Stay at home: Guidance for Gypsy, Traveller and Liveaboard Boater households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

This guidance will help people who live on Traveller sites, live roadside in vehicles or live on canal boats. It is meant to add to current Public Health England guidance on staying at home, not to replace it.

This guidance has been created by Friends, Families and Travellers with people who live on Traveller sites, on boats and roadside. We have shared this with NHS England and Public Health England and are waiting for approval. The guidance may be updated in line with the changing situation. This advice is intended for:

  • people with symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus, and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home until they are well
  • those living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus

Please find an audio version of the guidance here:

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature and/or
  • a loss or change in normal sense of taste or smell

For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness.

What you need to know

  • if you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.
  • if you live with others and you are the first in your home to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but everyone else who remains well must stay at home and not leave your home for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. See the diagram which explains this.
  • for anyone else in your home who starts showing symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, no matter what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period.
  • it is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.
  • if you are living on a Traveller site, you should let your site manager know and ask for support.
  • if you are living roadside, you should let your local authority know and ask for support in finding a place to stop with access to the right facilities.
  • if you are living on a canal, you should let the organisation who manages the canal know and ask for their support.
  • If you have been asked to leave a holiday campsite and have nowhere to stop, you should ask your local authority to direct you towards a piece of land you can stop on or a Traveller site pitch.
  • if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with existing health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period.
  • if you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible.
  • if you cannot keep a safe space from vulnerable people in your home, ask your local council for support.
  • if you have coronavirus symptoms:
    • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
    • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
    • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home
  • plan ahead and ask others for help to ensure that you can successfully stay at home and consider what can be done for vulnerable people in the household.
  • ask your friends, family and neighbours to help you to get the things you need to stay at home.
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water, or use hand sanitiser.
  • if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. If you do not have internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
  • if you are stopping or cruising in rural or isolated areas, please ensure you know your location if you moor or pull up and are feeling unwell. You can also use the What 3 Words app if there is a medical emergency and you need services to come to you.
  • if you develop new coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms at any point after ending your first period of isolation (self or household) then you need to follow the same guidance on self-isolation again.

Things to help you prepare now

Make a plan for your household or family

The best thing you can do now is plan for how you can adapt your daily routine, and that of others in your household, to be able to follow this advice. Some of the ways in which you could prepare include:

    • talk to your neighbours and family and exchange phone numbers of household contacts
    • talk to your site manager, your local Gypsy and Traveller liaison team or the organisation who manages the waterway you live on to identify the support you need
    • consider and plan for those in your home who are considered vulnerable
    • create a contact list with phone numbers of neighbours, schools, employer, chemist, NHS 111
    • set up online shopping accounts if possible

Will my household be tested if we think we have coronavirus symptoms?

Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.

Why staying at home is very important

It is very important that individuals with symptoms that may be due to coronavirus and their household members stay at home. Staying at home will help control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community, and particularly the most vulnerable.

Those with symptoms and living alone should remain at home for 7 days after the onset of their symptoms (see ending self-isolation below). This will reduce the risk of you infecting others.

If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus, then household members must stay at home and not leave your home for 14 days (more information in the ending self-isolation section below). If possible, you should not go out even to buy food or other essentials, other than exercise, and in that case at a safe distance from others. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in your home became ill.

If not possible, then you should do what you can to limit your social contact when you leave the house to get supplies.

It is likely that people living within a home will infect each other or may already be infected. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection your home could pass on to others in the community.

 

What to do if you have symptoms of coronavirus

Staying at home may be difficult or frustrating for people living in bricks and mortar housing, but there can be added difficulties for people who live on Traveller sites, people living roadside and people living on canal boats. While those living on Traveller sites, roadside and on boats may be limited by space and other factors, there are things you can do to make it easier.

If you live on a Traveller site

If you live on a Traveller site, let the site manager know as soon as possible and ask for them to make arrangements to ensure you can stay at home. This might include:

    • Ensuring you have access to communal toilets and showers when you need them.
    • Ensuring communal toilets and showers are adequately cleaned.
    • Ensuring you can top up your electricity supply without leaving your home.
    • Ensuring you have space to store supplies you may need for your self-isolation, if there is not enough space to store these within your home.

