A cluster of cases of pneumonia that occurred in Wuhan, Hubei Province China during December 2019, were confirmed in early January 2020 as caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). SARS-CoV2 may have originated from an unknown animal source. The infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19 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.

All 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 cause, for example, increased transmission from person to person resulting in more cases and pressure on health care systems. These variants are called Variants of Concern (VoC). Several VOC are circulating in the UK; of these the Delta variant is dominant.

Some individuals who are infected with the virus will not experience any symptoms but can still be infectious to others. The most common symptoms of coronavirus (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 develop pneumonia causing breathing difficulties; complications may be life-threatening. Those who are elderly or have underlying health problems are more likely to develop severe disease. There is a higher risk of infection and of severe disease in Black, Asian and Minority ethnic groups in the UK but the reasons for this are currently not clear. Long term health effects may occur for some people who have had COVID-19 infection (mild infection or hospitalised) and is sometimes referred to as long COVID.

COVID-19 vaccines are currently in use in the UK and are now available to all adults aged 18 or over, children and young people aged 12 years and over. COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK are effective against infection with the Delta variant and significantly reduce the likelihood of severe illness, hospitalisation and death.

Mild symptoms can be managed at home. Treatments for severe COVID-19 are being used and trialled in hospital settings.

Those who develop symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and arrange to have a test.


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.
  • Face coverings are required in some locations. Face coverings do not replace social distancing; all other recommended precautions should be followed.
  • let fresh air in by opening a window or door where possible if sharing a space with others.
  • attend for COVID-19 vaccination when invited to do so by the NHS.

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 appear.

Travellers should follow local public health advice.

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.