COVID-19 early outbreak management (England)

Where to find information on how to report cases of coronavirus in your organisation

COVID-19 early outbreak management information has been created to make sure that people who run businesses or organisations:

  • know how to recognise and report an incident of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • are aware of measures local health protection teams may advise in order to contain it

This information is contained within ‘action cards’ that have been designed for specific situations where an outbreak could occur. This could be a restaurant or office, a construction site or a place of worship.

The action cards are designed to be downloaded or printed and kept on hand in your business or organisation. You should follow your local restrictions in accordance with government guidelines. There are 3 tiers and there are different rules depending on what tier an area is in.

How COVID-19 early outbreak management action cards help fight the virus

The action cards provide instructions to anyone responsible for a business or organisation on what to do in the event of one or more confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your organisation.

These quick-reference guides provide key steps to help you quickly identify, report and respond to any potential COVID-19 outbreak within your local community. A COVID-19 outbreak is more than one confirmed case of COVID-19. Depending on the type of organisation, this may also include ‘possible’ cases of COVID-19.

The action cards have been developed to cover a range of businesses and organisations to provide specific advice on the issues each type of organisation may face now lockdown restrictions have been eased.

They complement existing outbreak control guidance, and signpost to other useful information to help business owners and managers fully understand their responsibilities in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19.

To access more information refer to the guidance below or search the titles on GOV.UK:

When to use the early outbreak management action cards

If a confirmed case of COVID-19 has occurred in your business or organisation, go to the reporting an outbreak resource site to find the relevant type of organisation and follow the instructions on the action card. Depending on the type of organisation this may also include ‘possible’ cases of COVID-19, where coronavirus symptoms are present but a case has not been confirmed through testing.

The cards are designed to be printed or downloaded to keep on hand in your business or organisation.

Action cards by sector

Commercial workplaces

Download commercial workplace action cards for:

  • contact centres, offices and operations rooms

Consumer workplaces

Download consumer workplace action cards for:

  • dress fitters, tailors and fashion designers
  • hairdressing, barbershops, beauty and nail bars, makeup, and tattoo and spray tanning studios
  • shops and branches
  • spas, sports and massage therapy, well-being and holistic centres


Download education action cards for:

  • early-years settings
  • primary, secondary and special schools, and alternative provision for schools
  • residential settings in education
  • further education
  • higher education
  • children’s homes

Food and drink

Download food and drink action cards for:

  • food delivery, food to go and mobile catering
  • food truck, kiosks, stands and open-air markets
  • food contract catering
  • restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes and takeaways

Industrial workplaces

Download industrial workplace action cards for:

  • construction and outdoor work
  • laboratory and research facilities
  • manufacturing of food and other large processing plants
  • working in factories, plants, warehouses and waste management and storage sites
  • engineering and maintenance depots


Download institutions action cards for:

  • courts and tribunals
  • approved premises
  • armed forces and defence
  • detention and immigration removal centres
  • youth detention centres


Download residential workplace action cards for:

  • campsites and caravan parks
  • domestic abuse refuges
  • entertainment and holiday resorts
  • homelessness and rough sleeping accommodation
  • hotels and other guest accommodation

Small and large gatherings

Download small and large gatherings workplace action cards for:

  • arts, heritage and cultural venues
  • business event venues
  • children’s community activities, holiday clubs, after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school provision for children
  • cinemas, theatres, comedy venues and music venues
  • community activities and other hobby clubs
  • grassroots sports, gyms and leisure facilities
  • libraries
  • places of worship
  • sports grounds and venues
  • tourist attractions


Download travel action cards for:

  • airports, seaports, stations and terminals
  • harbours and marinas
  • ships, ferries, aircrafts and other vessels
  • taxis and private hire vehicles
  • trains, trams, tubes, buses and coaches

Early outbreak management action card example

What you can do to manage a possible outbreak


If you are informed about a potential case or cases, check whether they have had a test.

If tested negative and are well, they can return to work.

If tested positive, they must self-isolate for 10 days from the day they were tested.


Identify any close contacts of the confirmed case in your setting.

Remember, contact might occur in a car if car-sharing or in staff rooms on breaks. Talk to the case and make a full list.


Check your workspace. Refer to guidance on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19). This has practical steps to take and explains how you must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment for your organisation. You may want to redo your risk assessment.


There are some circumstances when your local PHE health protection team would like you to call them.

Symptoms check list

  • a high temperature – hot to touch on your chest or back (no need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means that it is different to normal

Identifying contacts

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 2 days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms. For example, a contact in the workplace can be:

  • a person who has had face-to-face contact (within 1 metre), with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including:
    • being coughed on
    • having a face-to-face conversation within 1 metre
    • having physical contact, or
    • contact within 1 metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for more than 15 minutes
  • a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive

When to call your local health protection team

You should call your local health protection team if:

you’ve identified as many as 5 cases in your setting over a 2 week period and not had public health support (see individual business action cards for further guidance)

  • you’ve taken the action outlined but are still seeing more cases
  • you’re thinking you might need to close because of the number of people affected
  • somebody in your workplace has been admitted to hospital
  • you’re getting significant interest from local media

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