If you are living roadside

If you are living roadside, let your local authority know as soon as possible and ask for them to make arrangements to ensure you can stay at home. This might include:

    • Ensuring you have a place to stop where you can open the doors of your vehicle and get out, as otherwise you may be in a very confined space. Local authorities should adopt a Negotiated Stopping approach to unauthorised encampments at this time.
    • Ensuring you are not threatened with eviction while self-isolating.
    • Ensuring you have access to basic water and sanitation.
    • Ensuring you have access to rubbish disposal.
    • Ensuring any vulnerable members of your home have enough space to distance themselves from others.
    • Ensuring you have a secure location to store supplies you may need for your self-isolation, if there is not enough space to store these within your home.

If you are living on a canal boat

If you are living on a canal boat, contact the organisation who manages the canal as soon as you can and ask them to make arrangements to ensure you can stay at home. This might include:

    • Lifting any rules related to continuous cruising.
    • Ensuring you have access to basic water and sanitation.
    • Ensuring you are easily able to empty your cassette.
    • Ensuring you are able to turn the engine on to heat water if needed, without coming into contact with a member of the public.
    • Ensuring you are able to access your coal or wood storage if needed, without coming into contact with a member of the public.
    • Ensuring you have a secure location to store supplies you may need for your self-isolation, if there is not enough space to store these within your home.
  • If you have been asked to leave a holiday campsite and have nowhere to stop, you should ask your local authority to direct you towards a piece of land you can stop on or a Traveller site pitch and follow the advice outlined for people living roadside or on sites.
  • Plan ahead and think about what you will need in order to be able to stay at home for the full 7 or 14 days. This may include:
    • Enough gas or fuel for heating your home.
    • Enough water for you to drink and clean with – keep in mind you are likely to consume more water than usual.
    • Enough food for you to eat and more.
  • Talk to your friends, family and neighbours to ask for their help to access the things you will need in order to successfully stay at home. It may be difficult to store everything you need, so make sure you ask for support that can help you at the right time.
  • If you do not have a support network to help you, there may be local organisations in your area who can help you.
  • Think about and plan how you can get access to food and other supplies such as medicine that you will need during this period.
  • Ask friends or family to drop off anything you need or order supplies online, but make sure these are left outside your home for you to collect.
  • Make sure that you keep in touch with friends and family over the phone or through social media.
  • Think about things you can do during your time at home. People who have successfully completed a period of staying at home have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, online learning and watching films.
  • Many people find it helpful to plan out the full 14 days, such as on a make-shift calendar. You may also find it helpful to plan in advance what you will do if, for example, someone in the household were to feel much worse, such as have difficulties breathing.
  • When you are feeling better, remember that physical exercise can be good for your wellbeing. Look for online classes or courses that can help you take light exercise in your home.

While you are staying at home, make sure you do the following things:

Stay at home

You and all household members should remain at home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis.

If possible, you should not go out even to buy food or other essentials, other than exercise, and in that case at a safe distance from others. The 14-day period starts from the day the first person in your house became ill.

If you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, or walking a dog, you will need to ask friends or relatives. You may also be able to order medication by phone or online. You can also order your shopping online. Make sure you tell delivery drivers to leave items outside for collection if you order online. The delivery driver should not come into your home.

If you do not have access to water or are concerned about running out of water, you should ask friends, family or your local council for support with this.

If you are self-employed or an employee and unable to work due to coronavirus, please refer to this guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions to find out about the support that is available to you.

If you are living with children

Keep following this advice to the best of your ability, however, we are aware that not all these measures will be possible.

What we have seen so far is that children with coronavirus appear to be less severely affected. It is still important to do your best to follow this guidance.

If you have a vulnerable person living with you

We understand that you may not have enough space in your home to follow some of the advice which has been put together for people in bricks and mortar housing. You should aim to do all that you can, with the space available to you. If you are unable to keep a safe distance from a vulnerable person you live with, you should ask your local council for support with this.

Minimise as much as possible the time any vulnerable family members spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas, and keep shared spaces well ventilated.

