Updated 23rd June 2020
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the city.
What are the symptoms?
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, anosmia, and breathing difficulties. Symptoms can be more severe, and infection can sometimes cause pneumonia or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
What if I am showing symptoms?
If you are showing any symptoms and you think you might have coronavirus or you’ve been in close contact with someone who has it:
- stay at home for seven days if you live alone, or self-isolate your entire household for 14 days
- avoid close contact with other people
- do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
- use the online 111 coronavirus service to find out what to do next. Only call 111 if you are unable to get help online
What is the latest national advice?
The latest advice is for everyone to stay at home as much as possible, and only go outside to buy food, medication, to do exercise, for health reasons, or essential work.
‘At risk’ groups
The NHS continues to release new guidance about the ‘at risk’ groups. Currently the advice suggests that people in the following groups are particularly at risk:
- aged 70 or older
- under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (i.e. anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds):
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS,or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
- those who are pregnant
Shielding advice for high-risk groups
Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.
The government has advised that from 6th July, those who are shielding will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six people they do not live with, while maintaining strict social distancing. People who are shielding who live alone or in a single-parent household will also be allowed to create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household, following the same rules that apply to the public now. If you are in one of the high-risk groups, please follow the government guidance. If you are still unsure if you should be shielding, you can find more guidance for patients here.
There are some clinical conditions that put people at an even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. People falling into this group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:
- People who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication.
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
- People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment.
- People with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets).
- People with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis).
If you are in this category, the NHS will contact you directly with advice on the more stringent measures you should take in order to keep yourself and others safe.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
You should also:
- speak to your healthcare practitioner if you have any concerns regarding your medication
- use the online 111 coronavirus service if you are worried about your health or the possibility of having coronavirus. Only call 111 if you are unable to get help online
- request a test if you have developed a new cough, fever, or are experiencing a loss of taste or smell. You can request a test through the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test
Key websites and links
The following websites provide further information on the outbreak and how to protect yourself:
- NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do: https://111.nhs.uk/service/covid-19 (available in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales)
- Public Health England has a blog on the virus which they are updating very regularly: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/
From the Government website
- Information for the public: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
- Staying alert guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing
Information about coronavirus