This is how long you’re contagious after recovering from coronavirus

The virus is highly contagious and can be easily spread to others (Photo: Shutterstock)

Coronavirus cases in the UK are continuing to climb, with more than 22,000 people now diagnosed with the virus.

The virus is highly contagious and can be easily spread to others, even after symptoms have disappeared, making social distancing measures extremely important.

How long do you stay contagious?

People who have symptoms of coronavirus could be contagious for up to a fortnight after they have recovered, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

Those who display symptoms of the virus, which include a fever and a new continuous cough, are thought to be contagious for at least seven days from the first signs.

However, people who have recovered from the virus and are no longer displaying any symptoms could still remain contagious for up to two weeks.

As such, the WHO has warned that quarantine measures should be extended for a further fortnight after recovery as people may still be contagious.

Based on this new guidance, it could mean that some people will be in quarantine for up to a month.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva: “People infected with Covid-19 can still infect others after they stop feeling sick, so these measures should continue for at least two weeks after symptoms disappear.

“Visitors should not be allowed until the end of this period.”

How long do symptoms take to appear?

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that, on average, it takes just over five days for symptoms to develop.

A total of 97 per cent of all people who get the virus will develop symptoms within 11 days at most from the time they were first infected, according to the research.

Symptoms are expected to last between seven and 14 days, although in some cases symptoms could persist for longer.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Public Health England (PHE) have recommended taking the following self-isolation measures if you display symptoms of coronavirus:

- If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. 

- The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

- For anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for seven days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period.

PHE said that if you feel better after seven days of self-isolating “you can return to your normal routine.”

If you have not shown signs of improvement, you should contact NHS 111 online, or by phone if you have no internet access.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell. 

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

As of Monday 23 March the prime minister has put the UK into lockdown and instructed all citizens to stay at home. People can only leave their homes to exercise once a day, go shopping for food and medication, travel for medical needs or to care for a vulnerable person, and travel to work only if essential. Police will be able to enforce these restrictions.

All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will playgrounds, places of worship and libraries. Large events or gatherings of more than two people cannot go ahead, including weddings and celebrations. Funerals can only be attended by immediate family. Children of separated parents can go between both parents' homes.

Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.

The government has now instructed bars, restaurants, theatres and non-essential businesses to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis. Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.

The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate. People with serious underlying health conditions will be contacted and strongly advised to undertake "shielding" for 12 weeks.

For more information on government advice, please check their website. https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Should I avoid public places?

You should now avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.

When to call NHS 111

Only call NHS 111 if you can’t get help online and feel very unwell. This should be used if you feel extremely ill with coronavirus symptoms. If you have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus please use the online service.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS