Coronaviruses (CoV) are a group of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.
COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a novel coronavirus which hasn’t been previously identified in humans. It can affect your lungs and airways. There have been tens of thousands of coronavirus cases reported in the UK.
You may feel some anxiety and stress about COVID-19 due to news reporting on the outbreak. It’s important to stay calm and follow official advice to protect yourself from getting infected. You can stay up to date with the latest information about COVID-19 on the GOV.UK website.
COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, where the first case was reported in late December, 2019. The spread of the virus increased quickly and reached other countries due to international travel. Public health officials around the world have put in measures to fight the spread of the virus.
As of 23rd March, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises British people travelling abroad to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available. If you are travelling abroad, you should contact your airline or travel company and keep up-to-date with the official government travel advice. The FCO advises against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect on 17th March and applies for 30 days.
The most common symptoms of coronavirus are a new, continuous cough and a high temperature.
If you have symptoms, you should continue to stay at home. To protect others, you should not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
The most common symptoms of coronavirus include:
Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms can be similar to other illnesses such as cold and flu. However, these symptoms may progress into pneumonia as the virus blends into a nasal fluid that enters the trachea and lungs, causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
At-risk groups such as the elderly, those with weakened immune systems and those suffering from chronic or long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease, can experience more severe symptoms.
If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.
If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.
It is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community.
If you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period.
If you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible.
If you have a high temperature or a new continuous cough, you should stay at home. You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you're staying at home. If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, your condition gets worse or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, use the online NHS 111 coronavirus service. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.
Do not go to a GP, pharmacy or hospital.
Typically, you may be at risk of contracting the virus if:
You may be at high risk of coronavirus if you:
COVID-19 is a new virus and a vaccination has yet to be found. As it is a viral infection, antibiotics will not work to treat it.
Those infected with the coronavirus may not require treatment if they experience mild or no symptoms. However, those infected should self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days.
In severe cases of COVID-19, treatment includes care at a hospital which focuses on supporting the patient through the illness whilst their immune system works to fight the virus.
In the UK, more than 44,000 people have been tested for coronavirus. People who are self-isolating with mild symptoms are no longer being tested. Tests are primarily being given to hospital patients with respiratory problems, and vulnerable individuals in residential or care facilities experiencing outbreaks.
As of 23rd March, the government has introduced new measures requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes, stopping all non-essential shops and community spaces, and stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.
Every citizen must comply with these new measures. Relevant authorities, including the police, will be given powers to enforce them. This includes through fines and dispersing gatherings.
You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:
It’s important to note that these four reasons are exceptions – even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
These measures must be followed by everyone.
The government has ordered certain businesses to close to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include:
To make sure people are staying at home and away from each other, they are stopping public gatherings of more than two people. This includes weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family.
There are two exceptions to this rule: The gathering is of a group of people who live together, e.g. a parent can take their children to the supermarket if there is no option to leave them at home The gathering is essential for work purposes – but workers should try to minimise all meetings and gatherings in the workplace
Registered childcare providers (including nurseries and childminders), primary and secondary schools and further education colleges are closed for most children as of 20th March. This includes both state-funded and independent schools.
The majority of educational settings will remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable children. There is no requirement to send your children to school during this time if you do not need or wish to.
As COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a new virus strain, it is not completely certain how it is spread. However, it is believed to be spread in a similar way to other viruses, through airborne cough droplets. When someone infected coughs or sneezes, the virus may be spread about one metre before the droplet hits the ground and is no longer airborne. Tests have shown that the coronavirus may last on some surfaces for as long as 3 days.
Precautions you can take in order to protect yourself from coronavirus and prevent it from spreading further include:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has provided some guidance about face masks and their effectiveness. You should only wear a face mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms or are taking care of someone with a suspected case of COVID-19. There is a world-wide shortage of masks and the World Health Organization (WHO) urges people to use masks wisely. Face masks are essential for those working in hospitals who are caring for COVID-19 patients.
Masks are only effective if you understand how to properly use and dispose of them. You can wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Make sure to use soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub to clean your hands before wearing a mask and after disposing of it. Avoid touching your mask and dispose of it as soon as it gets wet.
There is a world-wide shortage of masks and the World Health Organization (WHO) urges people to use masks wisely.