Coronavirus March 2 – all you need to know

Coronavirus has spread from Wuhan in China to countries across the world, with tens of thousands of confirmed cases and thousands of deaths worldwide.

Here is all you need to know today.

– What is the scale of the problem?

So far, China has reported more than 80,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Outside China, there have been cases in more than 60 countries.

The first Briton to die from the virus had been on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was quarantined off the coast of Japan.

He was the sixth passenger from the ship to die after more than 700 tourists contracted coronavirus on board.

– What’s happening in the UK?

There have been 40 confirmed cases in the UK, with more than 13,000 people having been tested.

There have been 37 cases diagnosed in England, one in Northern Ireland, one in Wales and one in Scotland.

The 20th case was the first transmission of coronavirus within the UK and the Department of Health and Social Care said the original source was “unclear”.

Eight of the confirmed UK cases have been discharged from hospital. There have been no deaths.

The first diagnosed case in the Irish Republic was reported on Saturday.

– What is the UK Government recommending people returning from infected regions do?

The UK Government said people returning from Hubei province in China, Iran, lockdown areas in northern Italy and special care zones in South Korea in the last 14 days should immediately self-isolate at home and call NHS 111.

People returning from a number of other countries including the rest of China and Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore should self-isolate if they develop symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath.

It also said those returning from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and northern Italy above Pisa should self-isolate if they show symptoms.

– What about schools?

Willow Bank School in Berkshire
Willow Bank School in Berkshire (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Although several schools have sent pupils home over fears of Covid-19 contact, Public Health England’s general advice is for them not to close.

Willow Bank Infant School in Berkshire informed parents on Saturday that it would be closing for “some days” after a staff member tested positive for the virus.

And Wimbledon College said on Monday it would be closing until March 10 and undergoing a deep clean after a member of staff was diagnosed following travel to Italy.

– What will happen if it is declared a pandemic?

Health leaders have said if coronavirus becomes a global pandemic then there are a number of contingency plans in place to halt its spread.

In the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the Government has a battle plan for tackling coronavirus should a pandemic be declared.

The UK is a world leader in preparing for and managing diseases like #coronavirus.

Today, @MattHancock sets out an enhanced government approach to pandemic preparation.

Here's an outline of the measures we're putting in place 🔽

— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) March 1, 2020

It is understood new emergency powers will be brought in to give schools, councils and other parts of the public sector powers to suspend laws – including health and safety measures – to cope with a pandemic.

A “war room” is to be set up in the Cabinet Office to ensure effective co-ordination of public information.

Mr Hancock has said the long-term strategy for ensuring Covid-19 is contained is attempting to delay its “peak” until the summer when the warmer weather means the virus will not spread so easily.

– What about a vaccine?

Virus Outbreak Pennsylvania
Matt Dunn, a researcher for the Centre for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, holds dead samples of the coronavirus (Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Vaccines have been developed and researchers are starting to test them on animals.

But tests can take months to see if any potential vaccine can be used on humans and there will then have to be trials on humans.

The World Health Organisation has convened a group of experts to fast-track promising tests, drugs and vaccines to help slow the outbreak.

But experts say it could still be months or even years before any approved treatments or vaccines are developed.

The UK Government is putting £40 million into trying to find a vaccine and also aiming to improve treatments for patients who do have the disease.

– What is a coronavirus?

A woman wearing a face mask on the London Underground (PA)

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars).

The strain that has recently emerged is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The respiratory disease it causes has been named Covid-19 by WHO.

– Where did it come from?

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people, the World Health Organisation says.

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan in China.

– How is it spread?

Hayfever/ sneezing
Coronaviruses can be spread through small droplets from the nose (PA)

The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with the virus coughs or exhales.

These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person and can be picked up other people touching them then touching their nose or mouth, it added.

– How can you stop it?

Thorough hand-washing, maintaining distance from others, and avoiding hand-shakes are among the most effective measures for reducing your risk of catching coronavirus.

Everyday precautions like carrying hand sanitiser, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze, rather than your hands, and binning used tissues immediately is also helpful, according to the NHS.

Boris Johnson has urged people to wash their hands to the tune of Happy Birthday.

– What are the symptoms?

Coronavirus testing laboratory
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath (Jane Barlow/PA)

Initial symptoms of the novel coronavirus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

More severe cases can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, sepsis and septic shock, which can lead to death.

There are no specific treatments or vaccines for a new coronavirus but symptoms can be treated.

– Can people with no symptoms spread the virus?

The jury is still out on this one, although scientists believe there is evidence of asymptomatic transmission.

The Department of Health has said it believes the risk of catching coronavirus from someone with no symptoms at all is low.

But because many people with Covid-19 experience only mild symptoms, particularly during the early stages of the disease, it is possible to catch it from someone who has mild symptoms.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

– Are some groups more at risk?

The UK Government says based on current evidence most cases appear to be mild and those who have died in Wuhan appear to have had pre-existing health conditions.

The World Health Organisation has said about four in five people who contract the virus get mild symptoms and recover.

But it added older people or patients with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes are more at risk of developing serious illness.

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