Conditions

Coronavirus: What you need to know!

At the end of 2019, a new strain of coronavirus1 was discovered in the Wuhan province of China which has been officially named Covid-19. The virus attacks the upper respiratory tract and causes severe breathing difficulty in vulnerable patients.

People who travelled to affected regions were advised to self quarantine, avoid crowds and up their personal hygiene by washing their hands regularly.

Just as authorities in China managed to grasp the epidemic, cases of Covid-19 began to crop up across Europe and Asia, with Italy and South Korea being two of the worst affected countries. As cases continued to pop up across the western world, governments and health organisations began to firmly push the mantra of washing your hands regularly and exemplifying personal hygiene.

In the UK, business carried on as usual. As cases grew, the emphasis on hygiene became paramount as the British government fought to contain the virus to prevent its spread, but to no avail. By the 10th of March, the death toll in the UK reached double figures.

On the 13th of March, the UK government announced that it would be moving into the second stage in the fight against the virus - from contain to delay, marking the acceptance that the virus will run rampant throughout the United Kingdom.

In a macabre press announcement, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, said "...and I must level with you, level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time." after calling Covid-19 the "worst public health crisis for a generation."

On March the 23rd, the prime minister addressed to the nation stricter measures to prevent the spread of the virus. He gave a clear instruction saying "From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home." Despite the government saying the restrictions will be reviewed after 3 weeks, it is not likely that the restrictions will be lifted.

These stricter measures were put in place after much of the British public ignored previous warnings. Public spaces, including libraries and parks, were closed. All non-essential businesses and restaurants were to be shut. Mr Johnson urged everyone who is not a key worker to stay at home, adding that police will be granted powers to issue fines for people who fail to comply. You can read the full transcript of his speech here.

You are not allowed to leave your homes unless you are fetching food or medical supplies, exercising - which has been restricted to 1 hour per day alone or with another member of your household, or if you are an essential worker and are travelling to or from work. You are not to visit friends or family members outside of your household and if a friend or family member asks to come around, you must refuse their custom.

On March the 25th, it came to light that Prince Charles, aged 71, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, however that he was only showing mild symptoms and was otherwise in "good health", according to a statement from Buckingham Palace. After spending a week in isolation, he was starting to recover.

On March 27th, Boris Johnson tested positive for Covid-19 but was suffering mild symptoms. He self-isolated and chaired the morning coronavirus meetings from his home via video link. Despite his illness, he joined the nation in celebrating the efforts of the NHS from his doorstep for "#ClapForNHS".

Mr Johnson's condition didn't change after spending a week in isolation, resulting in him being admitted to hospital on Sunday the 5th of April. A day later, he was moved to an intensive care ward at St Thomas' hospital in London where he was given oxygen. As of April 27th, Boris Johnson has returned to Number 10 to resume his duties as Prime Minister.

The Queen addressed the nation in a televised speech on April the 5th about the ongoing outbreak and the importance of staying indoors. Queen Elizabeth II said in her speech:

"We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again." ~Queen Elizabeth II

On April 16th 2020, the british government announced that the lockdown would be extended by a further three weeks, as the number of new cases and deaths were still on the rise. It is currently not known when or how the lockdown will end - if the lockdown is eased too early, there is a risk that the number of cases will rise exponentially and overwhelm the NHS. There are fears a second spike might occur, similarly to what has happened recently in Hokkaido in the north of Japan, after they relax restrictions.

In Hokkaido, the state of emergency was lifted and restrictions were eased mid-march, after a drop in cases and deaths. Shortly after, new domestic cases of coronavirus were discovered, forcing the government to reintroduce the restrictions. There is concern from the british government that a similar situation would happen in the UK if they lessened social distancing rules.

So how will the government decide when they will be lift the lockdown? The lockdown will likely be lifted when the government are satisfied that the NHS will be able to cope with further infections. This includes ensuring that there is enough PPE for hospital staff, enough critical care staff and supplies to meet the demand, a marked decrease in the amount of cases and deaths which would indicate the peak of the infection has been reached, and that lifting the restriction will not cause an unmanageable influx in cases which excede demand. Some sources have said that the restrictions won't be completely lifted until a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed.

