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Understanding the risk

2nd June 2020

Understanding the risks

It’s important to understand that even when people appear not to have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), they may still be carrying the virus.  Where you’re meeting people who aren’t from your household, your risk of catching coronavirus can increase depending on the situation.  

The European Centre for Disease Control talks about high risk and low risk contacts with other people.  You should take these risks into account when you are thinking about visiting or gathering with other people, in particular the time limits where you may be at a higher risk of catching COVID-19 when spending time with someone indoors. 

You should also consider the greater risks posed to those who are classed as vulnerable and very vulnerable. 

When meeting people from outside your household, that is, people you don’t currently live with, you should continue to follow the social distancing guidance below, and practice good respiratory hygiene.

High Risk  Low Risk 
  • Face-to-face contact with a COVID-19 case within two metres for more than 15 minutes
  • Physical contact with a COVID-19 case
  • Unprotected, direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g. being coughed on)
  • Being indoors with a COVID-19 case for more than 15 minutes
  • Face-to-face contact with a COVID-19 case within two metres for less than 15 minutes
  • Being in a closed environment with a COVID-19 case for less than 15 minutes

Social distancing guidance

Social distancing can be difficult in everyday life.  We all need to make changes to the way we do things to lower the risk of transmission of the virus.  Remember too, you’re not just protecting yourself, you’re protecting others who may be vulnerable too.

Keep 2m away from others

You should keep two metres (6 feet) away from people as a precaution. This can be difficult in practice, and the science is complex. The key thing is to not be too close to people for more than a short period of time, as much as you can.

Keep your hands and face as clean as possible

  • Wash your hands often using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly.
  • Where available, use sanitiser outside your home, especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your face.

Work from home if you can

With the proper equipment and adjustments, many people can do most or all of their work from home. Your employer should support you to find reasonable adjustments to do this. However, not all jobs can be done from home. If your workplace is open and you cannot work from home, you can travel to work.

Avoid being face-to-face with people if they are not from your household

You are at higher risk of being directly exposed to respiratory droplets (released by talking or coughing) when you are within two metres of someone and have face-to-face contact with them. You can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing someone.

Avoid crowds

You can lower the risks of transmission by reducing the number of people you come into close contact with. For example, avoid peak travel times on public transport, where possible.

Businesses should also take reasonable steps to avoid people being gathered together. For example, by allowing the use of more entrances and exits, and staggering entrance and exit, where possible.

If you have to travel (for example, to work or school), think about how and when you travel

  • To reduce demand on the public transport network, you should walk or cycle wherever possible. If you have to use public transport, you should try to avoid peak times.
  • Employers should consider staggering working hours, expanding bicycle storage facilities, providing changing facilities and providing car parking

Wash your clothes regularly

There is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days, although usually it is shorter. Therefore, if you are working with people outside your household, wash your clothes regularly.

Changing clothes in workplaces should only be considered where there is a high risk of infection or there are highly vulnerable people, such as in a care home. If you need to change your clothes, avoid crowding into a changing room

Keep indoor places well ventilated

  • Evidence suggests that the virus is less likely to be passed on in well-ventilated buildings and outdoors.
  • In good weather, try to leave windows and doors open in areas where people from different households come into contact, or move activity outdoors if you can.
  • Use external extractor fans to keep spaces well ventilated and make sure that ventilation systems are set to maximise the air flow rate.
  • Heating and cooling systems can be used at their normal temperature settings

Face coverings

If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas, for example, on public transport or in some shops.

Evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you. However, if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.

Face coverings do not replace social distancing. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 (new cough and/or high temperature and/or loss of smell/taste), you should complete the on line self-assessment tool ( and follow the advice given.  If you and your household are advised to isolate at home, you must do so: wearing a face covering does not change this.

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 2 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly. For example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

You can make face-coverings at home. The key thing is it should cover the mouth and nose.Just click the Image or Link button, and then "Browse Server".

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