Understanding coronavirus and Parkinson’s

Although Parkinson’s is different for everyone, current UK government advice for people with Parkinson’s is still to stay at home as much as possible. Check the guidance for your local area as this may be different to the advice in the rest of your country.

This page was originally published on 3 March 2020, and was updated on 30 July 2020 at 1.00pm. This advice is updated as new information becomes available.

Our in-person events and activities are still suspended. We’ll continue to monitor the guidance across the 4 nations. And we'll update the advice for face-to-face meetings and activities by Monday 31 August.

We're here for you

We have a range of information and support to help you during this challenging time. Our friendly, expert helpline advisers are also available to take your call if you have any concerns or questions, or need further advice.

What should I do?

Stay at home as much as possible

Following recent briefings from governments in devolved countries, and from the UK government, guidance for people in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is to stay at home as much as possible. The Prime Minister said, “There is one certainty: the fewer social contacts you have, the safer you will be.”

The Chief Medical Officers for England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have recommended that the alert level be reduced from 4 to 3. They added in a statement that this does not mean the pandemic is over. It means that there has been a steady decrease in all 4 parts of the UK.

Relaxed lockdown guidance for people who are clinically vulnerable, including people with Parkinson’s, says that it’s very important to stay at home as much as possible. The announcements you’ve heard in each of the countries in the UK do not come into effect straight away. And they’re all dependent on the risk of catching the virus staying low. Follow distancing and hygiene guidelines if you do go out.

During this pandemic, it's especially important to take extra care of your wellbeing and mental health. We've published an article on how to cope if you're feeling isolated. And the charity, Mind, have put together some helpful guidance on wellbeing and coronavirus.

Reasons to leave home, and distancing

If you leave the house you should avoid busy times and spaces and keep a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from people you do not live with.  

In Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland, where it is not possible to maintain a 2m distance, 1m is allowed. This is only where extra precautions are in place and may apply to places like offices, supermarkets, cafes. We recommend that you check extra precautions are in place, before you decide if this is safe for you. Extra precautions include proper ventilation, no face to face contact, face coverings, and plastic screens.

Continue to follow good hygiene practices, including regular hand-washing, not sharing crockery and cutlery, and wiping down surfaces. It's still safest not to go into other people’s homes.

Reasons you may leave your home include:

  • for work, where you cannot work from home
  • going to shops that are permitted to be open, staying 2m apart
  • to exercise or spend time outdoors, staying 2m apart
  • to socialise outdoors, staying 2m apart (in groups of no more than 6 people in England; 30 people in Northern Ireland; 15 in Scotland, and only 4 other households per day; and no more than 2 households at one time Wales)
  • to attend drive-through church services or places of worship.
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or provide care or help to a vulnerable person

In England and Scotland only:

  • 2 households (of any size in England, and up to 8 people in total in Scotland) can meet inside or outside, and can stay overnight in the same household, if you follow social distancing (the only exceptions to distancing are for people in a social bubble or extended household, and for children under 11 in Scotland only). 

Face coverings

If you have to be in an indoor space (like a shop or a bus), it’s best to wear a face covering. You may be asked to wear one in certain situations, like a GP appointment, but you should be informed of this before you go. Face coverings on public transport are compulsory in England and Scotland. They’re also compulsory in shops in Scotland, and England from 24 July. In Wales, face coverings are compulsory on public transport from 27 July.

You can see how to make and wear a face covering here.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a good reason not to. If you have a physical or mental illness, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering, you do not have to wear one. You do not have to provide medical evidence of your reason for not wearing a face covering.

For exemptions and guidance in different parts of the UK you can refer to the specific guidance for the country you’re in.

If you feel more comfortable, you can carry a face covering exempt card. You can download and print one free of charge here. The second and third cards under the heading, 'Learning disability cards' are suitable for anyone with Parkinson's who cannot wear a face covering.

Can I form a support bubble, or extended household?

Support bubbles and extended households are intended to help you if you’re lonely and feeling isolated, or if you need to care for or support someone else. You should take particular care when deciding whether to form a support bubble, or extending your household, and any implications this may have on your health. 

Support bubbles or extended households must be exclusive.  If you decide to form a bubble or extended household, you can only join one household. You and that household must not extend with anyone else. You must not change this arrangement. 