On Sunday the 10th of May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation in a pre-recorded televised speech with plans on easing the lockdown. The government's message changed from "Stay home. Save Lives. Protect the NHS." to "Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.", which many have called for it's ambiguity and confusing language. Regardless, the new message has been propelled into the public eye through advertising. In addition to the new slogan, Mr Johnson put in place new rules. Instead of suggesting everyone to stay home, he suggested those who cannot work from home, such as those who work in manufacturing, construction and similar industries, should return to work, adding that guidelines will be released for businesses to ensure that working environments are safe. However, he is still advising those who can work from home, such as those who work in offices, should continue to work from home.

From Wednesday, exercise will no longer be limited to 1 hour a day and you will be allowed to drive to a destination for a walk, cycle or to play sports with people from your household. He even actively encouraged people to walk or cycle to work if they can - which is an excellent inituitive. On the topic of transportation, travelling on public transport was discouraged, though not outruled so long as social distancing measures were in place and that appropriate PPE is worn.

Further changes to retail business have also been announced in a statement given on the 25th of May - outdoor markets, car showrooms and other businesses which have wide open spaces, making social distancing more easier to accomplish, will be able to resume business from June 1st. Other retail businesses will be able to open from the 15th of June, as long as efforts have been made to ensure the safety of their staff and patrons.

At the end of his statement, Boris Johnson said:

"We will only be successful if we all remember the basics - so wash your hands, keep social distance, and isolate if you have symptoms – and get a test."

On the 10th of June, restrictions were lifted further. Most noteably, persons who live alone can visit another household of a person who lives alone. This allows single parents and partners who live separately to meet up in each other's houses.

Important note: The changes to restrictions and guidance from government apply only to England. They do not apply to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Scotland have taken their first steps to exit lockdown, announcing that people can meet in parks and engage in recreational activities outdoors in groups less than 8 and with social distancing measures.

At the end of May, it was made illegal to visit houses of friends and family without probable cause. On the 10th of June, the prime minister announced that people who live alone can meet with another household to form a "social bubble". This new rule allows people who live alone to visit another household. For example, couples who live at different address can meet up in one another's house. The speed of this development shows that Britain is gradually moving towards some form of normality.

The government announced a new rating system which indicates the threat level of the virus in the UK. The rating system is based on the R number - which is the infection rate.

Many people are confused by the R rating, which is understandable. To put it simply, the R number is the amount of people who will become infected by someone who has the virus. Without appropriate measures, the infection rate is approximately 2. This means an infected individual is likely to infect 2 other people. Then those 2 newly infected people are likely to infect 2 more people, and so on and so on.

From Saturday the 4th of July, restrictions in England will be lifted further, allowing people from different households to meet up indoors. Non-essential businesses, such as small shops, barbers and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen so long as they put policies in place to prioritise the safety of their customers.

These new measures will not apply to Leicester due to a spike in coronavirus cases. Leicester has been placed in a local lockdown by the british government. While there is no certainty on whether more places will experience local lockdowns, it is a tactic which the government are looking at.

Greater Manchester became the second area in the UK to go into a local lockdown on the 31st of July, followed by Preston on Friday the 7th. The tightening of restrictions were due to a rise in cases, though some health officials have argued that the rise in cases could simply be down to the increased amount of testing.

With social distancing, staying home if you develop symptoms, wearing face masks and washing your hands regularly throughout the day, the rate of infection is reduced. The governemnt are aiming for an infection rate less than 1, meaning you are likely to infect fewer than 1 other person. Local R numbers may be different from the national average. Many factors can effect local R rates, such as the age and density of the population, access to healthcare and support, as well as how well people in the area are sticking to social distancing guidelines.

Key UK statistics:

Updated 17/08/20 10:23am

Total cases Death toll Recovered
318,484 41,366 N/A

An article published by the BBC has aggregated a number of predictions regarding the impact of the outbreak in the United Kingdom.

One prediction is that the number of cases of Covid-19 will completely overwhelm the NHS, exceeding the capacity as soon as May. 30% of cases are predicted to require hospitalisation, including intensive care.

Current models also suggest a further spike during the summer, even with measures such as social distancing and self-quarantine. Other models predict a resurgence in infection rates from October.

The BBC offers a sobering thought based on current measures and existing data saying "It is hoped [the death toll] could be limited to the thousands or tens of thousands."

As we now know, we have greatly surpassed this prediction.

In the UK, the mortality rate is predicted to be between 0.6% and 1% of the population. This equates to a death toll between 300,000 and 500,000 respectively.

As developments occur, we will update you with new predictions and statistics.

