Coronavirus: Where is it, what to do, when will it reach Suffolk?
PUBLISHED: 15:27 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:27 03 March 2020
Your questions answered – everything you need to know about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in one story.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name for the form of coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, a city in China's Hubei province, believed to have first emerged at a live animal market in December 2019. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. It 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.
How many cases are there?
As of March 3 there are 51 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
There are no cases in Suffolk but one case confirmed in Harlow, Essex. More than 13,000 people have been tested.
Worldwide, there are more than 90,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,000 deaths, the majority of them in China. South Korea, Iran and Italy also have more than 2,000 cases.
Daily updates with UK figures are released about 2pm by the Department of Health and Social Care.
How does coronavirus spread?
The NHS says because this is a new form of coronavirus, it is not exactly clear how the virus spreads from person to person.
Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. The NHS says it is very unlikely it can be spread through things like packages or food. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for long periods of time.
What is the worst case scenario?
The government published their coronavirus action plan on March 3, which detailed the worst possible situations that could arise as a result of coronavirus. Key points from the report and a speech given by Boris Johnson when it was announced were:
- In a "stretching scenario", it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks
- If the virus takes hold then school closures, encouraging greater home working and a reduction in the number of large scale gatherings could be seen
- This strain of coronavirus is new and people have a lack of immunity to it, meaning "Covid-19 has the potential to spread extensively"
- There could be an "increase in deaths arising from the outbreak, particularly among vulnerable and elderly groups"
- If police lose "significant staff" numbers to illness, they would "concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order"
How can I avoid catching coronavirus?
The spread of the virus can be delayed with thorough personal hygiene, including regular hand washing with soap. While it is not thought to be a common form of transmission, reducing physical contact is another way to restrict the spread of coronavirus.
How can I tell if I have coronavirus?
According to the NHS, coronavirus symptoms include a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath. These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have coronavirus as the symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
What should I do if I think I have coronavirus?
You can take the NHS 111 Online service test to see if you could potentially have coronavirus. If you are advised by the NHS that you may have coronavirus, you should self-isolate for up to 14 days.
What is self-isolating?
This involves remaining indoors and avoiding contact with other people to prevent the spread of the disease. Public Health England advice says those self-isolating should:
- Stay at home
- Not go to work, school or public areas
- Not use public transport like buses, trains, tubes or taxis
- Avoid visitors to your home
- Ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands like getting groceries, medications or other shopping
You should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital unless instructed.
Will I get paid if I self-isolate?
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offer advice to employers and employees regarding coronavirus.
In a statement on the ACAS website, it says: "The workplace's usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus. Employees should let their employer know as soon as possible if they're not able to go to work. The employer might need to make allowances if their workplace sickness policy requires evidence from the employee. For example, the employee might not be able to get a sick note ('fit note') if they've been told to self-isolate for 14 days."
However, there are different rules for sick pay regarding self-isolation without a confirmed case of coronavirus. The statement continues: "There's no legal right to pay if someone is not sick but cannot work because they have been told by a medical expert to self-isolate, have had to go into quarantine or are abroad in an affected area and are not allowed to travel back to the UK. But it's good practice for their employer to treat it as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday. Otherwise there's a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid. They could then spread the virus, if they have it."
Do I need to self-isolate?
You can take the NHS 111 Online service test to see if you should self-isolate. If you have been identified as being in close contact with someone with coronavirus or you ware waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test, you should enter or remain in self-isolation. Travellers returning from these places, even without symptoms, should enter self-isolation:
- Hubei province in China in the last 14 days
- Iran since February 19
- Lockdown areas in northern Italy since February 19
- Special care zones in South Korea since February 19
Travellers returning from these places, presenting with a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath, should also self-isolate:
- Other parts of mainland China or South Korea in the last 14 days
- Hong Kong in the last 14 days
- Japan in the last 14 days
- Macau in the last 14 days
- Malaysia in the last 14 days
- Singapore in the last 14 days
- Taiwan in the last 14 days
- Thailand in the last 14 days
- Other parts of northern Italy (anywhere north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini) since February 19
- Cambodia since February 19
- Laos since February 19
- Myanmar since February 19
- Vietnam since February 19