Coronavirus Information – What You Need to Know About Coronavirus COVID-19

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways but in rare cases it can affect other body organs and the blood. COVID-19 (the disease) is caused by a virus called a coronavirus (more specifically, the virus has been named SARS-CoV-2).

The common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) include a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath. A small number of those who develop the disease will go on to develop severe breathing difficulties and will need hospital treatment. Those studying the disease are now realising that the health effects and the severity of the disease can vary massively in different people. In some severe cases it can also affect the blood, brain, heart, liver and kidneys.

In this article we have tried to bring together some general information about COVID-19, along with links to information from reliable sources such as the UK Government, the NHS, and the World Health Organization.
This article was updated 8th June 2020.

Novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus image
Novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) image – source CDC

Coronavirus (COVID-19) data for the UK

Various data on Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the uk, from the UK government.

Coronavirus cases in your local area

It is now possible to check the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) positive cases for your local area, for the previous week.

View map of local Coronavirus (COVID-19) positive cases

Some background information on coronavirus COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified in China in late 2019. Within a few months, despite attempts to trace and isolate those who had been in contact with someone known to be infected, the virus has spread around the world, infected millions of people, overwhelmed health services and caused many thousands of deaths.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Timeline

This timeline lists the key points in the identification and initial cases of COVID-19 infection in Wuhan, China. It also lists the key coronavirus events in the UK and Europe.

  • 31st December 2019
    Wuhan Municipal Health Commission in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, report a cluster of 27 pneumonia cases.
  • 9th January 2020
    The WHO confirms that a novel coronavirus has been isolated from a person who had been hospitalised.
  • 10th January
    The gene-sequencing data of the isolated 2019-nCoV, a virus from the same family as the SARS coronavirus, are posted on
  • 19th January
    The first confirmed cases are reported in China, outside Wuhan, one in the southern province of Guangdong and two in Beijing
  • 20th January
    After two medical staff were infected in Guangdong,?China National Health Commission?confirm that the virus is human-to-human transmissible.
  • 23rd January
    Wuhan City is locked down.
  • 24th January
    The first European cases are reported in France. Two of the three cases had travelled to Wuhan.
    However in May 2020 there was a report on the BBC news site that a patient treated in a hospital near Paris on 27th December for suspected pneumonia actually had the coronavirus, and that a swab taken at the time was recently tested, and came back positive for Covid-19.
    See more below.
  • 31st January
    The?first?confirmed?cases of coronavirus in the UK are two Chinese nationals staying in a hotel in York.
  • 22nd February
    Italian authorities report clusters of cases in Lombardy and additional cases from two other regions, Piedmont and Veneto.
  • 29th February
    The UK reports its 23rd confirmed case.
  • 5th March
    The first death from coronavirus in the UK is confirmed.
  • 11 March
    The Director General of the World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic.
  • 12th March
    – The total of confirmed cases in the UK is reported to be 590.
    – The government advises that anyone with a new continuous cough or a fever should self-isolate for seven days.
  • 14th March
    The total number of confirmed cases in the UK rises to 1,140, with 21 COVID-19 related deaths.
  • 17th March
    The UK coronavirus-related death toll rises to 71, while the number of confirmed cases of the illness rises to 1,950.
  • 23rd March
    UK-wide lockdown announced.
    Another 54 deaths bringing the total deaths so far to 335.

Much of this timeline information is taken from Wikipedia – Timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic, which provides multiple timelines by country and for the whole world. Extra information has been taken from the UK Government coronavirus information and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – Event background COVID-19, as well as various news articles from the BBC and The Guardian.

When were the first cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK and Europe?

Officially the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Europe was reported in France on 24th January 2020. The first confirmed case in the UK was reported on 31st January.
However there have been recent reports of a confirmed case in France – and of suspected cases of COVID-19 in the UK – from around a month earlier.

In May 2020 there was a report on the BBC news site that a patient treated in a hospital near Paris on 27th December for suspected pneumonia actually had the coronavirus, and that a swab taken at the time was recently tested, and came back positive for Covid-19.
Coronavirus: France’s first known case ‘was in December’
BBC – 5th May

Also in May 2020, the BBC reported that several members of a choir in Yorkshire had suffered COVID-19-like symptoms shortly after the partner of one of the choir members returned from a business trip to Wuhan, China, on 17th or 18th December.
Coronavirus doctor’s diary: The strange case of the choir that coughed in January
BBC – 10th May

Other relevant articles

Was coronavirus here earlier than we thought?
BBC – 6th June

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of more than 200 viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. There are seven coronaviruses which are known to affect humans, and these cause respiratory infections including the common cold (colds can also be caused by rhinoviruses) and more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

For more general information on viruses, please look at our What is a Virus page.

