Overview and History
This guidance has been developed on information provided by:
• Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
• The Public Health Agency (HSCNI)
• The WHO (World Health Organisation)
• The National Health Service (NHS)
COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus Covid-19 also known as SARS-CoV-2.
Early on, many of the patients at the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some links to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread. Person-to-person spread was subsequently reported outside Hubei and in countries outside China, including The United Kingdom. To date, there have been over 10 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide with over 50,000 deaths, close to 50,000 of these being from the UK. It is, therefore, an extremely serious issue and as an accommodation provider, we must try to assist our guests and accommodation providers to assess risks they might face and to mitigate the spread of the virus. In addition, if there is an occurrence of this virus our stakeholders should know how to react, where to find information and assistance and know-how to stop the continued spread of the virus.
Symptoms of Coronavirus
The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are:
- A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
How Coronavirus is Spread
The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
How Long Can the Virus Survive in Droplets and on Surfaces?
A recent study has explored how long SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) remains infectious outside the human body, either in droplets or on contaminated surfaces. Two key parameters were measured: the half-life of the virus, which is the time taken for 50% of the viruses to be no longer infectious, and the maximum time at which viable viruses could be recovered. Evidence collected for SARS-CoV-2 showed that viruses in droplet aerosols (a fine mist) had a half-life of just over an hour but some could survive for three hours or more. Infectious viruses could be detected on copper surfaces for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for at least 72 hours. These observations of virus persistence underline the value of regular disinfection of surfaces and attention to hand hygiene in controlling the spread of infection.
Treatment of Coronavirus
According to the NHS, there is currently no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19), but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover.
It is very important to remember we are a student accommodation agency and are not medical experts. If you’re concerned about your symptoms or need medical advice at all, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or in cases of an emergency call 999. The medical advice that follows has been taken from NHS Online.
Do not go to a pharmacy in person. If you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms, you must all stay at home. Try calling or contacting the pharmacy online instead.
Treating a high temperature:
If you have a high temperature, it can help to:
- Get lots of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration – drink enough so your urine is light yellow and clear
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable
Treating a cough:
- If you have a cough, it’s best to avoid lying on your back. Lie on your side or sit upright instead.
- To help ease a cough, try having a teaspoon of honey. But do not give honey to babies under 12 months.
- If this does not help, you could contact a pharmacist for advice about cough treatments.
Things to try if you’re feeling breathless:
- If you’re feeling breathless, it can help to keep your room cool.
- Try turning the heating down or opening a window. Do not use a fan as it may spread the virus.
You could also try:
- Breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, with your lips together like you’re gently blowing out a candle
- Sitting upright in a chair
- Relaxing your shoulders, so you’re not hunched
- Leaning forward slightly – support yourself by putting your hands on your knees or on something stable like a chair
- Try not to panic if you’re feeling breathless. This can make it worse.
How to Help Reduce the Risk of Catching and Spreading Coronavirus
According to The World Health Organisation, you can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others. Why? When someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person has the disease.
- Avoid going to crowded places. Why? When people come together in crowds, you are more likely to come into close contact with someone that has COVID-19 and it is more difficult to maintain physical distance of 1 metre (3 feet).
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and infect you.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands. Why? Droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
- Stay home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others. Why? Avoiding contact with others will protect them from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority. Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
Advice for Hosts
As well as responsibility for yourself and any family, if you accept guests or students into your home you also have a duty of care towards them. Firstly it is essential you are comfortable with accepting a guest into your home, you understand and have assessed the risks and are happy to proceed. Please do not accept a booking if you have any underlying health issues which may place you within the ‘high risk’ group, have received medical advice to remain socially distanced or there is any other reason why an additional person should enter your household.
As a host, it is important for you to make your own decisions and arrangements related to your own situation. You should take a risk-based approach as the situation develops and you should monitor the situation closely. Any actions and services that relate to the health and safety of you, your family or your guests should always be your top priority. Please take a proactive approach, for example, do not accept a booking only to cancel it later because you are uncomfortable about having someone in your house. Please consider the situation, the risks and how you feel prior to agreeing to accommodate a student/guest.
