What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

On this page we are following the latest advice on COVID-19 from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on how to keep yourselves and others protected. Some local governments and health organisations may be applying more strict, or different, measures. 

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold, to more severe conditions such as pneumonia, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS). The strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has caused the outbreak in China is new, and not previously known. It has been named Covid-19 by the World Health Organization.

What causes coronavirus?

Coronavirus spreads from person to person but it's not yet known exactly how this happens. Similar viruses spread through the air, in droplets when someone coughs.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of this coronavirus include:

  • fever (high temperature of 37.8C or above)
  • dry cough
  • tiredness

Some people may also experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea.

In more severe cases the virus can cause pneumonia, SARS (a severe form of pneumonia), kidney failure and death. It’s important to note though that most cases so far seem to have been mild. The most serious cases seem to have happened in people with pre-existing health conditions.

Who is affected?

Cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in a number of countries around the world. Cases are being confirmed on an ongoing basis, with the World Health Organization (WHO) keeping a situation map updated to show which countries have been affected.

How can I protect myself and others?

No matter where you are in the world, there are standard hygiene recommendations from the World Health Organization that can help contain the spread of this and other similar illnesses:

  • Wash your hands frequently with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or a tissue. Then throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands
  • Maintain social distancing, stay at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing
  • Clean surfaces in the household that are touched often
  • Stay home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

hands being washed with soap under running water

Further information

Clearly the situation is a rapidly changing one and further up to date information can be found at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019