Symptoms and testing

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and what should I do if I show symptoms?

Common symptoms for Coronavirus are if you have either:

  1. A high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  2. A new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly
  3. Anosmia – a loss or change in your normal sense of smell, which can also affect your sense of taste)
  • 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.

Tests for COVID-19 will only be done on those who are admitted to hospital because they are critically ill. For everyone else with symptoms the advice is to self-isolate (stay at home) for 7 days.

Can I get tested at the Covid-19 Primary Care Centres?

COVID-19 Centres are GP-led centres and are currently operating in Londonderry/Derry, Belfast, Dungannon and Banbridge. Further centres will open later this week in Antrim, Coleraine, Newtownards, Lisburn, Downpatrick and Enniskillen.

Covid-19 centres are not testing facilities. They are only for patients who are unwell, are suspected of having Covid-19 and require medical attention. Patients will not be able to report directly to these centres without being referred by their GP or Out of Hours provider.

Is there any treatment for COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19, beyond treatment to relieve symptoms – i.e. it cannot currently be vaccinated against or cured.

Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against viruses.

You should:

  • Drink water to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Use over the counter medications, such as paracetamol to help with some of your symptoms. Make sure you follow manufacturer’s instructions and do not exceed the recommended dose.
Can/should I be going to work?

For those who are unsure whether they can or must go to work under the government’s directions of 23rd March, we advise that they consult the government-issued list of ‘key workers’ – – and/or discuss with their employer.


The guidelines for staying at home if you are displaying symptoms of coronavirus are different to the current (23rd March) directives for the general/healthy population.

If you need help, but you’re not sure who to contact, the Executive is setting up a Freephone community helpline for all citizens to provide access to advice, help and guidance.  It will also connect people to more specialist or practical supports in their local area.

To get in touch for advice you can phone, email or text message, the service will initially be available daily from 9am to 5pm.

Telephone: 0808 802 0020
Text: ACTION to 81025.

What does self-isolation mean?

You should:

  • stay at home
  • stay in touch with others over the phone or through social media
  • ask friends or family members to bring you things you need such as medication or use delivery services for shopping but make sure these are left outside your home for you to collect
  • separate yourself from others with the door closed or stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from people in your home
  • stay away from vulnerable individuals such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions as much as possible
  • stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened to keep clean air moving
  • sleep alone, if possible
  • clean toilets/bathrooms after your use if you share them with others (eg wiping surfaces you have come into contact with every time)
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water
  • use separate towels at all times from others in the household

You should not:

  • go to work, school or public areas
  • go out for a walk unless you have access to your own garden
  • use public transport or taxis
  • invite visitors into your home
  • share towels, bedding or eating utensils and dishes, cups or glasses.
Do I need to see my GP or be tested before I self-isolate (stay at home)?

You do not need to contact or see your GP before self-isolating, but you should contact your GP if:

  • your symptoms worsen
  • you are no better after 7 days
  • you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home

In a medical emergency if you need to call an ambulance you should dial 999, and make sure you say that you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

How long should I self-isolate for?

Northern Ireland now has full access to the NHS 111 helpline service on COVID-19 – should you be very concerned by your condition however the guidance currently is:

  • If you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days after the onset of symptoms
  • If you have symptoms and live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms (new advice as of 16 March)

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

Once you feel better and no longer have a high temperature you can return to your normal routine. Your cough may persist but a cough alone doesn’t mean you must self-isolate for more than 7 days. If your symptoms have not improved after 7 days and you haven’t already sought medical advice, please follow the guidance here.

Personal Protective Equipment

Should I use a facemask?

Facemasks play a very important role in places like hospitals, but there is very little evidence of benefit for members of the public. However, if you receive external care you may be asked to wear a mask to minimise risk to your carer.

I am concerned about a care worker not wearing a mask/appropriate PPE

If neither the care worker nor the individual receiving care and support is symptomatic, then no personal protective equipment is required above and beyond normal good hygiene practices. (RQIA)

General interventions may include increased cleaning activity to reduce risk of retention of the virus on hard surfaces, and keeping property properly ventilated by opening windows whenever safe and appropriate.

Public Health England has issued guidance setting out the appropriate PPE equipment that should be used when dealing with COVID-19 here.

It is important to note the updated advice that, where staff are in close contact with a patient who is symptomatic but not confirmed to have COVID-19 and is not undergoing one of the aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) listed at paragraph 5.4 of the PHE guidance, they do not need to wear a FFP3 respirator mask but should wear a fluid resistant surgical facemask. It should be noted that administration of medication via nebulisation is not an AGP. You can see the section on Home Care Provision for further information on care workers.