Naming a virus – Coronavirus – COVID-19 – SARS-CoV-2

The most recently discovered coronavirus is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and it causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

coronavirus disease 

severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 

The virus was previously known by a provisional name of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

COVID-19 refers to the disease. ?CO? refers to corona, ?VI? to virus, and ?D? to disease. The 19 indicates the year the virus was identified (2019).

Who does COVID-19 affect?

Coronavirus can infect anyone, but the severity of the symptoms typically increases with age.

Older people aged over 70 and people with underlying medical conditions (including heart disease and respiratory disease) are considered at higher risk of severe symptoms. These groups are most likely to require hospital treatment.

For most children and younger people the symptoms are usually quite mild (although there have also been cases of young, healthy people needing hospitalisation, or even dying from the disease).

COVID-19 symptoms

The common symptoms of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) are a dry cough, a high temperature, shortness of breath, tiredness, and loss of taste. However the symptoms can be quite variable, and some people have had no symptoms while others have developed severe breathing problems very quickly.

It is possible to have the disease but show no symptoms – however you can still be contagious. A lack of symptoms could mean that there is a risk of spreading the virus to others, including the sick and the elderly, without realising that you have the disease.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhoea, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms.

Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. Around 1 out of every 5 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or cancer, are at higher risk of developing serious illness. However, anyone can catch COVID-19 and become seriously ill.  People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough associated with difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain/pressure, or loss of speech or movement should seek medical attention immediately.

Source – World Health Organization

More Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice on the NHS website.

Most people will recover from the disease without needing treatment, but some (around 1 in 5) will become seriously ill and develop breathing problems or other symptoms and may require hospital treatment.

Children usually have mild symptoms, but in rare cases the symptoms can be more serious.
Also see Children and inflammatory syndrome possibly related to COVID-19 below.

It is not common to have a runny nose or sneezing with COVID-19; so if you have these symptoms only, it is unlikely that you have coronavirus (COVID-19). It is more likely that you have a cold or an allergy such as hay fever.

COVID 19 is not just a respiratory disease

Those studying the disease are now realising that the health effects and the severity of the disease can vary massively in different people. In some severe cases it can also affect the blood, brain, heart, liver and kidneys.

Coronavirus May Be a Blood Vessel Disease, Which Explains Everything
Many of the infection?s bizarre symptoms have one thing in common.

In April, blood clots emerged as one of the many mysterious symptoms attributed to Covid-19, a disease that had initially been thought to largely affect the lungs in the form of pneumonia. Quickly after came reports of young people dying due to coronavirus-related strokes. Next it was Covid toes ? painful red or purple digits.

What do all of these symptoms have in common? An impairment in blood circulation. Add in the fact that 40% of deaths from Covid-19 are related to cardiovascular complications, and the disease starts to look like a vascular infection instead of a purely respiratory one. . . .

Elemental – 29th May 2020

Children and inflammatory syndrome possibly related to COVID-19

COVID-19 general causes milder symptoms in children than in adults, with many children showing little or no symptoms at all.

However doctors are concerned about a very small number of cases of children in the UK, US and Europe presenting with a multisystem inflammatory disease (similar to toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease).

This is being referred to as PIMS-TS or just PIMS (Paediatric Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome temporally associated with COVID-19) in the UK and Europe, and MIS-C (Multi Inflammatory Syndrome) in the US.

Typical symptoms include high fever, rash, red eyes, swelling and general pain. Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal symptoms were common features, as well as cardiac inflammation and other organ problems.

It is possible that this could be connected to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is also possible that this is some other disease which just happens to have occurred at the same time.
The symptoms have been seen both in children who have tested positive, and children who have tested negative for COVID-19.

Coronavirus: Children affected by rare Kawasaki-like disease – BBC

Covid-19: concerns grow over inflammatory syndrome emerging in children – BMJ

PIMS: the COVID-19 linked syndrome affecting children – information for families

For Parents: Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19

Coronavirus in Babies and Kids – Johns Hopkins Medicine

How does coronavirus spread?

It is thought that coronavirus COVID-19 is mainly spread by droplets in the air as a result of coughs and sneezes.

It is also possible that droplets may land on surfaces, and that the virus can be spread by someone touching a surface on which the virus has landed, and then touching their face.

The virus is most likely to spread indoors and in close contact with others. Social distancing is important to reduce the spread of the disease.

How can we help to prevent coronavirus COVID-19 from spreading?

