News centre

Stay safe and prevent the spread of winter viruses

Published Friday, 22 October 2021

A Joint message from Sharon Stoltz, Director of Public Health and Dr Nigel Wells, Vale of York CCG Clinical Chair.

As we head into the winter months the risk of illness from winter viruses becomes very real. This winter we know that COVID-19 is still circulating at high levels in communities in York but we are also concerned about colds and flu and other respiratory viruses that can cause mild to severe illness and deaths in the most serious cases.

COVID-19, flu and other respiratory viruses are spread by airborne transmission, close contact via droplets and via surfaces. It's possible to be infected by someone you don’t have close contact with, especially if you are in a crowded indoor space.

While no situation can be made completely risk free, there are some basic infection control steps we can all take to help ourselves, our families and friends stay healthy and well this winter and protect the NHS.

Fresh air

Let fresh air in when you meet people indoors; meeting outdoors is safer.

When an infected person breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release particles containing the virus into the air. These particles can come into contact with the eyes, nose and mouth and can be breathed in by another person. The particles can also land on surfaces and be passed by touch. Meeting outdoors greatly reduces the risk of becoming infected.

The more fresh air you can let into your home or work space the better because you are less likely to breathe in infected particles. We realise that this may be difficult during the winter months when you are concerned about heating bills. Opening your windows for just 10 minutes a day to let fresh air in can make a big difference.

Hand washing

Viruses such as COVID-19, colds and flu can spread by touching surfaces and enter the body through touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

Regular hand washing with soap and water, or using hand sanitiser when soap and water are not available, is very important. This simple measure is effective against a wide range of infective organisms, not just colds and flu.

Catch it, kill it, bin it

It has been known for many, many years that coughs and sneezes spread diseases. Always use a handkerchief or tissue to catch coughs and sneezes.

Cloth handkerchiefs should be washed with detergent and paper tissues disposed of promptly in the nearest waste bin. Always wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser after handling a soiled handkerchief or tissue.

Wear a face mask

We know that not everyone approves of wearing a face mask, but there is good evidence that wearing a face mask in crowded places where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet protects you from virus particles spread from the nose and mouth of an infected person.

A well-fitting, surgical face mask provides the best protection. A cloth face covering should ideally have multiple layers and be close-fitting around the nose.

Always wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser when putting on or removing a face mask to remove any virus particles from your hands and get rid of disposable masks safely in the nearest waste bin.

We know that legislation surrounding face masks has changed but we strongly recommend that all adults and children over 12 (unless medically exempt) wear face masks in crowded and enclosed places such as shops, supermarkets, cinemas and theatres. Face masks have to be worn in healthcare settings unless you are medically exempt.

Get tested for COVID-19

It's possible to be infected with COVID-19 without experiencing symptoms, or your symptoms may be very mild. You can also become infected even if you are vaccinated and pass the virus to others.

The COVID-19 vaccination is important because it helps to protect you from becoming seriously ill and dying of COVID-19, but you must not be complacent and assume you cannot catch it and pass it on once vaccinated.

It's important to be tested regularly even if you are vaccinated and don’t have symptoms. Getting tested twice a week, 3 to 4 days apart, is recommended.

See further information on symptom-free coronavirus testing, or call telephone: 01904 551550 if you don't have access to the internet.

Most of the cases of COVID-19 we are seeing in York are caused by the Delta variant. The symptoms of the Delta variant are very similar to flu. Not everyone experiences the 3 classic symptoms of a new continuous cough, fever and loss or change in smell or taste.

If you're feeling unwell and have COVID-19 symptoms please stay at home and arrange a PCR test. If you have symptoms you should self-isolate at home until you get the test result. If this is negative, you can go out and about as normal, but if positive you must self-isolate for 10 days.

See further details on how to order a PCR test on GOV.UK, or call NHS on telephone: 119.

Get vaccinated

We're fortunate in the UK to have easy access to safe and effective vaccinations for COVID-19 and for flu.

These vaccines are free on the NHS to those who are eligible. Please take up the offer of a vaccine when you are offered one.

Getting help if you're unwell

If you're ill and require medical help and are unsure where to go please use the NHS 111 telephone service or visit

If you're unwell and require practical support or need support to self-isolate please contact the council’s COVID-19 helpline on telephone: 01904 551550

By taking these simple steps we can all help to keep ourselves, our families and friends safe this winter.

If you require any further information please contact Public Health on email: