The coronavirus is a constant subject on all of our minds and with so much information being pumped at us on TV every hour, and with different countries taking different approaches to the crisis, it can be hard to know exactly how best to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
If you're unsure what these updates mean for you as a young family, or a mum-to-be, here's all the latest advice for parents, children and expectant parents to keep you in the know.
On February 22nd, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his four-step plan to release England from lockdown.
Here's what has been laid out so far:
All schools to reopen and two people allowed to meet outdoors for a chat.
Outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. Outdoor sports, including football, golf and tennis, will be allowed to resume.
Shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality will reopen. Up to six people from separate households could be able to meet in beer gardens, as does indoor leisure like swimming pools.
If the data allows - will see the "rule of six" abolished for outdoor gatherings, replaced with a limit of 30 people. Two households can mix indoors - with the rule of six applied in hospitality settings like pubs. Cinemas, hotels, performances and sporting events reopen - though social distancing remains. Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions, funerals and wakes.
All legal limits on social contact removed, with the final closed sectors of the economy reopened - such as nightclubs. The government hopes that - from this date - restrictions on weddings and funerals will also be abolished.
Before meeting up with your loved ones under the new guidelines, you might want to take a test to give you all peace of mind. Taking a coronavirus test is easy and it gives you a result within half an hour. This useful video created by the Government with NHS doctor, Dr Amir Khan takes you through each step of taking a rapid self-test, from preparing for the test to how to use your kit correctly.
Currently, you can only order rapid lateral flow home test kits to your home if someone in your household, childcare bubble or support bubble is a school, nursery or college pupil, works in a school, nursery or college (this includes temporary workers or volunteers) or works in an occupation related to a school, nursery or college.
The pandemic has been tough for all of us, which is why it's important to take the positives where we can. In some good news that we all need to hear, Imperial College London's latest REACT study found that infections had fallen by more than two-thirds since the last time it reported in mid-January.
REACT (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) is a series of studies to improve understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic is progressing across England. On this occasion, the survey tested more than 85,000 volunteers between 4 and 13 of February to look at the infection levels in the general population.
The researchers estimate that the national R number for England is between 0.69 and 0.76 which means that the outbreak is decreasing across the country.
Informal carers will be able to provide care for children and vulnerable adults in parts of the country with restrictions on interhousehold mixing. This means that any children under the age of 14 will be able to be cared for by people outside of their immediate household as part of a care bubble.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: "I know how vital all types of childcare are for family life. Whether a friend, relative, or a professional carer, it is essential that our children or dependents are well looked after and loved."
Care bubbles mean that informal childcare arrangements are able to continue with another household, as long as they are consistent. One-off arrangements, such as a play date, are not permitted.
Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine
The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 50 and over. The vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs.
It's being given to:
• people aged 50 and over
• people who live or work in care homes
• health care workers at high risk
The NHS will let you know when it's your turn to have the vaccine. It's important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.
How the COVID-19 vaccine is given
The COVID-19 vaccine is given as an injection into your upper arm.
It's given as 2 doses.
The latest evidence suggests the 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine provides protection for most people for up to 3 months. So, the 2nd dose of the vaccine is likely to be given up to 12 weeks after – this will also help to ensure more people get the 1st dose.
How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccines approved for use in the UK have been developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca.
They have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
So far, thousands of people have been given a COVID-19 vaccine and reports of serious side effects, such as allergic reactions, have been very rare. No long-term complications have been reported.
Can I have the vaccine if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
There’s no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But more evidence is needed before pregnant women can be routinely offered the vaccine.
The JCVI has updated its advice to recommend you may be able to have the vaccine if you're:
pregnant and at high risk of serious complications of coronavirus
if you're breastfeeding
Speak to a healthcare professional before you have the vaccination. They will discuss the benefits and risks of the COVID-19 vaccine with you.
You do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby COVID-19.
What are the Covid-19 symptoms?
The most common symptoms are a cough, high temperature and shortness of breath.
The advice is that you should not call your GP at all if you suspect someone in your household has COVID-19. Instead, you should get a test if you think you or your child had coronavirus. You can get a COVID-19 test for free from the NHS in two main ways, either by driving to a test centre, or ordering a test online or by calling 119.
Things you need to know about coronavirus if you're pregnant
It’s understandably a very worrying time for most people around the world with the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
If you’re pregnant, your anxiety levels are bound to be heightened as your concerns grow for the welfare of you and your baby, so it’s important you know the facts and try not to focus too much on the scary news reports. There is still no evidence that pregnant women are more at risk of contracting the virus. There is also no evidence that coronavirus increases the chances of miscarriage.
While scientists are still trying to find out more about the virus and how it affects us, the experts suggest that pregnant women don’t have an increased chance of contracting coronavirus. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, ‘pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the consequences of infection with COVID-19 than the general population.’