If you are living roadside in a van or other small confined space, ask your local authority if there is a location you can stop in where you can have the door open or step outside without creating a risk to members of the public.

Aim to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from vulnerable people you live with and encourage them to sleep in a different bed where possible. We understand that this can be very hard for people living on Traveller sites, on a boat or living roadside.

If they can, they should use a separate bathroom from others. Make sure they use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes. If you do share a toilet and bathroom with a vulnerable person, it is important that you clean them every time you use them (for example, wiping surfaces you have come into contact with). Another tip is to consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with the vulnerable person using the facilities first.

If you are using communal showers and toilets on a Traveller site, you will need to ask the site manager to co-ordinate this. If you are living roadside or on a Traveller site with no facilities, you should ask the public health team or Gypsy and Traveller liaison team at your local council and/or site manager if they are able to supply sufficient access to clean running water and a toilet you are able to use.

If you share a kitchen with a vulnerable person, avoid using it while they are present. If they can, they should take their meals back to their room to eat. We understand that this can be very hard or impossible for people living on Traveller sites, on a boat or living roadside. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. If the vulnerable person is using their own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these.

If you have your own garden or outside space it is fine to use it as long as you keep two metres away from other members of your home. If possible they should use the outside area separately. If you are living on a Traveller site, you can ask the site manager to identify a space where you can go outside without coming into contact with others.

We understand that it will be difficult for some people to separate themselves from others at home. You should do your very best to follow this guidance and everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces.

If you are breastfeeding while infected

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be passed on through breast milk. Infection can be spread to the baby in the same way as to anyone in close contact with you. The current evidence is that children with coronavirus get much less severe symptoms than adults. The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of the virus being passed on through breast milk or by being in close contact; however, this will be an individual decision and you can speak with your midwife, health visitor or GP by telephone about this.

If you or a family member are feeding with formula or expressed milk, you should sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You should not share bottles or a breast pump with someone else.

You can find more information at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.

Cleaning and disposal of waste

When cleaning you should use your usual household products, like detergents and bleach, as these will be very effective at getting rid of the virus on surfaces. Clean  surfaces that you touch often such as door handles, handrails, remote controls and table tops. This is particularly important if you have an older or vulnerable person in the house. Clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example by wiping the surfaces you have touched.

Personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths can be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags. These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external household waste bin.

Other household waste can be disposed of as normal.

Laundry

To limit the chances of spreading the virus through the air, do not shake dirty laundry.

Wash items following the manufacturer instructions. All dirty laundry can be washed in the same load.

If you do not have a washing machine, wait a further 72 hours after your 7-day (for individual isolation) or 14-day isolation period (for households) has ended when you can then take the laundry to a public launderette. Do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels.

What you can do to help yourself get better

Drink water to keep yourself hydrated; you should drink enough during the day so your urine (pee) is a pale clear colour. You can use over-the-counter medicines, such as paracetamol, to help with some of your symptoms. Use these according to the instructions on the packet or label and do not take more than the recommended dose.

If you or your family need to seek medical advice

Seek prompt medical attention if your illness or the illness in any household members is worsening. If it’s not an emergency, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. If it is an emergency and you need to call an ambulance, dial 999 and inform the call handler or operator that you or your relative have coronavirus symptoms. If you are stopping or cruising in rural or isolated areas, please ensure you know your location if you moor or pull up and are feeling unwell. You can also use the What 3 Words app if there is a medical emergency and you need services to come to you.

All routine medical and dental appointments should usually be cancelled whilst you and the family are staying at home. If you are concerned or have been asked to attend in person within the period you are home isolating, discuss this with your medical contact first (for example, your GP, local hospital or outpatient service), using the number they have provided. If your concerns are related to your coronavirus symptoms contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

Wash your hands often

Clean your hands often each day by washing with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser. This will help protect you and the people you live with. This step is one of the most effective ways of reducing the risk of passing infection to others.

Cover your coughs and sneezes

Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze. If you do not have one to hand, sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not into your hand.

If you have a carer, they should use disposable tissues to wipe away any mucus or phlegm after you have sneezed or coughed. Then they should wash their hands with soap and water.

