The deadly coronavirus – officially named Covid-19 by the World Health organisation – has been declared by the government as a “serious and imminent threat to public health”, as it introduced new powers to help deal with the spread.
Under new measures announced on Monday (10 Feb), the Department of Health said that people with the virus can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave.
The new measures also state that those who are infected can be forcibly sent into isolation if they pose a threat to public health.
Brits urged to leave
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) amended its travel advice on Tuesday 4 Feb advising against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The FCO updated its advice after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he expects more cases to be diagnosed in the UK.
As of Monday 17 February, there have been 68,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the globe, while the number of deaths in China have now reached 1,770.
Most cases have been recorded in Hubei province, whose capital city Wuhan is the epicentre of the outbreak, while there have also been more than 250 confirmed in 27 countries outside of China, including Thailand, Japan, Australia, US, Germany and the UK.
Brits have been urged against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China, not including Hong Kong and Macao.
The British Consulates-General in Wuhan and Chongqing are currently closed. Brits who are in China and able to leave are now being urged to do so.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We now advise British nationals in China to leave the country if they can, to minimise their risk of exposure to the virus.
“Where there are still British nationals in Hubei province who wish to be evacuated, we will continue to work around the clock to facilitate this.”
The FCO added that commercial flights departing from China were available throughout the country, except in Hubei where the virus originated.
The coronavirus outbreak has been categorised as a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation, with cases confirmed in several countries including Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan, as well as in the UK.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explaining they usually cause “mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses”, like the common cold.
This particular strain originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, the largest city in central China, and is in the same family as SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
The first suspected cases of the virus were reported at the end of last year on 31 December 2019 in Wuhan, but it has since been confirmed in other parts of China.
Most people get infected with these viruses at some point during their lives, although they usually only last for a short period of time.
Symptoms of the virus may include:
a general feeling of being unwell
Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, or more severe diseases such as SARS. However, this is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants and older adults.
How does it spread?
Coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the following means:
the air by coughing and sneezing
close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
fecal contamination, although this is rare
There are currently no vaccines to protect against coronavirus infection (Photo: Shutterstock)
How to stay safe
There are currently no vaccines to protect against coronavirus infection, but there are ways to help reduce your risk of contracting it.
washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 secondsavoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed handsavoid close contact with people who are sick
If you are experiencing cold-like symptoms, you can help reduce the risk of spreading it by staying at home while you are ill, and avoiding close contact with others.
You should cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw this away before washing your hands. It is also recommended to clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.