Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is coronavirus and should I be concerned?

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 most common symptoms of this new coronavirus (COVID-19) are a new continuous cough and/or high temperature. Some people may also experience muscle aches, tiredness and shortness of breath.

How does this new coronavirus spread?

The main route of transmission is from cough and 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.

Am I allowed to leave my house?

In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), you should only leave your home for the following essential purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household;
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

Restaurants, pubs, non-essential shops and other businesses have closed. Essential businesses such as food shops and pharmacies remain open.

You should not meet up with friends or family members who don’t live in your house.

If someone in your household has symptoms of coronavirus (a new continuous cough or high temperature), you should all stay inside the house for 14 days. Ask someone else to pick up supplies for you and leave them outside.

Read the full guidance on staying at home and away from others.

What else can I do to make sure I don’t catch coronavirus?

In addition to reducing your contact with other people, 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

Read more in our blog about some of the other simple and effective actions everyone can take to protect themselves and their wider community.

How many cases do we have in the UK?

As of 9am 1 April, a total of 152,979 people have been tested of which 29,474 tested positive. As of 5pm on 31 March, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 2,352 have sadly died.

We will update these figures daily.

Will everyone who has symptoms get tested?

As we have now moved into the delay phase of the outbreak, we will start to change who gets tested. We now understand that the virus is widely circulating in the community which means that we should assume that anyone with symptoms has coronavirus.

We are working to increase the number of tests to 25,000 a day. This increased capacity is expected to be ready by the end of April.

Older and vulnerable groups will be prioritised, to ensure that they access the right treatment and care quickly. People who are generally well will not be tested and should manage their condition at home.

Can I travel abroad?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) now advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice took effect on 17 March applies initially for a period of 30 days.

Read the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s travel advice page for more information.

Will I still be told if I’ve come into contact with someone who has coronavirus?

In the contain phase of the outbreak, we were identifying all cases, tracing their contacts and following up with them to determine their level of risk and giving them advice and information on what to do should they become unwell

Now, because the virus is more widespread, we will not necessarily be able to determine where someone has contracted the virus and we will have a more targeted approach to contact tracing.

The targeted approach will likely include tracing close contacts of vulnerable people. For example, those in care homes or other institutions.

If you think you have been in contact with someone who has the virus, you no longer need to take action, unless you start to feel unwell yourself.

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 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.

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.