For updates on confirmed cases, death rates and recoveries of Covid-19, check this site.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

The symptoms of Covid-19 are similar to those of the flu.

It is recommended to self-quarantine2 and ring 111 if you have:

  • A high temperature
  • A newly developed, continuous cough
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste

You should not visit your GP, pharmacies or hospitals if you notice your symptoms. Instead, you should call the NHS' 111 service.

Who is more at risk of being affected by Covid-19?

Generally, people over the age of 70 are at an increased risk of being more severely affected by Covid-19.

Additionally, those of any age with an underlying health condition, such as asthma or diabetes are also at risk. If you receive an annual letter from your GP urging you to get a flu jab, you are considered at risk.

You are considered at an increased risk if you have:

  • Chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or COPD
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Chronic neurological conditions, such as parkinsons's
  • Diabetes
  • Problems with your spleen, such as sickle cell disease
  • A weakened immune system caused by HIV, AIDS, steroids or chemotherapy
  • A BMI above 40

 

Pregnant women are also seen at an increased risk of coronavirus. If you are pregnant and worried about your mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have some excellent tips on how you can look after your mental health here.

If you are unsure whether you are at risk of coronavirus, speak to your doctor for personal, practical advice.

From Monday the 23rd of March, at-risk individuals should have received letters from the NHS with specific advice on what to do to reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19.

Is Covid-19 just the flu?

There have been many comparisons made between Covid-19 and the flu, particularly in how contagious both viruses are.

Covid-19 is not "just the flu". Not only is Covid-19 a different virus, the symptoms are slightly different too. Assimilating Covid-19 as another strain of flu fails to comprehend the damage this new coronavirus threatens to the most vulnerable members of our society.

A key point to make is that, while influenza (flu) has a vaccine which is given to vulnerable patients, there is no vaccine for Covid-19. While a vaccine is in development for Covid-19, it is yet to become available to the public.

On a related note, coronavirus is less lethal3 than SARS or MERS, but has a much higher death toll4.

How does Covid-19 spread?

Covid-19 can be transmitted through a range of vectors, including physical contact, airborne particles and contact with contaminated surfaces.

You should exercise caution in public and avoid possibly contaminated surfaces, including handrails, buttons on traffic lights and elevators, public touchscreens - such as those seen in some fast food restaurants - door handles and other surfaces which may have come into physical contact with the infected.

It is advisable to always wash your hands after touching these contaminated surfaces, or use an alcohol based hand sanitiser.

Furthermore, you should refrain from sharing utensils and glassware to further reduce the spread of the virus.

Why is it important to wash your hands?

Washing your hands with soap and water can eradicate the germs from your hands, preventing you from passing on any germs5 to other people and surfaces.

While it doesn't matter whether you wash your hands in cold or hot water, it does matter that you use an adequate amount of soap and that you scrub your hands to ensure they are as clean as you can.

Soap helps to remove dirt, bacteria and other microbes from your hands - it doesn't kill them. Essentially, soap lifts the microbes from the surface of your skin by binding to it, allowing it to be rinsed off with water.

Whether you use antibacterial soap or non-antibacterial soap, the effect the soap has will be the same.

However, you may find that some soaps may cause your hands to feel dry.

If you have sensitive skin, or you notice your hands dry out and become uncomfortable after using soap, you can use a hand cream to moisturise your hands after you wash them.

Alternatively, you should consider soaps which hydrate your skin.

The general advice being issued by the UK government is to wash your hands for 20 seconds. Several politicians and public figures have advised to sing a song such as "happy birthday" twice to help you determine how long you should wash your hands for.

Can Covid-19 be transferred through sex?

While Covid-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, it is possible to spread the virus through intimate contact.

Intimate physical contact and particles transmitted from coughing can spread the virus to other people.

What is herd Immunity and why is it being recommended to prevent the spread of Covid-19?

Herd immunity is often used to manage other viruses, including HPV and varicella (chickenpox).

As the name suggests, herd immunity means an immunity built up by a collective group. By exposing enough people to the virus, their bodies will build immunity, kill the virus and ultimately prevent the spread. Though this presumes that the virus can only be caught once.

While it sounds counter-intuitive, herd immunity has worked well for other viruses - most noticeably in chickenpox6.

While more information about the virus is required to understand how effective this tactic is, the government have currently accepted this method as the way forward.

Can I catch Covid-19 twice?

