A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world.
Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
What are the signs and symptoms of this new virus?
The symptoms of this new coronavirus (COVID-19) include cough, fever, shortness of breath, or flu-like symptoms. The current evidence is that most cases appear to be mild.
What is the current risk level to the UK?
We have been working in close collaboration with international colleagues and the World Health Organisation to monitor the situation in China and around the world.
Based on the World Health Organization’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. This does not mean we think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed at this stage, but that government should plan for all eventualities.
How many cases do we have in the UK?
As of now, 29,764 people have been tested in the UK, of which 29,174 were confirmed negative and 590 were confirmed as positive. Eight patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.
The patients are receiving specialist NHS care, and we are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus. Experts at PHE continue to work hard tracing patient contacts from the UK cases.
What’s the current travel advice?
Find out the latest travel advice on the FCO’s guidance page.
How does this new coronavirus spread – You’re concerned you could catch it?
Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by cough droplets or sneeze droplets. These droplets fall on people in the vicinity and can be directly inhaled or picked up on the hands and transferred when someone touches their face.
How long any respiratory virus survives will depend on a number of factors; for example:
- what surface the virus is on
- whether it is exposed to sunlight
- differences in temperature and humidity
- exposure to cleaning products
Under most circumstances, the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surfaces is likely to have decreased significantly by 24 hours, and even more so by 48 hours.
Can the virus survive on cargo that has arrived from an affected area?
There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted from post, packages or parcels from China.
What can you do to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus?
There are things you can do to help stop germs like coronavirus spreading:
- always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel
- wash your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds each time with soap and water or hand sanitiser, especially when you:
- get home or into work
- blow your nose, sneeze or cough
- eat or handle food
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- avoid close contact with people who are unwell
Is hand sanitiser effective?
The best way to protect yourself from infections like coronavirus is to regularly wash your hands with soap and water. If soap or water aren’t available and your hands are visibly clean, then sanitiser gel can be used. But proper hand washing is the most effective method and this should be your first choice.
Should people avoid shaking hands?
We may get to a point where if we see more widespread infection we ask people to limit the social contact they have with each other.
This could include limiting everyday interaction, although we’re not there yet. What’s most important at the moment is that people practice good hand and respiratory hygiene and wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.
Should people wear face masks to protect themselves from infection?
Face masks play a very important role in clinical settings, such as hospitals but there’s very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of these clinical settings. Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly and disposed of safely in order to be effective.
If you live in the area where coronavirus patients are reported as coming from – Are you at extra risk?
We ensure that someone with coronavirus doesn’t put others at risk by treating them in isolation and carefully investigating who they had close contact with through contact tracing.
Contact tracing is a fundamental part of outbreak control that’s used by public health professionals around the world.
If a person tests positive for coronavirus, we speak to the patient to identify anyone who has who has had close contact with them during the time they are considered to be infectious and go all out to find these people as soon as possible.
Once we have contacted them we can then give them the advice they need. If they are in groups considered to be a higher risk, we make sure that we follow up with them daily to see how they are. If they become unwell we are then able to assess them quickly and take appropriate action.
What does self-isolation mean for people who don’t have symptoms?
If you have been asked to self-isolate because of your recent travel, but had no symptoms, make sure you report any cough, fever or shortness of breath to NHS111, telling them you are being asked to self-isolate because of coronavirus.
If you have been given a designated medical contact point, you can also call them for advice and they will talk you through the next steps.
Are you allowed to go out to the shops to get food? You need to collect medicine from the pharmacy, what should I do?
If you have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days, it is fine for friends or family to drop off food for you. Alternatively, you can order by phone or online, such as through takeaway services or online shopping deliveries. However, make sure you tell the delivery driver that the items are to be left outside, or as appropriate for your home.
If you need to carry out any other errands, such as collecting medicine from the pharmacy or taking your kids to school, ask friends, family members or anyone else who can provide support for their help.
Should you continue to attend or run sports events?
That there is presently no rationale to close or cancel sporting events, but this may change as the situation evolves.
- Anyone with flu-symptoms should avoid the risk of spreading their infection, whatever that infection may be, by staying at home and recovering.
- For those hosting sporting events, whatever their size, attendees and participants should stay up to date on the government’s latest advice on how to avoid catching or spreading the virus.
- For those travelling to sporting events overseas, the Foreign Office’s travel advice should be followed and travellers should note that apart from the countries and territories named in that advice, the government is not presently advising against travel to anywhere else.
- For those who offer community and leisure services, such as running a local football team; or running a gym; hand hygiene should be strongly promoted and encouraged and equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and wiped down after use. The government is planning to publish specific advice on this shortly.
- There is presently no reason people should stop doing their daily sport and physical activities as they normally would.
Can we test people for coronavirus and how does this work?
PHE is a world-leader in developing techniques to aid the public health investigation of infectious diseases. The UK is one of the countries outside China to have an assured testing capability test for this disease.
When a clinician suspects novel coronavirus, they take samples from the nose, throat and deeper respiratory tract and send them for laboratory testing.
Using the diagnostic test, scientists can look for evidence of the presence of any type of coronavirus and then hone in on specific genetic clues that identify the novel coronavirus associated with this outbreak.
PHE’s diagnostic test for coronavirus is being rolled out to 12 laboratories across the UK to accelerate the country’s testing capabilities. This increases testing capacity to more than 1,000 people a day for England.
What happens if you’re tested for novel coronavirus?
A doctor or nurse will swab your nose and throat if you need testing for the novel coronavirus. These samples are then safely transported to one of our labs. Testing starts when your sample reaches the lab; it takes 24-48 hours for testing to be done. Once the result is available, it is sent back to your doctor or nurse who will let you know the result and give you advice on what to do next.
How do we know if the virus is evolving?
PHE has used whole genome sequencing to sequence the viral genome from the first two positive cases in this country and has made the sequence available to the scientific community. Our findings are consistent with viral genomes sequenced in China, and we are not seeing changes that suggest the virus has evolved in the last month.
What advice are healthcare professionals being given?
Clinicians in primary and secondary care have already received advice from PHE, covering initial detection and investigation of possible cases, infection prevention and control, and clinical diagnostics.
A Central Alerting System (CAS) Alert will be issued by CMO, Medical Director PHE and Medical Director NHSE/I to frontline staff to increase awareness of the situation and actions to take if potential cases present. NHS England has developed an algorithm to support NHS 111 in identifying suspected potential cases.
Please mainitain proper hygience and your limit social contact.
Stay safe and protected.