WITH cases of coronavirus rising every day, doctors have been warned to prepare for the NHS's "biggest crisis" yet.
Medics are desperately trying to prevent the spread of the deadly disease and protect the most vulnerable – meaning they're faced with countless patients every day.
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Professor Martin Marshall, an east London GP who is also chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners' council, said: "This is a massive crisis, probably the biggest crisis the NHS has ever had to face.
"We need to be a little bit understanding of the pressures that the whole system is under."
It comes as the number of cases of coronavirus in the UK has risen to 1,543, up 171 in the last 24 hours – with the death toll standing at 35.
Despite this, there are several steps you can take to ease the pressure the NHS is facing and protect yourself and your family, particularly the elderly, from coronavirus.
Here, we take you through the top ten ways you can help to do this during the pandemic…
1. Wash your hands
Health bosses say the best way to protect yourself and others is to wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.
Happy Birthday takes about 20 seconds to sing twice and is said to be the perfect number to clean your hands to thoroughly.
If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
2. Help the elderly/vulnerable
One of the best things to do is to mobilise elderly people with internet shopping so they keep stocks of food and supplies.
But if they do not have access to the internet or are not handy with a computer, Age UK recommend that healthy, more active people help with running errands like picking up bits of shopping.
The Government is in talks with major retailers to ensure the elderly and vulnerable can still get access to supplies, such as through a telephone hotline where they can place orders.
It may be worth ensuring that the older people in your life are set up with online shopping accounts now, are able to access social media to stay in touch with other or have been introduced to streaming services such as Netflix.
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On top of this, part of the mental battle of isolation is remaining as active as possible – even if this means standing up ten times in one hour and walking between rooms in the house.
If the elderly person you are helping has a garden, encourage them to walk around it – and make sure they are not immobile for long periods of time, watching television for long periods or remaining bed bound.
3. Avoid close contact
If Covid-19 is spreading in your community, take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people – especially those who are more vulnerable – to further reduce your risk of being exposed to this new virus.
Stay at home as much as possible and consider ways of getting food brought to your house through family, social, or commercial networks.
If you live in a shared house make sure you're not sharing dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding or other items with other people in your home when you have used them.
Also ensure you are using separate towels from other household members – both for drying yourself after bathing or showering and for hand hygiene purposes.
4. Have a plan in place
Have a plan for if you get sick and consult with your health care provider for more information about monitoring your health for symptoms suggestive of Covid-19.
Talk with your neighbours about emergency planning.
If your neighbourhood has a website or social media page, consider joining it to maintain access to neighbours, information, and resources.
Ensure your household has a current list of emergency contacts for family, friends, neighbours, carpool drivers, health care providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, and other community resources.
And try to create a list of local organisations that you and your household can contact in the event you need access to information, health care services, support, and resources.
Consider including organisations that provide mental health or counselling services, food, and other supplies.
5. Stay at home if you're sick
Stay at home if you are sick, except to get medical care.
In particular, make sure to stay away from older or vulnerable members of the family for at least a week if you have any symptoms of a cold, including a fever, a cough or shortness of breath.
Dr Jarvis added: "Kids tend to get coughs and colds often, and we’re not sure how good they are at spreading it to others.
"But until we do know, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and keep them away if they have any symptoms."
6. Try not to touch your face
According to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Infection Control, people touch their faces more than 20 times an hour on average.
However, you'll need to try your best not to do this if you want to protect yourself from coronavirus.
This is because we're constantly touching surfaces contaminated with pathogens such as doorknobs, phones and handrails.
These pathogens can be picked up by our hands and get into the body through mucous membranes on the face — eyes, nose, and mouth — that act as pathways to the throat and lungs.
7. Cover coughs and sneezes
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
Throw used tissues in the bin straight away.
It's hard to know when someone is going to cough or sneeze, but if you can, try and avoid standing within two metres of them.
Droplets from a cough or sneeze can travel up to approximately 7ft (2.1m) when expelled through the air.
8. Disinfect surfaces
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, counter tops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
In particular, Dr Jarvis urges people to use a disinfectant spray instead of baby wipes.
She added: "It makes more sense to use a disinfectant spray, sprayed from a distance of about six to eight inches.
What to do if you're worried you've got coronavirus
The new coronavirus is continuing to sweep its way across the globe with Britain seeing more cases in people who aren't linked to outbreaks overseas.
Symptoms of Covid-19 can include:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- difficulty breathing
In most cases, you won't know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus.
But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract, it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease or people with weakened immune systems.
It is incredibly contagious and is spread through contact with anything the virus is on as well as infected breath, coughs or sneezes.
The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene.
If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with others.
You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands.
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.
Meanwhile, leading symptom-checking provider to the NHS Doctorlink has been updated to help identify patients' risk of having coronavirus.
"The longer you leave the product in place, the better the chance of killing the virus. Leave it on for at least ten seconds, but as much as four minutes if possible.
"Then use a clean or ideally disposable cloth to wipe it off, wiping in one direction only.
"If you are using wipes (for instance, for computer keyboards which might be damaged by a spray) use an alcohol-based type."
9. Avoid crowds
The World Health Organisation have urged people – particularly those over the age of 60 – to avoid crowds, especially in poorly-ventilated spaces.
This is because risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like Covid-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.
WHO's Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted: "If you are 60+, or have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe #COVID19.
"Try to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick."
10. Watch for symptoms
Pay attention for potential Covid-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.
If you develop emergency warning signs for Covid-19, get medical attention immediately.
In adults, emergency warning signs include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse and bluish lips or face.
If you're in doubt you can visit the Patient Access' clinically approved coronavirus checking tool here.
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