  • Regularly wash your hands – wash them thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and/or use an alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Do not touch your face (mouth, nose, eyes) with unwashed hands.
  • Do not eat or drink anything without first washing your hands.
  • Practise good respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (or with your bent elbow) when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands. Encourage people around you to do this too.
  • Increase general cleaning of shared areas and shared items, such as door handles and light switches, phones, computer keyboards and mice. Many shops are now cleaning shopping baskets and trolleys.
  • Social Distancing – limit contact with other people, and maintain a safe distance of 2m from other people who are not part of your household.
  • Self-Isolate if you show any symptoms of COVID-19.
Wash Your Hands
Wash Your Hands – World Health Organization

Should you wear a face mask?

Many countries have made wearing a face mask or other face covering compulsory in public places.

After initially discouraging the use of face masks by the general public, the UK Government has now said that either face masks or face coverings will become mandatory on public transport and for all hospital staff and visitors. As of 24th July 2020 face coverings are now required in all shops.

The World Health Organization has recommended the use of face covering or face masks to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (along with social distancing and hygiene measures).

From the World Health Organization

Medical masks can protect people wearing the mask from getting infected, as well as can prevent those who have symptoms from spreading them. WHO recommends the following groups use medical masks.

  • Health workers
  • Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, including people with mild symptoms 
  • People caring for suspect or confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of health facilities

Medical masks are also recommended for these at-risk people, when they are in areas of widespread transmission and they cannot guarantee a distance of at least 1 metre from others:

  • People aged 60 or over
  • People of any age with underlying health conditions

Non-medical, fabric masks are being used by many people in public areas, but there has been limited evidence on their effectiveness and WHO does not recommend their widespread use among the public for control of COVID-19. However, for areas of widespread transmission, with limited capacity for implementing control measures and especially in settings where physical distancing of at least 1 metre is not possible ? such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments ? WHO advises governments to encourage the general public to use non-medical fabric masks.

Q&A: Masks and COVID-19 – WHO

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: When and how to use masks

How effective are masks and face coverings?

What kind of face mask gives the best protection against coronavirus?
The Guardian

Making your own face mask

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the USA, has published instructions for making your own reusable face coverings at home.
How to Make Cloth Face Coverings

UK Government Guidance
How to wear and make a cloth face covering
Updated 4 June 2020

Coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the UK and other countries

A number of countries have put restrictions on the movement of their citizens in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus and reduce the demand on health services. Some have done a better job than others.

Some countries acted quickly and locked down fast, and managed to reduce the spread, flatten the curve, and as a result had a lower death rate from coronavirus. Germany, New Zealand and South Korea are regarded as having done a good job of controlling the spread of COVID-19.

These countries have been able to come out of lockdown quickly, and are using mass testing and tracing to allow them to quickly suppress further outbreaks.

New Zealand eliminates COVID-19 – The Lancet

Exit from coronavirus lockdowns ? lessons from 6 countries – The Conversation

Many people think that we were too slow to go into lockdown in the UK, and that this (combined with the inadequate testing and shortages of PPE for healthcare professionals and carehome staff) has allowed the virus to spread widely and has resulted in many thousands of deaths.

UK lockdown timeline

  • 16th March
    The UK government advises people to avoid all unnecessary social contact: asking people to start working from home where they possibly can, and to avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues. The advice was particularly aimed at the most vulnerable people: those over 70, pregnant women and those with certain health conditions.
    A week later (on the weekend of 21st & 22nd March) the sun came out and thousands of people headed out to parks and beauty spots, prompting the closure of national parks, National Trust properties, and further tightening of restrictions.
  • 18th March
    It is announced that schools and nurseries would close on the Friday 20th March.
  • 20th March
    Cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants are told to close that night.
  • 23rd March
    The UK Government introduces lockdown restrictions and tells people to stay at home, and only leave their home for very limited purposes – including shopping for food and medicines, exercise once a day – and to only go to work if work if unable to work from home.
    Up to and including 23rd March, a total 335 people were known to have died from coronavirus (in hospitals) in the UK.
  • 13th May
    Relaxing of restrictions on exercise and on travel for exercise.
    New guidance on spending time outdoors.
  • 24th May
    PM confirms schools, colleges and nurseries on track to begin phased reopening from 1st June.
  • 28th May
    Test and Trace system launches.
  • 1st June
    – People are now able to exercise outside with up to five others from different households, provided that strict social distancing guidelines are followed. Groups of up to 6 people can meet in outside spaces including parks and private gardens.
    – Early years education and schools will start opening up for more children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from today.
    – Open air markets and car showrooms will be allowed to reopen.
  • 4th June
    Announcement that face coverings will become mandatory on public transport from June 15th, with a few specific exceptions.
  • 8th June
    Dental practices in England can re-open, providing they follow guidelines for social distancing.
  • 15th June
    Non-essential shops (including those for toys, books, electronics and clothes) can reopen.
    Face coverings will be required on public transport from 15th June, and all hospital staff and hospital visitors will need to wear face coverings or masks.

