All your questions about the coronavirus pandemic answered

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to spread across the UK, with over 750 people now confirmed to be infected.

It's the worst public health crisis in a generation, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that "many more families will lose loved ones before their time".

With the government's response escalating from 'contain' to 'delay', it can be difficult to remember the latest advice and guidance on how to keep yourself, and others, safe.

Here you will find answers to the most common coronavirus questions, updated to reflect the latest information from the government, the NHS and Public Health England.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever and a dry cough.

Some people will also experience fatigue, aches and pains, a headache and shortness of breath.


  • Coronavirus: How to tell the difference between deadly bug and cold and flu symptoms

Sneezing is not a symptom of coronavirus, and a runny or stuffy nose has only been reported in rare cases. If you're experiencing these symptoms, chances are that you just have a cold.

What do you do if you think you may be infected?

If you have a persistent cough or a temperature, you need to self-isolate for seven days.

Even if your symptoms are mild and you don't feel unwell, self-isolation is necessary.

Please do not call 111 unless you are experiencing severe symptoms.

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What are the underlying health conditions that put people at risk?

As with many viruses, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are more at risk from suffering severe coronavirus symptoms.

People with high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, cancer or diabetes are more at risk of developing coronavirus complications.

  • Coronavirus: The underlying health conditions that make you more at risk

What does coronavirus do to the body?

Coronavirus infects the tissues and airways inside the lungs. In severe cases it can progress to pneumonia, which is an inflammation of the air sacs which causes them to fill with pus or fluid.

It is more severe than seasonal flu, but most people will recover.

  • What does coronavirus do to the body and how many people will it kill?

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How often should I wash my hands?

According to the NHS, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap or hand sanitiser when:

  • You get home or get into work
  • You blow your nose, sneeze or cough
  • You eat or handle food
  • You've been on public transport
  • You've used the toilet or changed a nappy
  • Before and after you treat a cut or injury
  • After dealing with pets or other animals

It's also a good idea to wash your hands if you're signing for something, such as a parcel.

Remember to wash the backs of your hands and in between your fingers.

What are the chances of recovery and how long does it take?

The majority of people who catch coronavirus will have mild symptoms and recover within a few days.

They will need to stay at home, drink lots of fluids and rest.

If you catch coronavirus, it may be necessary to stay in isolation even after you have recovered. This is because you remain infectious even when you're feeling better.

Some people will have a more severe case, and require treatment in hospital. They may need to be in intensive care with a ventilator to help them breathe.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock believes that in the UK, coronavirus will kill around 2% of the people that it infects.

Those who have died so far have all been elderly people with often serious pre-existing health conditions.

What does a coronavirus test involve?

If you are tested for coronavirus, a health worker will swab your throat, nose and deeper respiratory tract.

The swabs will be sent to a laboratory for testing.

  • Coronavirus testing UK: What happens and when you should get one

What do you do if people in your house are self-isolating?

As long as you are not showing any symptoms yourself, you do not need to self-isolate as well.

You should stay away from whoever is self-isolating – they should stay in a separate room, and ideally have their own bathroom.

If this is not possible, they should clean the bathroom each time that they use it.

  • How to self-isolate for coronavirus if you live with family or in shared house

Where can I buy hand sanitiser?

If you can't find hand sanitiser at your local supermarket or pharmacy, you may be able to get hold of some online.

The best thing to do is wash your hands with soap and water regularly.

If you can't get hold of soap, you can use shower gel.

  • Where to buy hand sanitiser during the coronavirus outbreak

How long does coronavirus survive on a surface?

It depends on the surface – scientists have determined that the virus can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

If the surface is moved, and exposed to different temperatures and conditions, it is unlikely the virus will survive. This makes post low-risk.

It is possible for you to become infected by touching a surface with the virus, and then touching your face. However, scientists do not believe that this is the main way in which it's spreading.

The most common form of infection is thought to be through breathing in droplets when people cough or sneeze.

What should I say to my children about the crisis?

If your children are feeling scared or anxious about the coronavirus pandemic, the best thing to do is be calm, honest and reassuring.

Answer their questions, focus on the proactive steps that are being taken, and find ways to explain what is happening in a child-friendly way.

Do face masks work?

Face masks can lower the risk of you spreading coronavirus if you're already infected – but it's unlikely that they will protect you from the disease.

You do not need to wear a face mask unless it is recommended by a health professional, who can show you how to fit one properly.

  • Coronavirus: Wearing face masks 'could increase chance of getting deadly illness'

Where in the world is it safe to book a holiday?

Make sure to check the latest FCO advice if you plan to travel. If the FCO advises against travel to a destination, you won't be covered by travel insurance.

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  • Coronavirus travel advice – what to do if your holiday destination is affected

What are my consumer rights if I’ve booked tickets for events that are cancelled?

Many major events, including football matches, concerts and festivals, are being postponed due to coronavirus.

If you can't make the new date, or if the event is completely cancelled, you should be able to get a refund.

  • Coronavirus: Can you get refund for music concerts and festival events?

Are schools going to close in the UK?

For now, there are no plans for schools in the UK to close.

In Ireland and other European countries, governments have closed educational establishments in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Should I avoid seeing older members of my family, or those with long term health conditions?

People who are part of at-risk groups, such as the elderly or those with existing health conditions, do not need to isolate themselves from public life, but they should be vigilant.

If you have come into contact with a COVID-19 patient you should avoid seeing vulnerable relatives.

And if you have elderly relatives, you should prepare for the possibility that they may eventually need to self-isolate. Will there be someone to bring them supplies? If their caregiver falls ill, is there someone who can step in to take care of them?

What is the delay phase?

The 'delay' phase is the second phase in the government's strategy to combat coronavirus.

They are trying to push the peak of the disease towards the warmer months, which will reduce the risk of it overlapping with seasonal flu.

  • Coronavirus: What is the delay phase, and what does it mean for the UK?

Do I need to clean my phone?

If someone with coronavirus coughed or sneezed on your phone, it is possible that you could pick up the virus.

The best way to avoid this is by keeping your phone close to yourself. This way, you don't need to worry.

If you are concerned that someone may have contaminated your phone, you can use an alcohol or disinfectant wipe to gently clean it.

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