In terms of changes to your day-to-day life, it’s important to follow the guidelines suggested to us all by avoiding places with large groups, public transport and work from home if you can, taking the precautions to keep yourself and your family safe.
Can I have my partner with me to support me at scans and at the hospital?
Thankfully the answer to this has now changed to yes, in England at least. A recent document shared on the NHS website, sets out three key actions which NHS trusts should take to enable women to receive support from a partner, relative, friend or other person when receiving maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, pregnant women in England will be permitted to have one person beside them at all stages of their maternity journey. The document states:
"Pregnant women value the support from a partner, relative, friend or other person through pregnancy and childbirth as it facilitates emotional wellbeing and is a key component of safe and personalised maternity care. Women should therefore have access to support at all times during their maternity journey and trusts should facilitate this, while keeping the risk of transmission of the virus within NHS maternity services (including to pregnant women, other service users and staff) as low as possible. This means welcoming the woman and her support person, regarding them as an integral part of both the woman and baby’s care throughout and not as a visitor. It includes making sure that women can safely take a support person to:
the early pregnancy unit
all antenatal scans
other antenatal appointments where the woman considers it important to have support
labour and birth from the point of attendance at the hospital or midwifery unit."
"Now there are an increasing number of services that will only allow the women themselves to come for routine ultrasound scans. While this is disappointing please be aware this is primarily for you and your baby’s safety, and also the safety of our staff performing the scans. You should though have the opportunity to have your partner with you at the birth.
"To limit social contact, antenatal classes are being cancelled, it is though worth getting in touch with your local provider as many online classes are being arranged so you don’t miss out on this really useful information, and also meeting other parents-to-be"
What if I catch coronavirus while I’m pregnant?
Dr Jo Mountfield says, "It is reassuring that so far the evidence suggests that pregnant women with no underlying health conditions and their babies are at no more risk of contracting coronavirus than other healthy individuals.
"So far there is also no evidence that the virus can pass to your unborn child while you are pregnant or during the birth. In addition, if a pregnant woman does have coronavirus, she does not appear to be more likely to be severely unwell compared to others."
There is still very little known about Coronavirus in pregnancy. There has been a small study by Frontiers in Pediatrics where four pregnant women in Wuhan, China, who had all tested positive for COVID-19 were followed, and three gave consent for their babies to be tested for the virus. Of the three, none of the babies tested positive and all four babies were healthy and well when they left the hospital and did not have any symptoms of the fever.
You may have heard about one case where a newborn tested positive for coronavirus (mum also had coronavirus), but there are suggestions that this could have perhaps been contracted after birth as the baby wasn’t tested until 36 hours after being born.
In addition to this, coronavirus hasn't been found in umbilical cords, breastmilk or amniotic fluid, so currently, there isn’t anything to say that your baby can contract coronavirus from you if you have coronavirus while pregnant.
As for giving your baby breastmilk, there is no evidence that the Covid-19 virus can pass into our milk and, as breast milk is likely to give your baby added antibody protection against Covid-19 as well as all the other bugs that are common at this time of year.
Even if you have the virus yourself, the benefits of breastfeeding still outweigh the risk of you passing the virus on by coughing or sneezing say the Royal College of Midwives. If you do have the virus and are breastfeeding, it is obviously important to try and keep pumps, bottles and your breast area very clean and try and wear a facemask if you can get your hands on one.
Should I be worried about catching coronavirus in the hospital?
Although hospitals are very clean places, it's understandable that you might feel concerned about catching coronavirus while you're there.
If you're due to give birth in the coming months in a hospital and are worried about possibly contracting the virus there, you should talk with your midwife or doctor about any concerns you may have. It might be worth having a think about other back-up options if the prospect of a hospital is causing you anxiety.
Whilst fertility clinics can continue to offer treatment across the UK, treatment at some clinics will be affected by the pandemic. Some may have to reduce the numbers of patients they can treat or stop treatments temporarily. This may be due to staff having to be redeployed to other areas of the NHS. Patients are advised to keep in contact with their clinic who can update them on any changes to their services.
What extra hygiene precautions can me and my family be taking?
Be vigilant with the government's advice of washing hands regularly, social distancing from others when out for essential purposes, and staying home as much as possible, working from home if you can.
If you are pregnant and do have underlying health conditions it is important to take even more precautions.
Ensure everyone uses a tissue or a sleeve to cough or sneeze into and then immediately bins it before re-washing hands.
Encourage your child to avoid touching their eyes, mouth and nose with their hands, no matter how clean they are.
There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 causes serious problems in young babies. In any event, if your baby seems unwell and has a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more, you should get them checked by your GP.
Wherever possible, use soap and water and save antibac gel for when you can’t find a sink.
Encourage your children to choose a 20-second song to sing and ensure you support their good habits by having soap, water and towels easy to reach and use.
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