In England and Northern Ireland, if you live by yourself or are a single parent with dependent children, you can form a support bubble with one other household of any size.

In Scotland, if you live by yourself or are a single parent with dependent children, you can extend your household with one other person or single person with dependent children. If you have a partner who does not live with you, you can also form an extended household with them, even if neither of you lives alone or only with children under 18.

In Wales, any household can join with one other household to form an extended household. 

If you meet the criteria and have Parkinson’s, the government states you can form a support bubble or extend your household. In England, people who are shielding can form a support bubble if you’d like to. Similarly, in Wales, people who are shielding can now be part of an extended household if you’d like to. In Scotland, people who are shielding and who live alone, or only with children under 18, can form an extended household.

Forming a support bubble, or extending with another household, means you can meet – indoors or out – and be closer than 2 metres apart. You can also stay overnight as if you lived with that household. 

Shielding measures for people who are extremely vulnerable

Strict shielding measures for people in the UK classed as extremely vulnerable were introduced in March. Shielding is for people at very high risk of severe illness and hospital admission from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition. If you need to shield, you will have been contacted by the NHS. Only people who were advised by the NHS had to take this precaution.

Guidance is changing across the UK. And countries are starting to adjust their recommendations for people who’ve been advised to shield.

Across the UK people who’ve been following shielding advice should still stay at home as much as possible. Because disease levels are much lower now than when shielding was first introduced, you can now go outdoors with someone you live with. 

In Scotland, people who are shielding should continue to stay at home as much as possible. You can visit some indoor places including shops and leisure venues and use public transport with a face covering. Outdoors, you can also meet in a group of up to 15  people from another 4 households. Indoors, up to 8 people from another 2 households can meet, if you stay more than 2 metres apart. From 1 August, the advice to shield will be paused. If you live in Scotland and you're shielding, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland will write to you before 31 July explaining what you should do. If you are receiving free grocery boxes, these will no longer be provided after 31 July, but other support will remain in place.

In Northern Ireland from 31 July, if the rate of community transmission stays low, you will no longer need to shield. If you live in Northern Ireland, and you’re shielding, you will receive a letter with details of what the changes mean for you.

In England, you can meet in a group of up to 6 people from 6 July. You must stay outdoors, avoid gatherings, take extra care to maintain 2m distance from people you don’t live with, and practice good hygiene. From 1 August, the advice to shield will be paused. If you live in England and were advised to shield, you will receive a letter with details of what this pause means for you.

In Wales, if you’re shielding, you can meet people from another household and exercise outside. You must follow distancing and hygiene rules. From 16 August, advice to shield in Wales will be paused if the rate of community transmission remains low. The Chief Medical Officer for Wales will write to  you before this date with the information you need. If you are receiving food boxes because you are shielding, these will continue until 16 August. The volunteer medicine delivery scheme will continue until the end of September, and priority shopping slots will continue to be available for the time being.  

As Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England said at the announcement, “It is not just about what it is possible to do, it’s about what it is sensible to do. [...] it’s advisory as we keep saying, it is for individuals to choose.”

You may choose to remain at home if you do not feel comfortable with contact with others. Though time outside in the fresh air, when it's very quiet, is likely to make you feel better in yourself. Parkinson’s is different for everyone and we know that it’s a challenge to balance your mental health, physical health and social wellbeing. If you’re unsure or need to talk to someone, we’re here. Call our advisers on 0808 800 0303. 

I live with, or care for someone with Parkinson’s - what should I do?

If you’re caring for someone with Parkinson’s, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and reduce their risk. Ensure you follow advice including the following:

Self-isolate if you, or anyone, in your household has symptoms. This should be for a period of 10 days.

The person you live with, or care for, might like a booklet with information and support about Parkinson's and coronavirus. You can order a copy of this booklet, free of charge, here.

I volunteer with people with Parkinson’s - what should I do?

We’ve decided that now is not the time to restart any of our face-to-face charity activities. That includes everything we do, from Parkinson’s Cafes, to local groups, to home visits and external meetings. It’s the safe thing to do. We're looking at how to safely restart these activities and will update you as soon as we have a clear plan. 

