Coronavirus (Covid-19) – what is it and how can you keep safe?
It’s changed all of our lives in some way. With constant news streams and speculation surrounding us, don’t forget the basic facts on how to keep yourself safe and healthy.
Last updated 10 May 2023
It seems like a long time ago since the world first learned about the virus’ symptoms, the groups of people at risk, how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you have it. Do you still remember the facts? Keep reading for a quick refresher on the basics.
What is Covid-19?
The new coronavirus causes Covid-19, an infectious disease that has spread to more than 200 countries around the world, including the UK.
Its symptoms are usually mild but some people who are infected can become very unwell.
Covid-19 can lead to pneumonia, as well as other life-threatening health complications, and has contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people globally.
The coronavirus is thought to be of animal origin and to have originated in Wuhan, China. It has never been seen in humans before.
How do you know if you have Covid-19?
The main symptoms of coronavirus are:
- high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a recent loss or change to your senses of smell and taste.
Most people who are infected with Covid-19 have a mild illness, and some have reported less common symptoms including tiredness, aches and pains, headache, congestion, sore throat, conjunctivitis and rash.
The only way of knowing for certain that you have coronavirus is by having a test.
If you have the main symptoms, contact NHS 111 online.
Who is most at risk from Covid-19?
People are at high risk of becoming seriously unwell because of coronavirus where a health professional has classified them as clinically extremely vulnerable.
People fall into this group when they:
- have had an organ transplant
- are receiving treatment for cancer
- have a severe lung condition
- have a condition that leads to a very high risk of infections
- are taking medicines that make it much more likely to get infections
- have a serious heart condition and are pregnant.
You are at moderate risk of becoming very unwell if you are considered to be clinically vulnerable.
Those at moderate risk include people who are 70 or older or are pregnant, as well as people with the following health conditions:
- a less severe lung condition, such as asthma or COPD, emphysema or bronchitis
- heart disease
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease
- a brain or nerve condition
- a condition that can lead to a high risk of infection
- a condition that requires you to take a medicine that can affect the immune system
- if you are very obese.
Evidence suggests that people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities may be at greater risk from coronavirus but it is not yet clear why.
What is the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19?
- Stay at home as often as possible and work from home if you can.
- When outside your home, maintain a two-metre distance between yourself and others at all times.
- If you are or have been out, frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available. At home, wash your hands before eating or drinking.
- When coughing and sneezing cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue – throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
- When feeling ill, stay at home, avoid contact with others except for seeking medical care, and contact NHS 111 online to tell them about your symptoms.
Is Covid-19 an emergency?
The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency and it has spread to more than 200 countries around the world. Different nations have responded to the crisis in different ways, usually with testing, contact tracing, isolation, and social distancing.,
In the UK, as in many parts of the world, the emergency has led to a shutdown of large parts of the economy as well as curbs on everyday social life.
Is the Red Cross helping with Covid-19?
Yes, we are supporting some of the most vulnerable people and communities throughout the UK and around the world.
Here in the UK, we are supporting the NHS in hospitals and working alongside clinical staff in emergency departments. We’re also helping patients return home promptly and safely following a hospital stay and providing patient transport and ambulance support.
Our volunteers and staff are embedded in communities, working alongside other charities and organisations – including NHS Volunteer Responders and partners such as FareShare and the Trussell Trust. Together, we support the most vulnerable people in need with food, medicines, welfare checks, and cash.
We have been involved from the very beginning of this crisis. First, we supported the loved ones of repatriated UK nationals in isolation on the Wirral and then helped set up an isolation unit at Heathrow Airport.
Around the world, 158 Red Cross National Societies are supporting people, or getting ready to support people, through this coronavirus pandemic. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are helping communities stay safe – from checking temperatures at borders and airports to bringing medicines to vulnerable people and using drones to safely decontaminate areas.
Both at home in the UK and overseas, we will do everything we can to help until it’s over.
UK Coronavirus Response Appeal
The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health emergency of our time. With your help, we’ll continue to provide vital support to those worst affected by the outbreak, wherever the need is greatest.DONATE