At Risk Groups

Am I recognised to be at increased risk of COVID-19, and am I to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures?

Diseases and conditions seen to be very high risk include:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers
    • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer – –  People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
    • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
    • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
    • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
    • People who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

Increased risk groups – i.e. those who should follow self-isolation and social distancing measures very strictly – include those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
I am pregnant, should I be concerned?

Pregnant women do not appear to be more severely unwell if they develop coronavirus than the general population. As this is a new virus, how it may affect you is not yet clear.
It is expected the large majority of pregnant women will experience only mild or moderate cold/flu like symptoms.

If you are pregnant you are more vulnerable to getting infections than a woman who is not pregnant. If you have an underlying condition, such as asthma or diabetes, you may be more unwell if you have coronavirus.

If you show symptoms or test positive for coronavirus, you should contact your midwife or antenatal team to make them aware of your diagnosis. If you have no symptoms, or mild symptoms, you will be advised to recover at home. If you have more severe symptoms, you might be treated in a hospital setting.

What support exists for me in the community?

You can contact the Covid-19 Community Helpline.
If you need help, but you’re not sure who to contact, the Executive is setting up a Freephone community helpline for all citizens to provide access to advice, help and guidance.
It will also connect people to more specialist or practical supports when those are needed.

To get in touch for advice you can phone, email or text message, the service will initially be available daily from 9am to 5pm and will expand in the coming days.

Telephone: 0808 802 0020
Text: ACTION to 81025.

Diabetes Support

I have diabetes is there any support for me?

A Diabetes helpline and email support service has been launched in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) by the Diabetes Network for NI. The helpline and email support facility will provide additional clinical support and advice.

People living with diabetes with concerns about COVID-19 can contact the service through the following:

Helpline Number: 028 9536 0600

Helpline Email:

7 days a week including bank holidays – 9am until 3pm for 12 weeks until the end of June in the first instance.


Care Homes

If I don’t have symptoms can I still visit my relative in a care home/ hospital?

You should follow the advice given by the hospital or care setting you are visiting. People in their care may be at particular risk because of underlying health conditions so they may need to restrict visiting.

Why have all care homes not closed to visitors?

Unless and until there is a direction to close all homes to visitors, this is a decision for each
individual home to take. This is not as simple as minimising the risk of transmission of the virus. We know that care home residents and their families and friends really value the visits to and from their loved ones and to stop them suddenly may have an adverse effect on their emotional wellbeing. Each home will look at the risks and benefits and make a decision on the weight of the evidence they have.

If visits are restricted will residents still receive care from visiting professionals?

Yes. All health and social care professionals will continue their work in care homes. They will take all necessary precautions such as using protective equipment to minimise the risks of spreading the virus.

What if there are serious shortages of staff or supplies to the home?

All homes have plans to manage their business should an emergency occur. They have been asked to revise these plans to make sure they are fit for the current situation. Should homes suffer a high volume of staff absence that can’t be covered for example through an agency; Trusts will be asked to provide additional support.

Home care provisions

Provision of care and support in people’s home is a high priority service, in that most care and support cannot be deferred to another day without putting individuals at risk of harm. It is therefore vital that these services are prioritised.

Will PPE Equipment be provided for home care use?

Home care providers will routinely be procuring personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and aprons. In addition, there will be a free issue of PPE to support adult social care providers (residential care and domiciliary care) to comply with the updated advice on use of PPE to support management of symptomatic patients presenting in these settings. This will be issued from the pandemic influenza stockpile. Arrangements will be put in place for adult social care providers to access further PPE as necessary.

If the individual being cared for has symptoms of COVID-19

If the individual receiving care and support has symptoms of COVID-19, then the risk of transmission should be minimised through safe working procedures:

Personal protective equipment

Care workers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) for activities that bring them into close personal contact, such as washing and bathing, personal hygiene and contact with bodily fluids.

Aprons, gloves and fluid repellent surgical masks should be used in these situations. If there is a risk of splashing, then eye protection will minimise risk.

New personal protective equipment must be used for each episode of care. It is essential that personal protective equipment is stored securely within disposable rubbish bags.

These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste within the room. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in the usual household waste bin.

