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All your coronavirus questions, answered

PUBLISHED: 19:25 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 20:58 17 March 2020

A woman walks along Princes Street in a mask  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A woman walks along Princes Street in a mask Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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We asked you for you coronavirus questions – and here we have answered as many as we can.

A sign with information about Coronavirus on a business in Ipswich  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNA sign with information about Coronavirus on a business in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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. It is believed to have first emerged at a live animal market in December 2019.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

• Find out more in our Suffolk Coronavirus Updates Facebook group

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.

READ MORE: All our coronavirus stories on one place

Businesses are suffering with most people staying at home.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNBusinesses are suffering with most people staying at home. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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 affected at any one time

• 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”

READ MORE: What pools, gyms and tourism spots are closed due to coronavirus?

Can coronavirus be transmitted back to animals?

The Town Hall  in Ipswich has been closed in response to coronavirus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe Town Hall in Ipswich has been closed in response to coronavirus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A dog in Hong Kong tested positive for a ‘low-level infection’ of the new coronavirus in early March, but the WHO says there is currently no evidence that pets can actually get sick from the virus or pass it to people or other animals. On March 5, WHO technical consultant Maria Van Kerkhove said: “We don’t believe that this is a major driver of transmission. It’s only one example and so of course it deserves much more study.”

How long is this going to go on for?

At this point the WHO and the UK government do not have a timeline for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, however Boris Johnson warned on March 12 that this “will go on for many more months”.

Is it really worse than the flu? Will I die if I get it?

Independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact says it is difficult to compare this coronavirus and influenza as there is still a limited number of coronavirus cases. Estimates of the fatality rate for coronavirus are between 1% and 2%, but older people and those with existing health problems have a higher chance of death if they catch coronavirus. On their website, reporter Pippa Allen-Kinross says: “Based on current evidence, Covid-19 has the potential to kill more people and cause more hospitalisations than seasonal influenzas. However, it hasn’t done so yet, because so far it hasn’t spread as widely as seasonal flu.”
Why is everyone buying antibacterial soap when coronavirus is a virus and not a bacteria?
While coronavirus is a virus, not a bacteria, the structure of the virus is held together by something called a ‘lipid-bi layer’ - which is like a thin layer of fat. Soap breaks that layer of fat down, causing the virus to break apart. Pall Thordarson, a professor of chemistry at the University of New South Wales, wrote in The Guardian: “Because the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. Soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies – or rather, we should say it becomes inactive.”

Prof Thordarson added: “You can’t, even for a million dollars, get a drug for the coronavirus – but your grandmother’s bar of soap kills the virus.”

How can you differentiate between the symptoms of a common cold/flu and coronavirus?

Many symptoms are the same as a common cold, including a fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Cold symptoms such as sneezing, aches and pains and runny nose are less common for those with coronavirus, although they are possible. Government advice is if you exhibit minor symptoms of a common cold you should still self-isolate for 14 days, visit the NHS 111 website for coronavirus advice and establish if you need to be tested for the virus.

Rushmere Pharmacy on Woodbridge Road, Ipswich  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNRushmere Pharmacy on Woodbridge Road, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Why can’t I know where the confirmed cases are?

The Department for Health and Social Care are only specifying where cases are in the UK down to county level so people and places are not stigmatised or abused for being associated with coronavirus.

This information is not being held by Suffolk County Council, Essex County Council or any other district or borough councils.

When will West Suffolk tell the public they have a case?

The specific locations of cases are not being released by The Department for Health and Social Care or Public Health England to avoid any stigma being attached to a person or place.

West Suffolk Hospital are not obliged to announce when they are treating a case of coronavirus but other hospitals have announced they have patients with the disease, such as Addenbrookes in Cambridgeshire.

I’ve got a holiday in July, do I need to cancel it?

On March 17 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all but essential travel for at least 30 days from the UK to any other country. The measure could be extended depending on the extent of the coronavirus pandemic in a months’ time. On the FCO website, it says: “As countries respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.”

The advice is to contact any airlines, travel companies, cruise lines or other transport to cancel plans, contact insurance providers and continue following NHS coronavirus guidance.

Will we run out of food if everyone keeps panic buying?

The UK does not have a shortage of food, but panic buying is regularly leaving shelves across the country empty due to unprecedented demand in a short space of time.

Shelves will be restocked, however empty shelves can leave foodbanks with no supermarket donations, causing those to run out of food. Read more about the impact on foodbanks here.

Which supermarkets are limiting what you can buy?

Each supermarket chain is imposing different restrictions on different products.

You could only ever buy two packets each of paracetamol and ibuprofen at a time but now there are restrictions on other items.

The BBC have reported that Waitrose has introduced a temporary cap on some items on its website, including some anti-bacterial soaps and wipes.

Signs have been seen on social media that Tesco stores are restricting shoppers to no more than five of any particular items.

Can I go to my GP, opticians or dentist – or should I avoid these places?

If you fall into the high-risk categories identified by the government – the over-70s and those with respiratory health conditions or long-term ailments such as diabetes – government advice says you should practice social distancing and isolate yourself for 12 weeks where possible. You should also self-isolate if you present with any symptoms of the coronavirus. Those under the age of 70 are also advised to carry out social distancing where possible. Individual opticians and dentists will advise patients on whether to attend.

Should I still go to work, and mix with people, if someone in my house has got the virus but I don’t seem to?