Whether a person can catch Covid-19 after recovering from it previously is still being investigated.

There have been reports from South Korea of people recovering from Covid-19 and contracting the virus again, though these reinfections present milder and more manageable symptoms.

The WHO have since these results were actually false-positives and that they were not reinfected with Coronavirus.

How long should I self isolate?

The length of time in which you should stay in isolation depends on whether you live alone or with other people.

Independent living (living alone)

If you live alone and have symptoms, you should quarantine yourself for 7 days.

If you do not exhibit symptoms, you may not need to change your daily routine.

Cohabitant living (living with other people)

If you or anyone else in your household exhibits symptoms, you should self quarantine for 14 days.

If someone you live with is over the age of 70, or has an underlying health condition which increases their risk of infection, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, look for somewhere else to reside to prevent passing on the virus to someone who is vulnerable.

When staying in quarantine with other people, keep as far away from each other as possible. The best advice for this is to remain in one room of your house. If this is not possible, stay at least 2 meters away from each other.

Self quarantine advice

While in self quarantine, it's important to reduce the risk of passing on the virus to other people as much as you can.

Ask friends and family to stay away from you. This includes staying different rooms when possible and keeping a distance of at least 2 meters from other people in your house.

If you have groceries delivered to your door, ask them to leave them outside your house or in a designated area for you to get them.

Nominate a single member of the household to venture out to get essential supplies of food and medicine. When you do go shopping, ensure you maintain social distancing and wear a face mask as a precaution.

Regularly wash your hands with soap and water.

If you live with vulnerable people, you should take extra precautions by cleaning surfaces more regularly with disinfectant, including worktops, sinks, taps, handrails, door knobs and children's toys. Pay extra attention to shared areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.

Make sure you keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these may dehydrate you.

Can I visit friends and family members?

As of Wednesday the 13th of May, you can meet up with a friend or family member outside of your home, but you must keep social distancing. This means that you can stand 2 meters apart from a friend or family member in the park and chat.

From Saturday the 4th of July, people will be able to visit inside others' homes but must maintain a new social distance of at least 1 metre. You should avoid physical contact such as shaking hands, hugging and kissing, and upkeep hygiene measures by washing your hands regularly.

If you or another person in your household receives assisted care from a support worker, you may have concerns about the risk of coronavirus. The government have put stringent guidelines in place for health and social workers to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus to you or your loved ones.

What medicine can I take to manage the symptoms?

As of the 18th of March, it is recommended to take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of Covid-19. If paracetamol is not suitable for you, speak to your doctor or a pharmacist for advice.

Suitable paracetamol products include tablets, capsules and effervescent tablets - such as Alka-Seltzer. You may also find relief by taking paracetamol hot drinks, such as Lemsip or Beechams.

Paracetamol is a pain reliever which is also effective at reducing fever - a common symptom of Covid-19.

For coughs, take cough syrup. You can also drink lemon, ginger and honey tea to relieve a sore throat. Cough drops can also provide relief from a hoarse throat and suppress a cough.

Originally, there was little evidence that Ibuprofen would worsen or improve coronavirus symptoms. However, it is now being explored as a possible treatment for Covid-19 as it is believed that it could help to relieve breathing difficulties and possibly mitigate the need of ventilators for some patients. It's important to understand that scientists are exploring the benefits of a special form of Ibuprofen and that this doesn't mean that Ibuprofen will work to treat coronavirus at this stage.

If you are already taking Ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), you should not stop taking it without seeking advice from your doctor first.

Before you take any medicine, always read the label. Never take more than the recommended dosage and familiarise yourself with all the potential side effects listed in the leaflet.

How much paracetamol would I need if I am in quarantine?

Paracetamol is taken as and when required, so it's difficult to determine how much paracetamol you would need. It's not a good idea to take paracetamol when you don't need it as prolonged use of paracetamol has been linked to liver and kidney damage.

There is, however, a maximum amount of paracetamol which can be taken during your time in self isolation.

Maximum dosage Time in quarantine
8 paracetamol tablets (500mg) 24 hours
56 paracetamol tablets (500mg) 7 days
112 paracetamol tablets (500mg) 14 days

 

Do not take more than 8 500mcg paracetamol tablets in any 24 hours period.

Additionally, watch out for other products which might contain paracetamol, such as cold and flu medications - particularly drinks and suspensions (syrups like Calpol, Night Nurse and Beechams) which might contain paracetamol. Moreover, the quantity of paracetamol in these types of medicines may be higher than standard paracetamol tablets.