Individual being cared for does not have symptoms but is part of a household that is isolating

If the individual being cared for and their worker can remain at a safe protected distance from the symptomatic member of the household, then care can be provided without additional precaution. This would apply, for example, where the symptomatic family member can remain in their own room, is using separate bathroom facilities and is observing robust isolation procedures, staying 2 metres away from other family members.

Where this is not possible – and this will vary on a case-by-case basis – the same procedures should be adopted as if the person being cared for did have symptoms of COVID-19 (see above). Care should continue to be taken to limit contact with any household member that has symptoms.

If neither the individual nor the care worker have symptoms of COVID-19

If neither the care worker nor the individual receiving care and support is symptomatic, then no personal protective equipment is required above and beyond normal good hygiene practices.

General interventions may include increased cleaning activity and keeping property properly ventilated by opening windows whenever safe and appropriate.


I am a carer – what guidance exists for me?

It is aimed at local authorities, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), community health services and providers of care and support delivered within supported living environments (people in their own homes), including for people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities or autistic adults.

I am a personal assistant/carer to someone and want an identification letter.

The Independent Living Fund Scotland have provided a letter template for personal assistants in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. This can be downloaded and the individuals name added.

Here is the letter:

I have a carer who assists me do I have to provide their PPE?

In general if care is being provided by an external provider, the provider must source and provide the PPE.

*An advice document for carers is in development and will be issued by DoH imminently.

Self Directed Support (SDS) / Direct Payments

I use Self Directed Support (SDS) and am a Direct Payment (DP) recipient what about PPE for my carer or PA?

Each Trust has developed their own protocol for PPE for Direct Payment (DP) recipients and carers, but in general if care is being provided by an external provider, the provider must source and provide the PPE.

If the DP recipient requires PPE for a PA then he/she should contact the Trust Key worker and request PPE; this should be provided (where available) to the DP recipient at no cost.

If resources are not available through the Trust, a DP recipient may purchase PPE out of their Personal Budget fund, without prior Trust approval, record and report associated costs under normal DP practices.

I am a carer/ recipient of Direct Payments (DP) and want advice in relation to the COVID-19 situation

Carers and recipients of direct payments are encouraged to contact ILF Scotland, which is providing support to Northern Ireland, with any queries
Telephone: 03002002022


My relative is being discharged and I believe it to be premature

The Health and Social Care board have announced the following guidance as of Monday 16th March.

Timely discharge from hospitals will be essential as our health service deals with escalating pressures from Covid 19. The co-operation of patients and their families on discharge will help free up beds during this extremely challenging time.

  • If patients are deemed medically fit by the Consultant to go home, they and their families should ensure there are arrangements in place to be picked up promptly on the day of discharge. Ward staff can help you make these arrangements.
  • If you are deemed medically fit by the Consultant to go home and are waiting on a residential placement, staff will allocate the first place that is available. This may not necessarily be your first choice but it is important to note that people can subsequently move to the home of their choice, once it becomes available.
  • If you are deemed medically fit by the Consultant to go home, and there is a delay in sourcing new or additional home care, you may be discharged to await these elements of your care package. Additional family support may be required until the home care package is finalised.”
Visiting guidelines for individual Trusts

In response to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Government restriction of movements and to protect patients, their families and all staff, the HSC are temporarily restricting the number of visitors across hospitals.
With immediate effect all visits to general hospitals has now stopped. Whilst there are some exceptions to this these restrictions are subject to further review.
The ONLY exceptions to this are:

  • PAEDIATRICS: Any children admitted can be accompanied by one parent or carer at a time.
  • MATERNITY: A person in labour can be accompanied by one birthing partner. There are no visitors permitted in ante-natal or post-natal ward areas.
  • NEONATOLOGY & PAEDIATRIC Intensive Care: A patient in the neonatal ward/ paediatric ICU may be accompanied by one parent-visit duration to be agreed with the Ward Sister or Charge Nurse.
  • CRITICAL CARE AREAS (including Adult Intensive Care Units; Coronary Care Units; High Dependency Units) One visitor permitted to visit. The duration and timing of the visit must be agreed in advance with the Ward Sister or Charge Nurse-normally be a maximum of one hour.
  • PALLIATIVE (end of life) care: One visitor permitted to visit-duration and timing of the visit must be agreed in advance with the Ward Sister or Charge Nurse-normally be for a maximum of one hour.

DO NOT visit if you are feeling unwell, especially if you have a high temperature or new persistent cough. Children are also not permitted to visit.