We have a detailed article relating to volunteering during the outbreak on our volunteer portal, Assemble. If you’re a volunteer and haven’t yet joined us on Assemble, this guide shows you how to log in for the first time.

We know that support and friendship from group activities is important. We’re working with our volunteers and local networks to keep people connected.

Parkinson's and coronavirus (COVID-19)

I have Parkinson’s - am I more at risk of coronavirus and what precautions should I take?

If you have Parkinson's, you have no increased risk of getting coronavirus.

While the government has said people with Parkinson’s are more at risk of complications if they get coronavirus, the advice for people with Parkinson’s is the same as for anyone who is not advised to shield.

Why do people with Parkinson's have an increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus?

Parkinson’s can cause respiratory issues for some people. If you have advanced Parkinson’s or have lived with the condition for a long time, you’re more likely to have breathing and respiratory difficulties. Coronavirus affects your lungs and airways. This is why people with Parkinson's are described as being at greater risk of severe illness if they get coronavirus.

What are the symptoms?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) affects your lungs and airways. Normally, it starts with a fever and dry cough which can lead to a shortness of breath.

Be alert for the following symptoms

  • a high temperature – over 37.8 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, check if you feel hot to touch on your chest or back.
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing repeatedly for a long period.
  • sudden loss of smell or taste – while loss of smell can be an early symptom of Parkinson’s, it’s important to rule out coronavirus (COVID-19) before exploring other diagnoses.

If you, or someone you live with, experiences these symptoms, follow NHS guidance on how long you should stay at home and self-isolate for at least 10 days.

How might coronavirus affect Parkinson’s medication?

If you do become unwell with a virus of any kind, it’s important to keep taking the medication prescribed to you for Parkinson’s.

Our Clinical Director, Dr Donald Grosset, advises: “You should not suddenly stop taking your prescribed medication for Parkinson’s, as that can cause additional problems. However, missing a small number of doses – because of vomiting, for example – will not cause you harm.

“Follow the advice given to you by your health professional who might adjust your tablets or dose, depending on your condition.”

Support and self-isolation

I'm staying at home or isolating and I need practical help – what are you doing to support me?

We can support you to find practical help - locally. Please call our helpline

You can also read about how we’re fighting for you in this crisis, all over the UK.

    Staying up to date on coronavirus around the UK

    Coronavirus testing and contact tracing - what do I do?

    On 30 July, all 4 nations increased the recommended self-isolation period from 7 days, to 10 days. This means if you, or anyone, in your household has symptoms, you should isolate for 10 days.

    Each country in the UK has announced systems for coronavirus testing and contact tracing to control the spread of the virus.

    Testing and tracing means that, if you have symptoms, you can arrange a test. If your test comes back positive, you will be asked about who you’ve been in close contact with in the 2 days before, and 10 days after, developing symptoms. Close contact means: 

    • people you’ve spent 15 minutes or more with at a distance of less than 2 metres.
    • people you've had direct contact with - such as sexual partners, household members or people with whom you’ve had face-to-face conversations at a distance of less than 1 metre.

    Those people will be notified by phone, email, or text that they should isolate for 14 days. They won’t be told who they were in contact with who had the virus. 

    If you are notified that you may have been in contact with the virus, you must self-isolate for 14 days even if you do not have symptoms.

    How will I know if a notification is genuine?

    If you've been advised by one of the country testing and tracing services to isolate, please do so. Trace callers will never ask you for details that could put your privacy or finances at risk.

    The BBC have shared advice on how to avoid scams here.

    Where can I find up to date information and guidance?

    These sources reflect the most up-to-date information and will be updated as the situation progresses.

    Join our Facebook group

    Many people are feeling concerned or more anxious because of coronavirus. We know that some of the government advice means a lifestyle change. This group is a place to connect while you're spending less time with others. You don't have to have Parkinson’s to be part of this community. It’s for friends and family too.

    We're here for you

    We’re here for you throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Using our support tool, choose the topics that are important to you. We’ll show you the information that matters to you.

    What we’re speaking out on during the coronavirus crisis

    We’re supporting and sticking up for people with Parkinson’s. Here are some of the things we’re fighting for right now.