COVID-19 is a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 and is mainly transmitted from human to human by breathing in droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person or by touching the infected droplets on surfaces, then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. National and international spread of this virus has resulted in COVID-19 cases being reported worldwide.

SARS-CoV2, like all other viruses mutate (change) over time resulting in new forms (variants). SARS-CoV-2 and emerging variants of this virus are monitored carefully worldwide. Most are determined to be Variants of Interest (VOI) and are not generally a cause for concern. Others may be more infectious, cause more severe disease (for example, increased hospitalizations or deaths), or diagnostic tests, treatments or vaccine may be less effective.  These variants are called Variants of Concern (VOC). VOC continue to circulate worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) provide details in their publication WHO Weekly Epidemiological Updates.

While some individuals who are infected with the virus will not experience any symptoms, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of a new continuous cough or high temperature or a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell. In most cases COVID-19 is a mild illness, but some individuals can develop breathing difficulties and more severe illness such as pneumonia; complications may be life-threatening. Those who are elderly or have underlying health problems are more likely to develop severe disease. For some people, COVID-19 can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or "long COVID". 

A number of COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for use worldwide and significantly reduce the likelihood of severe illness, hospitalisation and death.

While mild symptoms can be managed at home, a number of treatments for severe COVID-19 are being used and further treatments continue to be evaulated in clinical trials.


To reduce the risk of coronavirus infection all travellers should:

  • maintain good hand and personal hygiene. Wash hands regularly with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol can also be used.
  • be aware of the surfaces touched and avoid sharing personal items.
  • follow guidelines on social distancing measures which may be in place, avoid time spent in crowded areas and close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms, or who appears unwell.
  • wear face coverings when recommended or required.
  • let fresh air in by opening a window or door where possible if sharing a space with others.
  • ensure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK vaccination programme.

To reduce the risk of passing coronavirus to others, anyone with respiratory symptoms should:

  • cover the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow.
  • use paper tissues only once and dispose of them carefully, then clean hands with soap and water or alcohol based disinfectant gel.
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.
  • wear a face mask when required
  • self-isolate and arrange to have a test if symptoms of COVID-19 appear.

Travellers abroad should follow the local public health advice of their host country.

Current Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) travel advice should always be checked along with advice regarding risk of disease which is available on our Country Information pages.

Individuals entering or returning to the UK are required to follow additional UK border measures which may include self-isolation.