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Self isolating when you live in a flatshare

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This article was last updated at 13:00 on 24 March 2020.

On 23 March, the whole of the UK went into lockdown as a result of the rapid spread of COVID-19 (or Coronavirus). This means everyone is now required to stay at home, and can only leave the house for one of four reasons:

  1. Shopping for basic necessities – i.e. food and medicine, which must be done as infrequently as possible
  2. One form of exercise a day – so a run, walk or cycle; alone or only with members of your household
  3. Any medical need or to provide care/help a vulnerable person
  4. Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home

Even while doing these activities, it’s advised that you should remain 2 metres apart from anyone other than members of your household. This lockdown is in place for a three week initial period starting 23 March, and will be reviewed after this time.

What does this mean for flatsharers?

If you’re all symptom-free, you can follow the above guidelines – stay inside at all times, only leaving for one of the four reasons listed.

However, if someone in your flatshare displays any symptoms of COVID-19, the rules are slightly different.

In a nutshell: if one flatmate shows symptoms (a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature), you should all stay at home – and not leave the house at all for 14 days. It’s really likely that those living together will infect each other or already be infected, so staying at home for this period will greatly reduce the amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.

This also means you should all try to plan ahead and organise deliveries for any essentials you need (groceries etc), to avoid being around members of the public in a potentially busy grocery shop or supermarket. If any of you can’t currently work from home, speak to your employer and explain the situation – to see how they can help during this period. It might be useful to plan out the period you’ll be at home and find activities to keep you all busy (if you’re not ill) – it’s a good opportunity to take up a new language, watch films, read books or finesse your cooking skills.

What to do if you have a vulnerable person living with you

If one of your flatmates is considered to be vulnerable (i.e. has an underlying health condition), you should try to keep 2 metres away from this person where possible. If they can, they should use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household, and use separate towels for both bathing and drying their hands. If you do share a bathroom, it should be cleaned after every use – ensuring you wipe down all surfaces you come into contact with. You could also try drawing up a rota for bathing, so the vulnerable person uses the facilities first.

Avoid using the kitchen if the vulnerable person is present – if possible they should try to take their meals back to their room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean crockery and cutlery – otherwise wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water, and dry them thoroughly. If the vulnerable person uses their own cooking and eating utensils, use a separate tea towel to dry them.

It can be really difficult to stay separate from someone you live with, but try to follow this guidance as closely as possible. It’s also essential for the whole household to wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and keep frequently touched surfaces clean.

Other things to note

If you or one of your flatmates has coronavirus symptoms:

  • Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
  • Don’t contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
  • You don’t need to be tested for coronavirus, as long as you’re staying at home

Stay home and stay safe – as we all should during the nationwide lockdown.

And don’t forget to keep washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds, keep your distance (2 metres) when you do have to go outside, and be extra careful if you share a home with a vulnerable person.

If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, your condition worsens, or you don’t get better after 7 days – use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service, or call NHS 111 if you don’t have internet access.

All information in this article has been taken from gov.uk stay at home general guidance and gov.uk guidance for households.

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Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as accurate and as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please ensure you refer to gov.uk for the latest advice and information.

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