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To check the current coronavirus measures and travel guidelines for your country, click here.
If you’ve caught the news recently, you’re probably wondering whether coronavirus is going to shake up your day-to-day life.
So far the virus has spread across six continents, and it seems inevitable the threat will increase across the UK, the US and Australia over the coming weeks.
We’ve put together this handy FAQ to bring you some help, tips and perspective. For the moment, you probably don’t need to panic or quarantine yourself: life continues as normal pretty much everywhere around the world. But it won’t hurt to stay clued up on the official advice, as detailed below.
Think you’re coming down with something? Concerned about your sniffling colleague? Worried you’ll have to cancel your holiday plans? Stay up to date with our guide to the latest coronavirus guidance and developments.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that started in animals and is now being transmitted between humans. The symptoms include coughs, fever, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. First identified in Wuhan, China, the virus has (as of March 11) affected more than 119,000 people in 120 countries. Some 4,300 have died, while just over half have already recovered.
How bad is coronavirus?
Unlike flu, there is no vaccine (yet), and recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. In severe cases, the virus may cause pneumonia and/or organ failure.
Compared to Sars (another coronavirus that hit headlines in 2003), the mortality rate of COVID-19 is low: around 3.4 percent according to the latest World Health Organisation estimate. This is, however, significantly higher than regular seasonal flu, which is fatal in around 0.1 percent of cases. So far, COVID-19 also appears to be more contagious than seasonal flu.
The elderly and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease are most likely to develop a severe illness relating to COVID-19. The death rate is ten times higher among the very elderly compared with the middle-aged, according to the WHO. Children are less likely to be affected.
Which countries have been worst hit by coronavirus?
Although the majority of cases (just under 70 percent) have been in China, there have also been serious outbreaks in Italy, South Korea and Iran. Italy has recorded more than 10,000 cases, Iran more than 8,000 and South Korea just over 7,500.
As of March 11, there have been 382 cases in the UK, 1,031 in the US and 107 in Australia. You can keep track of the spread of the disease on this map created by Johns Hopkins University. The WHO advises against traveling to areas experiencing ongoing transmission of COVID-19.
Generally, you should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people if you have traveled outside of the country.
Check the current COVID-19 measures and travel guidelines for your country, click here.
How will coronavirus affect my day-to-day life?
First: don’t panic.
The spread of the virus outside China wasn’t unexpected, and governments have been making plans and issuing advice.
If you’re in the UK
The NHS says most people should continue to go to work, school and other public places as usual. You should only stay indoors and avoid contact with other people if advised to by the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or a doctor, or if you have traveled to any of the places above.
If you’re in the US
The CDC advises calling a medical professional if you develop symptoms and are aware you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, or have recently traveled to one of the above areas. For the time being, most people should continue going to work, school and other public places as usual.
If you’re in Australia
The Department of Health says most Australians should continue going to work, school and other public places. However, if you fall ill and think you may have symptoms of COVID-19, you should call a doctor. Tell them about your symptoms, travel history and whether you may have been in contact with someone with the virus. Call 000 if you display serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing.
When it comes to personal hygiene, the WHO recommends regularly washing hands with soap; carrying and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; refraining from touching your nose and mouth; and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Should I avoid traveling because of coronavirus?
The FCO in the UK advises against all travel to Hubei province, and all but essential travel to China as a whole. It also warns against all but essential travel to Italy, as well as all travel to Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan in South Korea. All but essential travel to Iran must also be avoided.
The CDC also warns American travelers against all but essential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, while those with chronic health conditions should also avoid going to Japan.
The Australian Government advises against all travel to China and Iran, and says travelers should reconsider any travel to Italy and Cheongdo and Daegu in South Korea.