The home can be a hub for spreading diseases and viruses. If one person within a household catches a virus, there is a high chance others within that household will also catch the same virus. If you are a host and are accommodating a student(s) or guest you should clean more often than usual and use disinfectant cleaning products. For government information and advice on cleaning specifically for COVID-19 please follow this link: Click Here
As a host you should take steps to limit the possibility of transmission and help your student(s) guest(s) feel safer:
- You should make arrangements for the cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces like front-door handles, as well as common areas of the home such as living rooms and kitchens.
- Ventilate shared kitchens, bathrooms and common/sitting areas as much as possible.
- All residents in the house need to clean the bathroom and kitchen after each use by wiping surfaces they have come in contact with. Please, therefore, ensure you have hand-sanitiser/soap/cleaning products etc located around your home/readily available.
- Consider the use of a rota system for using all shared facilities, especially bathrooms and kitchens.
- Whenever possible ensure you have WiFi available to allow guests to access advice and guidance.
- Familiarise yourself with the Public Health England guidance on COVID-19 and ensure you follow the guidance.
- Make sure your students/guests have comfortable workstations/desks in their rooms as they are likely to spend more time than usual in their rooms and are likely to need to study more outside of the classroom than previously.
- Make sure that there are adequate arrangements in place for waste collection within the house i.e. you will need more bins than usual, the bins should have lids where possible and be emptied regularly.
- If someone within the house is showing symptoms all waste (bin bags) should be double-bagged and stored for 72hrs in a non-communal area before being touched by another member of the household, even to be disposed of unless you are able to dispose of the waste while wearing suitable PPE.
- Make sure that all statutory legislation is applied as much as it can be and keep up to date on government advice and legislation.
- Keep in mind that the students/guests staying with you will be looking to you for advice on what to do, especially in extreme circumstances like quarantine. One of the best things you can do is stay calm, be prepared, and communicate clearly. Please contact us if you require any further advice or information.
It is also advisable to follow the following general advice to limit the risk of contracting and spreading the virus:
• Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds.
• Always wash your hands when you return home from being outside.
• Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Try to avoid busy or crowded places whenever possible. When you do have to come into contact with other people e.g. supermarket, public transport etc, keep 1m plus from other people and wear a mask whenever possible.
Specific Advice Concerning Student Arrival
When the student arrives at your home that person will be becoming part of your ‘household’. In the current climate with recently social distancing restrictions lifting, this is bound to be a slightly unusual experience and both you and the student are likely to have some form of nerves and concern. It is therefore important to address this in an open manner to ensure everyone in the household (including the student) is happy and comfortable with the new situation.
It is advisable to sit down with the student just after arrival to discuss the virus, how the arrangement of sharing accommodation and living together will work and provide reassurance to each other. Please bear in mind that the student is a paying guest, they have likely travelled a long way, are nervous and are still getting used to their new environment. It is therefore essential that this does not seem like an inspection or the laying down of the law. Instead, it is a friendly discussion to explain how the house works, where things can be found e.g. soaps, the towel for the student to use etc and to make you both feel comfortable.
You may wish to show the student that you are not experiencing symptoms and for the student to do the same for you. With this in mind, you may wish to use/buy a digital thermometer. Again, it is essential the student does not feel uncomfortable or that they are being inspected so approach this situation in a sensitive manner and with respect. It is advisable to acknowledge the student might be nervous about you so to take the lead, showing your own temperature first and asking the student to follow. It is likely the student will have already had their temperature taken upon departure, upon arrival and again when they attend school meaning this previously highly unusual practice may not be second nature to them and will not be as awkward as you might imagine. If you are both able to display that neither of you are experiencing symptoms, it might help to ease any initial anxiety caused by the unknown and to move on to more practical issues such as those listed above in the advice for hosts.