Visitors must ensure that they carry out full hand washing or use sanitizer on entry when visiting. They should be bare below the elbows, and have no jewellery except a flat wedding band. Hands should be washed or sanitizer used when leaving.

If you can, please arrange a ‘virtual visit’ with your relative or friend on their smartphone or tablet. All HSC sites have access to free WI-FI and our staff will help set this up on the patient’s device. Please be patient as our staff will have to prioritise clinical work and patient care. Staff will monitor the use of technology in order to ensure the privacy and dignity of patients in their care at all times.

Whilst this policy is for use in hospital settings we would encourage its adoption for people receiving PALLIATIVE (end of life) care in other settings such as Nursing/Care Homes, Hospices and other settings.

Regarding people being cared for at home you should think carefully about social distancing and Stay at Home and restrict visiting to a minimum in order to protect your immediate and extended families, carer’s, relatives and friends.

If I am unable to visit how can I get an update about my relative’s condition?

Patients will be asked to nominate a single member of their family (or carer) to be the designated person to contact the ward. The nominated person will be asked to contact the ward for an update and share this information with family members.

Arrangements with Independent hospitals to treat non-COVID patients

As part of ongoing Covid-19 Surge Planning, the Health and Social Care Board has negotiated arrangements for partnership working with the independent sector hospitals.

Trusts are now accessing the independent sector hospitals to treat urgent patients (Non-COVID) across a number of elective specialities (planned treatment), while Trust hospital sites prepare to concentrate on treating patients who have contracted the virus.

Kingsbridge Private Hospital,  Ulster Independent Clinic and North West Independent Hospital have agreed to facilitate Trusts in this initiative and will be providing up to 112 beds on a not-for-profit, cost recovery only basis for the duration of the pandemic.

Health and Social Care Trusts are currently identifying and scheduling the patients who can be treated in the independent hospital facilities and are finalising the prioritisation of those patient lists.  The initial focus is on urgent elective cancer patients.  Trusts and the independent sector hospitals are working together to facilitate the service relocation.

Hillsborough Private Clinic and Cathedral Eye Clinic are also assisting Surge Planning efforts by accommodating some Trusts urgent elective ambulatory patients (who do not required to be admitted).  The HSCB has also approached other private sector providers and all are willing to assist.  The HSCB anticipates further involvement of the private sector in the near future.


I am concerned that I will not be able to get into a pharmacy or get my medicines

It is important that everyone only orders the medicines they require. Stockpiling or purchasing medication that is not needed could disadvantage other patients or put them at risk.

Actions are also being taken to help protect both pharmacy staff and members of the public visiting pharmacies. These actions will aim to keep community pharmacies open and enable pharmacy teams to respond proactively as the situation develops.

A pharmacy is inflating prices for non-medicine items such as hand sanitiser or masks. Is this a breach of your standards and will you investigate this pharmacy?

Profiteering during the current challenging situation by inflating prices of shortage products risks bringing the profession into disrepute. We are reminding pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals that they need to continue meeting our standards at all times during the pandemic. We do however recognise that shortages can engender increases with suppliers and distributors of products – if you are concerned you should take the matter up with your pharmacy in the first instance.

Can the pharmacy give me advice and medicines to help me treat the symptoms of coronavirus?

Do not go into a pharmacy, GP or hospital if you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms (high temperature or a new, continuous cough). You can ask someone else to collect your medicines for you, or order online.

A pharmacy is refusing to deliver my medicines to me, even though I need to self-isolate. What should I do?

We understand the challenges you are facing in getting your medicines while you self-isolate. We also recognise that pharmacies are working under significant pressure at the moment because of coronavirus and may not have enough capacity or resources to deliver medicines to everyone who is self-isolating. We would recommend you ask neighbours, friends or family if they would be able to collect your medicines on your behalf and then phone you just before leaving them on the doorstep for you to collect.

Cancer Services

A statement from NICAN – Delivery of Systemic Anti-Cancer Treatment

As a community of caregivers for oncology and haematology patients in Northern Ireland we are well aware of the increased anxiety generated by the Covid 19 pandemic during what is already a very difficult time for you. Whilst disruption is inevitable, we wish to assure you that we are working very hard to maintain services in so far as possible. Our first priority is your safety. We know that Covid 19 is likely to be more severe in those with a cancer diagnosis. This is particularly so in older patients and those with additional medical conditions. As a result, many of our anti-cancer treatments which suppress the immune system and affect your general health may have significantly greater risk at this time.

