The risk to the UK public posed by the new coronavirus has been raised from low to moderate by chief medical officers, although they stress the risk to individuals remains low.
Both the NHS and World Health Organisation (WHO) have issued guidance on how to protect yourself and others from getting the disease, now officially named COVID-19 – CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year it emerged.
Wash your hands
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water – or a hand sanitiser gel as an alternative – will remove viruses and bacteria from your hands.
Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands
If you have a virus and you sneeze or cough into your hands, the droplets in your sneeze or cough then contaminate your hands, and you will then contaminate objects or people that you touch.
You are advised to instead cover your mouth with a tissue or your sleeve, or to cough or sneeze into a flexed elbow.
Tissues should be discarded immediately into a closed bin and hands cleaned with soap and water or a hand sanitiser gel.
Keep your distance
Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
The WHO recommends maintaining at least one metre (three feet) between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus if an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Your hands may touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus.
If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.
Take care with animals or animal products when visiting markets
The WHO recommends regular hand washing with soap and water after touching animals and animal products when visiting markets, as well as to avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
They also say to avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products and to avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids.
Avoiding consumption of raw or undercooked animal products is also recommended, as well as following good food safety practices.
However, at present, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with coronavirus.
Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets to protect against common bacteria.
What if you’ve travelled to China?
The Foreign Office is advising against all travel to China’s Hubei province due to the outbreak.
They are also advising against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China, not including Hong Kong and Macau.
If you have been to Hubei province in the last two weeks, even if you do not have symptoms, you are advised to call 111.
You are also advised to call 111 if you have been to other parts of China – including Hong Kong and Macau – or Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Republic of Korea or Malaysia in the last 14 days, and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath, even if it’s mild.
You should also call 111 if you have been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus.
If any of the above applies to you, do not go to a GP surgery or hospital.
Stay indoors and avoid close contact with other people.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The disease caused by coronavirus has now been named COVID-19.
Its main symptoms are:
- A cough
- A high temperature
- Shortness of breath
There is not yet a specific treatment for COVID-19, although scientists are working on a vaccine.