Taking more paracetamol than you should can seriously damage your liver. If you are concerned about how much paracetamol you should be taking, speak to your doctor or a pharmacist.

Always read the label of other medicine you are taking to make sure you do not accidentally take too much paracetamol. If you are unsure, speak to your doctor or a pharmacist.

Can Covid-19 be treated with Antibiotics?

No. Antibiotics are ineffective against Covid-19.

Antibiotics are only effective at treating bacterial infections, not viral infections like Covid-19.

Taking antibiotics when you don't need them can impact their effectiveness when you do need them.

For more information, check out our article about keeping antibiotics working.

What does our future hold?

From the 4th of July, restrictions will be lifted further in England, except for the city of Leicester and surrounding areas.

School closures

It has been announced that schools across the United Kingdom will close from Friday the 20th of March. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister for Scotland, had affirmed that people should not assume that schools will reopen before the summer holidays, but schools may open sooner.

Universities across the United Kingdom have cancelled lectures and reduced their staff to only essential staff and researchers, advising students to study from home. Classes have resumed online in the form of video lectures.

On May the 25th, Mr Johnson stated schools will be able to reopen from June 1st for reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils. some year 10 and year 12 students, and students who are due to undertake exams next year, will also be able to contact teachers.

The decision to open schools was met with some friction from some parents and teacher's unions, who argue that the government are opening schools too soon.

Travel plans

Many countries around the world have closed their borders to prevent further spread of the virus. Moreover, the UK government have urged citizens to put off unnecessary travelling, including holidays.

When will lockdown in the UK end?

On the 23rd of March, the Prime Minister announced tough restrictions on work and travel, putting the country in lockdown.

These restrictions were reviewed by the Prime Minister and his government on Thursday the 7th of May and, on the following Sunday, he announced that some restrictions would be lifted. He also explained that further restrictions could be lifted if the infection rate drops to a manageable level.

Restrictions are set to be further lifted from the 4th of July, allowing non-essential businesses like hair dressers and barbers to reopen.

In order for the lockdown to be lifted, the health secretary has stated that certain conditions must be met, including a reduction in the number of coronavirus cases, a marked decrease in the number of cases, an increased capacity for testing and confidence that the NHS can handle the pandemic. This requires a staggering amount of resources, such as PPE, medicines, hospital beds and testing devices, as well as personel in order to achieve.

However, since laying bare the criteria, Michael Gove has since said that some restrictions, such as social distancing, may remain in place until a vaccine is sought.

Will coronavirus be eliminated by summer?

At the present moment, it is unlikely that the virus will be eradicated by the end of summer.

Using data collected from past epidemics and pandemics, many scientists were of the opinion that the virus will reach a peak in early spring before it begins to taper off due to social distancing measures.

It has been generally accepted that we have indeed passed the peak and, as of the end of April, the trend of coronavirus deaths has began to fall gradually. While this is undoubtedly good news, it is unlikely restrictions will be lifted too soon.

The current aim of the British government is to flatten the curve7 to slow the spread of the infection and relieve stress put on the NHS.


  1. Coronavirus is an umbrella term to describe viruses such as the common cold, influenza (flu), Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Covid-19. [Go to]

  2. Self quarantine means to confine yourself to your home and avoid social gatherings. The UK government have published guidance to those in self quarantine at home. [Go to]

  3. How lethal a disease is is determined by the percentage of those confirmed cases which results in death. In this regard, Covid-19 is less lethal, but it has killed more people than SARS or MERS combined. (Source) [Go to]

  4. Death toll is the total number of deaths caused by a particular event. As of writing, the death toll of Covid-19 has surpassed 200,000 globally. [Go to]

  5. Germs is an umbrella term which includes bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms which may be present on the skin. [Go to]

  6. Parents of children infected with chickenpox may hold "chickenpox parties", inviting parents of children yet to contract the virus to have direct contact to the child. By exposing the child to the virus early on, the child's immune system can kick into action to build antibodies against the virus. [Go to]

  7. The curve is the graph where X is the time span of the infection and Y is the amount of people infected. Lowering the amount of infected people gives the NHS more time to treat them. [Go to]

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This content has been written and checked for quality and accuracy by
Mohamed Imran Lakhi Content Administrator Published on: 19/03/2020 Updated on: 17/08/2020