Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the coronavirus was now the UK Government’s top priority and that the NHS is on high alert.
Now, health officials say, is the time for people in the United Kingdom to prepare — for canceled events, closed schools and interrupted work, and for the potential of widespread illness.
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What’s the risk of coronavirus in the UK?
Coronavirus has been seen in more than 60 countries, including the UK.
Find more on Coronavirus maps and charts: A visual guide to the outbreak
The UK Chief Medical Officers declared the risk to the public as moderate.
Health professionals are working to contact anyone who has been in close contact with people who have coronavirus.
How is the UK planning for an outbreak?
That involves spotting cases quickly, isolating them and identifying contacts people have had to stop any spread. This is being done by Public Health England’s (PHE) nine regional teams. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own arrangements.
Symptoms of coronavirus But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.
The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.
See more advice from the NHS here.
What if there are mass outbreaks?
In the worst-case scenario of widespread transmission in the UK – an epidemic – hospitals could start cancelling routine treatments to prioritise coronavirus patients.
Assessments will be made about which patients can be advised to stay at home and isolate themselves. The illness for many seems to be mild and passes.
PHE has already announced wider surveillance to see if coronavirus is spreading undetected. Eight hospitals and 100 GP surgeries are testing patients with flu-like illness and respiratory problems.
Could schools be closed?
Under the Civil Contingencies Act, the government can close schools, shut down public transport and stop mass gatherings to protect the public.
England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, said on Thursday that if those measures were needed it would have to be “for quite a long period of time, probably more than two months”.
However, evidence suggests those measures are not particularly effective at stopping the spread of something like coronavirus. And the balance between public safety and economic and social impacts would be considered.
New legal powers have been passed, to force people to stay in quarantine. But this is a measure more about containment than a practical step that will be taken in the event of the virus becoming an epidemic in the UK.
The government and NHS simply do not have the facilities to contain many more than a few hundred people.
In the event of mass transmissions, responses will be co-ordinated by the government’s Cobra committee and 43 local “resilience forums” in England and Wales.
These include PHE officials, the NHS, local councils and the emergency services. Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own arrangements, although they do liaise closely with England.
How coronavirus is spread
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Can someone spread the virus without being sick?
- People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
- Some spread is be possible before people show symptoms (carriers) ;
How easily does the virus spread?
What do you need to do?
- Follow government guidance to prepare and get ready
Refer GOV.uk website for most recent information:
Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice
COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses
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