reasons, such as visiting the pharmacy or delivering supplies to a vulnerable person.
  • To travel to and from work, but only when it is essential. You should work from home if possible.
  • In England, you can meet up with up to six people from outside of your household in an outdoor setting, as long as you stay six feet away from each other.
  • In Scotland, you can meet up with up to eight people in an outdoor setting, but they must only be from one other household and you must stay six feet away from each other.
  • In Wales, you can meet up with any number of people in an outdoor setting as long as they are only from one other household and you stay six feet away from each other.
  • People in England and Wales that have been told to shield because of an existing health condition can now go outside once a day and meet up with one person from another household, as long as they stay six feet apart.

You should follow social distancing rules whenever you leave your house, staying six feet away from other people, and should not make any unnecessary journeys apart from what is outlined above. Please note, rules differ between each country in the UK, so please refer to your country’s government website for further details on what you can and cannot do.

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

  • 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, which are now closed.
  • If you go out for exercise or essential supplies, stay at least six feet from other people.
  • If possible, when you go out, try to use a face covering (such as a scarf or homemade mask) to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
  • Wash your hands regularly using soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, especially after sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • 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.

For the most up-to-date advice, visit the NHS website.

What should I do if I think I have coronavirus 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 coronavirus service and then self-isolate for seven days. Anyone you live with should also self-isolate, but for 14 days. 

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

If you no longer have a high temperature after your period of self-isolation, you don’t need to continue self-isolating. If you still have a high temperature, you should continue to self-isolate until it returns to normal. You don’t need to continue self-isolating if you still have a cough or a loss of sense of taste or smell. Regardless, please continue to stay home unless it's for one of the purposes outlined in the government advice above.

You do not need to contact 111 and should not visit a GP surgery, hospital or pharmacy. 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 coronavirus 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 at reception or outside of your room.
  • Stay away from friends or flatmates.
  • If you’ve been provided with a facemask, you should wear it when you may come into contact with other people.
  • 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 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 six feet away from other people.
  • 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 isolate, but for 14 days from the moment they start showing symptoms. In that time, you should avoid leaving the house, 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.

If you still have a high temperature after your period of self-isolation, you should continue to stay home until it returns to normal.

Can I end my tenancy early?

If you’re living with us and would like to end or extend your tenancy, please read our statement here.

Can I cancel my future booking?

If you wish to cancel outside of the 7-day cooling off period, our standard cancellation policy applies.

If you need to cancel a future booking due to a medical condition, or if you're no longer able to travel, please send your cancellation request to cancellations@unitestudents.com. We'll review your request to cancel and send you a reply.

Where can I find more information?

For more information about coronavirus, 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.

You can also view our student coronavirus FAQs for answers to more questions about how the current situation might affect you.

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.

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Staff writer at The Common Room at The Common Room