This page contains useful information, advice, and news on the current coronavirus pandemic. It will be updated regularly with the latest medical and governmental advice as it happens.
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a new and highly contagious disease. It is part of the coronavirus family of viruses. These usually cause diseases in animals, but seven viruses, including COVID-19, have changed and can now infect humans too.
Other coronaviruses include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
COVID-19 is thought to have originated in an animal market in Wuhan, China. The virus mainly spreads through droplets of saliva or nasal mucus when someone sneezes or coughs.
When these droplets land on surfaces, they can be picked up and transferred to someone else when they touch their hands, nose, mouth or eyes.
Consequently, it’s important that people protect themselves by washing their hands regularly and frequently with soap and hot water, or with hand sanitiser.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu. According to the NHS, common symptoms include:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- High temperature
- Continuous dry cough
- Loss or change of smell or taste
Mild symptoms of coronavirus include:
- Aches and pains
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Rare symptoms of the virus include:
- Runny nose
If you or a loved one experiences a high temperature or a new, persistent cough, self-isolate immediately. Do not visit your GP, pharmacy, or hospital. Remain indoors and contact NHS 111 to be told how to proceed.
How long does it take for coronavirus symptoms to appear?
The period of time it takes for coronavirus symptoms to appear after actually contracting the virus is known as the “incubation period”. While it is not known for certain, most estimates range from 1-14 days for symptoms to appear. However, the most common cases feature an incubation period of around five days.
It should be noted that not everyone who contracts COVID-19 displays symptoms.
Can I leave the house during the coronavirus lockdown?
Current governmental and medical advice on coronavirus prevention is that the general public should stay alert to control the virus. This means:
- Staying home as much as possible.
- Working from home where possible.
- Limiting contact with other people.
- Staying at least 2 metres apart from people not in your household and where you can’t, try and apply the 1 metre plus rule.
- Washing your hands regularly.
However, several restrictions have eased, and you can now do any of the following:
- Support bubbles: if you live alone, are a single parent with dependent children, or live in a household with only one adult, you can form a ‘support bubble’ with another similar household. You can stay over each other’s houses and not follow social distancing rules. You may only have one support bubble per household.
- Shop for any kind of item.
- Attend school: this only applies to some school years and children of key workers.
- Exercise: as many times a day and with up to six people from different households, providing you do not use indoor facilities and follow social distancing.
- Socialise outdoors: with anyone from your support bubble or up to six people from different households, provided social distancing rules are observed.
- Medical reasons: delivering medicine or care to someone in need, to escape harm or injury in your own house, or to donate blood.
- Visit libraries, places of worship, community centres, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms.
- Access a critical public service, such as social services, victim support, to fulfill a legal obligation, Department for Work and Pensions services, or to move home in line with the government’s official guidance.
- Travel to and from work, but only if you are unable to work from home.
- Visit restaurants, pubs, cinemas, visitor attractions, hotels, campsites, garden centres, and other selected businesses and venues.
- Stay overnight away from your own home, with members of your household or support bubble, or with people from one other household.
Whenever you leave the house, you must practise social distancing. This means ensuring you are at least two metres apart from anyone who you do not already live with.
The government also advises wearing face coverings if you are in an enclosed space for a short period of time. This is mandatory for anyone using public transport. Face coverings can reduce the spread of coronavirus in these instances. Learn how to make your own face coverings here.
Handwashing and coronavirus
Official coronavirus advice also recommends washing your hands regularly and frequently with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. This is roughly as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” out loud twice.
Wash your hands as soon as you get home after being outside.
Always cough or sneeze into a tissue, covering your mouth and nose as you do so. Dispose of the tissue immediately afterward and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow crease instead.
If your hands are not clean, do not touch your face.
How long does coronavirus live on surfaces?
Coronavirus can survive on different surfaces for different amounts of time.
While it is not known for sure exactly how long COVID-19 can live on surfaces, studies suggest that they can survive anywhere between a few hours to several days. This time can vary depending on the type of surface, temperature, humidity, and so on.
It is therefore recommended that you clean any potentially contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant. After cleaning a surface, do not touch your face and wash your hands with hot, soapy water or hand sanitiser.