At your next consultation, your doctor or nurse will discuss the benefits and risks of proceeding with treatment. They may suggest stopping treatment or making significant alterations to reduce the risk. Any decision about your treatment will be based on your individual circumstances and our ability to provide safe care in the weeks and months ahead. No decision about your treatment will be made without involving you in this. As time goes on we anticipate that additional pressure on the service will come from staff shortages. We are actively looking at novel ways to reduce the impact of this on cancer treatment however there will inevitably be disruption to our service over the next few weeks and months.

What will happen to my cancer treatment?

Your clinician may want to review your treatment plans, including whether the risks involved in any treatment have changed. In some cases, this may lead to a discussion about a revised or modified treatment plan. This is because the risks and benefits of certain treatments may be different in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) risk.

Many hospitals have started to use more telephone consultations as a way of helping people to avoid long waits in clinics and for treatment. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way, and planned treatments may need to be moved to help with running a smooth service.

Your clinical team are best placed to talk with you about the effect on your treatment and appointments.  They will work with you to determine the best course of action in each individual situation.  If you have any concerns or questions about your treatment, please speak to your clinical team.

I am on chemotherapy, if I experience sweats / cough / shivering, should I call NHS 111 or the chemotherapy care line?

The advice in this situation is to immediately contact the chemotherapy care line, the Acute Oncology Service at your treating hospital or whatever number you were given by your team in the event of an urgent query. The important thing is to get urgent medical advice.

Will there be problems accessing my cancer drugs?

There are currently no medicine shortages as a result of COVID-19. The country is well prepared to deal with any impacts of the coronavirus and we have stockpiles of generic drugs like paracetamol in the event of any supply issues.

The Government is working closely with industry, the NHS and others in the supply chain to ensure patients can access the medicines they need, and precautions are in place to prevent future shortages.

There is no need for patients to change the way they order prescriptions or take their medicines. Patients should always follow the advice of doctors, pharmacists or other prescribers who prescribe and dispense their medicines and medical products. The NHS has tried-and-tested ways of making sure patients receive their medicines and medical products, even under difficult circumstances. If patients order extra prescriptions, or stockpile, it will put pressure on stocks, meaning that some patients may not get the medicines or medical products they need.

If I need to self-isolate for more than seven days, what will happen in relation to treatment that has to be done weekly?

Your clinical team are best placed to talk with you about the effect on your treatment and appointments. They will work with you to determine the best course of action in each individual situation.

Caring for people with Cancer

I have been exposed to the virus and am a carer for someone with cancer. What should I do? Who will look after the person I care for if I am unable to?

The Government is currently advising that if you have symptoms and you live with a vulnerable person, you should try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

It is also a good idea to think about what happens if you become unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, or if you do not have family or friends who can help, you can contact your local council who should be able to help you. Carers UK have also produced advice for those currently caring for others.

I share a house with a person who needs to be shielded, but I am unable to follow the stringent social isolation guidelines (e.g. because of the size of the property or because I am a key worker). What should I do?

It is important that the extremely vulnerable person follows the measures to shield themselves.  You should consider all other arrangements for yourself (for example living arrangements etc.) to enable them to.

Dental Services

I need to see a Dentist – is this possible during the COVID-19 situation?

We recommend you call your dentist should you require dental care. Dentists will be available to triage calls, provide treatment over the phone and examine and treat patients if necessary during normal working hours.

You will be triaged by a dentist to assess your COVID status and if you require urgent and emergency care: as much treatment as possible will be provided over the phone, with patients attending the practice only when necessary in an emergency.

Emergency dental clinics are being set up across the five health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland.

These clinics will see only those with urgent dental needs and patients will have to be referred by their local dentist.

I have a routine dental appointment planned will this still go ahead?

It is very unlikely that your routine dental appointment will go ahead as planned. Dentists have been advised to defer all routine appointments until after the outbreak of COVID-19.

What about emergency care to COVID patients who cannot be treated over the phone?

Treatment Centres are being established to provide emergency care to patients who are COVID positive and/or self-isolating.

These clinics will also treat any identified CoVID-19 (coronavirus) patients as well as any other patients who require emergency dental treatment.  All staff treating these patients will be provided with full PPE equipment.

The emergency dental clinics will be staffed by high street dentists who have offered their services along with the support health trust staff.

What about domiciliary visits for dental emergencies?

Emergency care may be provided in a domiciliary visit if necessary.  Standard cross-infection control procedures should be followed by both the dentist and the care home.  Practical arrangements should be considered to reduce contact with other residents.