What to do if Someone in Your Household has Coronavirus
The official advice on what to do if someone in your household (including your student/guest) develops symptoms of coronavirus is changing as more is known about the virus and medical advice progresses. For the most up-to-date government advice please follow this link: Click Here.
- In general, it is good advice to wherever possible if you experience symptoms to separate yourself from other people in your household.
- If you share a toilet and/or bathroom, it is important that you clean them after you have used them every time. For example, you should wipe surfaces you have come in contact with. You could consider drawing up a rota for showering/bathing, with the person self-isolating using the facilities last. Then they should thoroughly clean the shower, bath, sink and toilet.
- If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it whilst others are present. Take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry your used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly, remembering to use a separate tea towel.
- You should only use your own toothbrush and use separate eating and drinking utensils. This includes cups and glasses in the bathroom and bedroom, dishes, drinks, towels, washcloths and bedlinen. You should not share these items with other members of your household. Make sure that you thoroughly clean the area you have used with an anti-bacterial cleaning fluid.
- Most importantly and as quickly as possible to follow government advice on getting tested for the virus and quarantining yourself. Please follow this link: Click Here
Please remember that as the host you are receiving income from accommodating the student or guest and you are responsible for managing your household and keeping risk to a minimum. You should (for example) already be undertaking regular fire risk assessments and given the recent coronavirus pandemic, it is advisable to now also undertake a risk assessment for coronavirus within your house, identifying any possible risks and how you are mitigating these risks. A template risk assessment can be found by following this link: Click Here (Word document)
Advice for Students
We understand that you will be worried about the recent coronavirus pandemic and as lockdown and travel restrictions are lifted you may be looking to start to travel again, to study and to stay with a host or host family to experience British Culture, improve your understanding of life in the UK and perhaps your English ability. We, therefore, want to reassure that both we and an accommodation agency and our accommodation suppliers such as hosts and student residences have been working behind the scenes to make a number of changes to our processes. These changes aim to reduce the risk of the transmission or spread of coronavirus for everyone. This might mean that things are a little unusual or strange for a while but we ask everyone to cooperate with both our own and government advice to help ensure you have as safe and as pleasant a trip to London as possible.
If you’ve specific health or age concerns or have been told by your local medical authorities not to travel, the best advice is to stay at home and not travel until you have been told it is completely safe to do so. However, if you do not have any health concerns and are happy to travel it is best to follow this advice:
- Be aware of the symptoms of coronavirus – Click Here.
- On arriving in the UK, you should comply with border, immigration and self-isolation requirements – Click Here.
- Wash or sanitise your hands regularly.
- Avoid touching your face, especially when outside of the house.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
- When travelling if at all possible, avoid the busiest times and the busiest routes.
- Keep your distance from other people whenever possible.
- Always dispose of waste safely, including items such as used disposable face coverings.
While in your Homestay Accommodation
- Speak with your host about arrangements for the cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces like front-door handles, as well as common areas of the home such as living rooms and kitchens and how you can help with this.
- Help to ventilate shared kitchens, bathrooms and common/sitting areas as much as possible.
- All residents in the house need to clean the bathroom and kitchen after each use by wiping surfaces they have come in contact with.
- If you are staying on a self-catering basis consider speaking to your host about the use of a rota system for using all shared facilities, especially bathrooms and kitchens.
- Familiarise yourself with the Public Health England guidance on COVID-19 and ensure you follow the guidance.
- Use separate towels from anyone else in the household.
If you Experience Symptoms of Coronavirus
- You must immediately self isolate. It is important to communicate with your host and your school that you are experiencing symptoms but DO NOT do this in person.
- Please stay in your room and call or email people to let them know how you are feeling.
- Please keep face to face interaction to an absolute minimum.
- Arrange to take a coronavirus test. This can be done by following this link – Click Here
- Avoid spreading the virus to other people within the household – Click Here
- While staying in the UK, follow UK government advice – Click Here