Dispose of tissues into a disposable rubbish bag and immediately wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser.

Facemasks

Th Government does not recommend the use of facemasks as an effective means of preventing the spread of infection. Facemasks play an important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals, but there’s very little evidence of benefit from their use outside of these settings.

Do not have visitors in your home

Do not invite or allow social visitors, such as other friends and family, to enter your home. If you want to speak to someone who is not a member of your household, use the phone or social media.

If you or a family member receive essential care in your home, then carers should continue to visit. Carers will be provided with facemasks and gloves to reduce the risk of you passing on the infection.

If you have pets in your home

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs and cats can be infected with coronavirus.

Looking after your wellbeing while staying at home

We know that staying at home for a long period can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some people and that you or other household members may feel low. It can be particularly challenging if you don’t have much space or access to a garden.

It’s important to remember to take care of your mind as well as your body and to get support if you need it. Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media. There are also sources of support and information that can help, such as the Every Mind Matters website.

Think about things you can do during your time at home. People who have not minded staying at home for a week have kept themselves busy with activities such as cooking, reading, online learning and watching films. If you feel well enough you can take part in light exercise within your home or garden.

Many people find it helpful to remind themselves why what they are doing is so important. Hopefully, none of your family will suffer more than flu-like symptoms. But some people are badly affected by coronavirus, and particularly older people and those with certain medical conditions. By staying home, you are protecting the lives of others, as well as making sure the NHS does not get overwhelmed.

Ending self-isolation and household-isolation

Self-isolation

If you have had symptoms of coronavirus, then you may end your self-isolation after 7 days. The 7-day period starts from the day when you first became ill. If you still have a high temperature, keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal. After 7 days you do not need to self-isolate if you just have a cough as a cough can last for several weeks once the infection has gone. The 7-day period starts from the day when you first became ill.

If you continue to feel unwell and have not already sought medical advice, you should contact NHS 111 online. If your home has no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

Household isolation

If living with others, then all household members who remain well may end household-isolation after 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day illness began in the first person to become ill. People who remain well after 14 days are unlikely to be infectious.

After 7 days, if the first person to become ill feels better and no longer has a high temperature, they can return to their normal routine. If any other family members become unwell during the 14-day household-isolation period, they should follow the same advice – that is, after 7 days of their symptoms starting, if they feel better and no longer have a high temperature, they can also return to their normal routine.

Should a household member develop coronavirus symptoms late in the 14-day household-isolation period (for example, on day 13 or day 14) the isolation period does not need to be extended, but the person with the new symptoms has to stay at home for 7 days. The 14-day household-isolation period will have greatly reduced the overall amount of infection the rest of the household could pass on, and it is not necessary to restart 14 days of isolation for the whole household. This will have provided a high level of community protection. Further isolation of members of this household will provide very little additional community protection.

At the end of the 14-day period, any family member who has not become unwell can leave household isolation.

If any ill person in the household has not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, they should contact NHS 111 online. If your home has no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

The cough may persist for several weeks in some people, despite the coronavirus infection having cleared. A persistent cough alone does not mean someone must continue to self-isolate for more than 7 days.

What to do if you have another episode of coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms after the end of your first period of self- or household-isolation

If you develop new coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms at any point after ending your first period of isolation (self or household) then you need to follow the same guidance on self-isolation again. This means you need to stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started if you live alone, or if you live in a household then you and all household members will need to stay at home for 14 days. This will help to ensure that you are continuing to protect others in the community by minimising the amount of infection that is passed on.

If you previously tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) and have another episode of symptoms, do you need to self-isolate again?

If your first illness was so severe you were prioritised for a coronavirus (COVID-19) test and the result was positive, you will probably have developed immunity to coronavirus (COVID-19). Your new symptoms are very unlikely to be due to coronavirus (COVID-19) and therefore you and your household do not need to isolate.

However, if another person in your household develops symptoms and they have not previously tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), then they need to isolate along with all other members of the household except for you (as you have already tested positive).

If you are concerned about your new possible coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (a new, continuous cough or a high temperature), use the 111 coronavirus service or call NHS 111.

Last updated May 26, 2020

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