As of March 16, anyone in the UK living with someone presenting with symptoms of coronavirus should self-isolate for 14 days and avoid all but essential social contact. Where possible, ask neighbours or family members to carry out errands such as shopping or collecting medication for you, and try to avoid leaving your house for any reason other than exercise. In a statement on gov.uk, it says: “You and all household members should remain at home. Do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis. If possible, you should not go out even to buy food or other essentials, other than exercise, and in that case at a safe distance from others.”

Are are they only testing people who have been out of the country, in contact with a confirmed case or need admitting to hospital?

As of March 13, the NHS are only testing those who have been to certain countries within a particular space of time or those who have been in close contact with those known to have the coronavirus. You can take the online test to see if you need to contact NHS 111 here.

In a statement on the NHS website, it says: “Approximately 1,500 tests are being processed every day at PHE labs with the great majority of tests being turned around within 24 hours. PHE has processed over 25,000 tests as of 10 March and has not exceeded capacity during this time. As more people come forward to be tested, the NHS is now scaling up tests by 500%, with NHS England asking expert NHS laboratory services across the country to bring new capacity online, and other labs to begin checks, enabling 8,000 more samples to be analysed every day of the week.”

Will the first person who gets it (before they transfer it to someone else) have worse symptoms?

There is no reports from the NHS or statement from Public Health England of symptoms becoming more mild as coronavirus spreads from person to person.

Is it true that a person could have the virus, be asymptomatic and spread it to others by contact with them?

In a report in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it says most people who develop symptoms do so on or around day five of the coronavirus infection. Anyone who is symptom-free by day 12 is unlikely to get symptoms, but they may still be infectious carriers. The researchers advises people who could be infectious - whether they have symptoms or not - to self-isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading it to others.

Will minor operations be cancelled?

In an announcement from NHS England on March 17, all non-emergency operations for three months from April 15 are being postponed. It is at the discretion of hospital trusts to decide when operations will begin being postponed in the run-up to April 15. NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said the move allowed NHS England to prepare for “the likely influx of more coronavirus patients”. It is understood cancer operations will still go ahead.

Are face masks any use if I want to avoid catching the virus?

England’s deputy chief medical office, Dr Jenny Harries, said it is “not a good idea” for the average member of the public to put on a face mask unless they have been advised to by a healthcare worker.

Speaking to BBC News on Thursday, she warned the virus could even become trapped in face masks, resulting in the wearer breathing it in.

Will wearing a face mask make me less likely to infect other people if I have coronavirus?

Dr Harries added people should wear masks when they are advised to by healthcare workers, particularly if they have tested positive for Covid-19, as it can “prevent any virus from coming out”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if they are taking care of a person with a suspected coronavirus infection.

How much alcohol does there need to be in the hand sanitiser gel for it to work?

According to factcheckers Full Fact, hand sanitisers with 60% alcohol content and above are effective against viruses, such as the new coronavirus, but soap and water is the best option. Misinformation has reportedly been seen suggesting spirits such as gin or vodka could be used as an alternative, but this is not recommended by the NHS or Public Health England.

Will coronavirus develop a resistance to hand sanitiser?

According to the World Health Organisation there is no reported or likely resistance to alcohol-based sanitisers. It says that the more it is appropriately used, the less antibiotic-resistant bacteria are able to spread.

I have a pre-existing health condition – am I more vulnerable to the virus?

According to the NHS, Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer, cystic fibrosis and chronic lung disease, however this is not an exhaustive list.

If you have a long-term health condition or you are an older person, the NHS recommends taking extra steps such as ordering food and medicines to your home, avoiding crowds and distancing yourself from other people physically where possible.

If I’m pregnant and I get coronavirus, is my baby at risk?

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to coronavirus than anyone else. There is little evidence of the effects, but it is expected pregnant women will only experience mild to moderate cold or flu symptoms. There is no evidence to show the virus can pass from a mother to their baby and no reported deaths of pregnant women from coronavirus.

On March 14, newspapers in the UK reported a mother and newborn baby had tested positive for coronavirus. It was not established if the baby contracted the virus during the birth or while in the womb.

My child has health conditions that makes them ‘high-risk’, should I continue sending them to school?

Those with existing health conditions making them vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus or those over 70 are expected to be asked to self-isolate in coming weeks, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock on March 15. This is not yet government advice. On March 14, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Geoff Barton, said UK schools should not be held accountable for their attendance figures amid pupil absences. As of March 16, government advice is that schools should remain open unless otherwise instructed.

Will my child be able to sit their GCSEs or A-levels?

On March 6, independent exam watchdog Ofqual said: “We recognise that students, parents, schools and colleges will be concerned about the possible impact of coronavirus on the 2020 summer exam series. Our advice at this time is to continue to prepare for exams and other assessments as normal. We continue to work closely with exam boards, other regulators and the Department for Education and we have met to plan for a range of scenarios, as the public would expect. Our overriding priorities are fairness to students this summer and keeping disruption to a minimum.”

Where can I see if my child’s school has been closed?

All school closures are listed on this website for Suffolk and this website for Essex.

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.”

What is happening to Ipswich Town’s games? Will I still be able to watch them at Portman Road?

The EFL decided on March 13 to cancel all football matches in League Two, League One and the Championship until April 3 at the earliest.

Will I get a refund on any of my tickets? What if I’m a season ticket holder?

Ipswich Town are offering a refund on tickets sold for their two games which have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What events have been cancelled?

Several local and national events have been cancelled so far. The Essex International Jamboree, due to take place in August, has been cancelled, as well as the Women’s Tour cycle series.

All football in England has been postponed until April 3 at the earliest.


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