Maternity Services

Will I be able to deliver my baby in the hospital I was originally booked into?

After careful consideration, it has been agreed that while antenatal services will continue at Causeway Hospital, it is not possible to deliver babies in the Causeway Hospital during this surge period. This is because we will not have enough skilled paediatricians available to provide emergency care to a baby born in distress throughout the 24 hour period. To protect the wellbeing of mothers and babies, women booked to deliver in Causeway will be contacted and have their delivery transferred to Antrim or Altnagelvin Hospital.

Maternity services in Daisy Hill, South West Acute, Craigavon, Altnagelvin, Antrim, the Ulster and the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital (RJMH) will continue.

For latest maternity visiting guidelines see section on hospitals

Paediatric Services

What do I do if my child is unwell at this time?

There will be daily monitoring and communication across the paediatric network during the surge to ensure there is enough paediatric capacity to deliver safe urgent and emergency care for children right across Northern Ireland.

We would urge parents and carers if your child is unwell is to seek medical advice. You should contact your GP in the first instance. If your child is very unwell you should bring them to your nearest Emergency Department, contacting the hospital ahead of arrival if they have respiratory symptoms.

Delayed, Postponed or Cancelled Treatment

Will my previous appointments for treatment be cancelled because of Covid-19?

Health service activity across Northern Ireland will unfortunately have to be significantly curtailed as resources are diverted to care for coronavirus patients.

Affected services will include non-urgent outpatient appointments, day cases, inpatient and diagnostic work. Due to increased pressures on GPs during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Department of Health and the British Medical Association have agreed measures to release additional capacity in General Practice. This will mean that GPs will prioritise work to address Covid-19 cases and practices may reduce certain services.

Health Minister Robin Swann stated “We have now started freeing up resources in our health service to provide hospital care for the most seriously ill Covid-19 patients.”

Currently, only non-urgent outpatients, day case, inpatient and diagnostic services will be reduced.  Suspect cancer cases and other urgent care will continue, unless advised by the applicable Trust.

For patients who need follow up as outpatients, Trusts are planning for greater use of telephone contact and other digital technology, where appropriate.  Patients will be contacted directly by Trusts with regard to any changes to already scheduled appointments.

Deaf Service Users

I am deaf is there any information available on Covid-19 in sign language?

Guidance from the PHA for households with possible the Covid-19 virus is now available in sign language. Links to the videos are below.

British Sign Language:
Irish Sign Language:

The Belfast Trust has said they will carry out my appointment by telephone but I am deaf, is there any help available for me?

The Belfast Trust has moved to the use of telephone for appointments, consultations and essential information provision since the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. However, this presents challenges and risk for people who are deaf and who use sign language to communicate.

A temporary remote interpreting service from Sign Solutions has been commissioned and is provided through Interpreters Live to empower d/Deaf people to access and communicate with Health and Social Care Services via telephone due to the current public health guidance on social distancing and minimising risk of infection to sign language interpreters. It is being funded by the Department for Communities.

For further information please see:

General Guidance

I am looking for guidance in a non-clinical setting for instance I run a facility for rough sleeping and hostel.

Guidance for this situation exists here.

The main messages are:

  • hostels and day centres do not need to close at the current time unless directed to do so by Public Health England (PHE) or the government
  • frequently clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces using your standard cleaning products
  • if a member of staff becomes unwell on site with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home
  • if a resident in a hostel becomes unwell, they should stay in their room
  • if someone becomes unwell in a day centre, and they do not have a home or room in which to self-isolate, they should be isolated temporarily in an area of the day centre and staff are advised to contact the local authority
  • staff, residents and visitors should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds, more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
  • local authority public health, housing and social care teams are encouraged to work closely together to identify appropriate local solutions for people who don’t have anywhere to self-isolate. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) intends to issue a further communication to local authorities on this in due course
I have shared custody of a dependent – what does COVID-19 lockdown mean for me?

Transporting a child or children between parents with shared custody is allowed under the current travel restrictions. However, parents are expected to act ‘sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their child and deciding where and with whom their child spends time’.

However, guidance states that one parent may act to retain custody beyond the terms of the Child Arrangements Order, where they do so in the interests of the child’s/children’s health and safety. Where this is against the wishes of the other parent/guardian, a Family Court will review the case after the current restrictions have been lifted, considering evidence from both parties and assessing how reasonably and sensibly each parent acted. In these cases, the parent with whom the child is staying should facilitate remote contact between the child and their other parent.