Coming out of lockdown

Over the next few weeks the lockdown measures in England and the rest of the UK (at the time of writing Wales is still in full lockdown) will be relaxed, and you will be able to do more and meet more people. However, social distancing rules will still apply.

BBC – 28th May 2020
Coronavirus: What are social distancing and self-isolation rules?
Lockdown restrictions are gradually being eased in parts of the UK. But what does this mean and can you finally meet up with more family and friends?

Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do – UK Government
Updated 1st June 2020

Too much too soon?

Many people – including some scientists who advise the government – think that the lifting lockdown restrictions may be too much too soon. There are concerns that we could see a second wave of infections. This is now happening in a number of other countries who had appeared to have the spread of coronavirus under control.

The death rate and infection rate in the UK are still higher than they were at the start of the lockdown.

On 23rd March 2020 (the date on which the lockdown was announced) there were 54 deaths, and the total confirmed COVID-19 related deaths up to that date was 335.

On 2nd June 2020, there were 324 COVID-19 related deaths, and 1613 lab-confirmed UK cases.

In the UK, we now have the worst COVID-19 death rates in Europe, and one of the worst coronavirus death rates in the world.

Coronavirus testing and contact tracing

Contact tracing “Test and Trace” in England begins from Thursday 28th May.
Anyone with symptoms can now request a test.

More information on NHS test and trace.

The system will rely on phoning known contacts of anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The promised contact tracing app is not yet available.

There are doubts about how this centralised system will work and whether it will be able to adequately deal with local outbreaks. (Scotland has gone for local tracing with its “Test and protect”.) There are also concerns about how the system will integrate with GPs and health services.

There have been recent reports of some test results taking up to 5 days. This is too slow to effectively prevent the spread, or to trace contacts before they too are potentially infecting others.

Current advice from the UK Government on coronavirus (COVID?19)

The advice is regularly changing, for full details on the current guidelines, please see the links below.

UK Government – Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Why do we need to take steps to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19?

Most people who become infected with coronavirus COVID-19 will experience a mild illness and recover. However, for some people (especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) it can be a more severe illness, and may require hospital treatment.

Coronavirus COVID-19 is very infectious and can spread rapidly. It has overwhelmed the health services in Italy and in other countries.

It is therefore important that we all take steps to help reduce the spread of the disease, pay more attention to good hygiene and reduce the amount of contact we have with other people.

This should reduce the risk of contracting (or spreading) the disease.

It should also slow down the rate of infection and “flatten the curve” so that the health service is more able to cope with the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time.

What does Flatten the Curve mean?

If nothing is done, the rate of infection will be high, rapidly leading to a huge peak of infections. Large numbers of patients needing treatment at the same time will massively overwhelm the limited resources of the health care system. The system will collapse and many people will die, including those with unrelated conditions who are unable to get treatment.

If the rate of new infections is lowered – largely due to people following Social Distancing measures – the peak of the curve (as seen on a graph of number of current infections against time) is lower and spread over a longer period: “flattened”.
The number of people infected might be similar in the long run, but with fewer cases at any one time the health services will be better able to cope with the number of people needing hospital treatment.

The key is to bring down the peak of the curve to a level that lies on or below the maximum number of patients that can be treated at any one time. This number will depend on the resources available – spaces in hospitals, doctors, nurses, ventilators – so many authorities are simultaneously trying to increase these resources by taking on extra medical staff, building new hospitals, making or buying equipment.

Flatten the curve of coronavirus infections
Flatten the curve of coronavirus infections, based on a graph from CDC

How long can coronavirus live on surfaces?

It is uncertain, but it is thought that the virus may live for anything up to three days, in suitable conditions.

Coronaviruses can survive longest on smooth surfaces such as stainless steel, glass, plastic and smooth shiny cardboard.

In warm weather coronaviruses and some other similar viruses dry out more quickly and die; but in cooler, damp weather they can live for much longer. This is one reason why there are more cases of colds and flu (which are caused by similar viruses) during the winter months.

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Source – World Health Organization

How can coronavirus be killed?

Coronaviruses can be destroyed by washing hands with soap and water or by using alcohol-based hand gels.

Surfaces can be cleaned with soaps or washing-up liquid, and disinfected with bleach solution or some disinfectant cleaners and sprays.
Check the product label for information on how effective a commercial product is against viruses.
More information on cleaning to destroy coronavirus.

What should you do if you think you may have coronavirus?

If you have a cough or a fever you should stay at home and isolate yourself from other people.

Please check the Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice on the NHS website.


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