Anjum Ali Saiyad is a London blogger focusing on life in lockdown and how we’re living with COVID-19. In this blog he’s looking at commonly asked questions about the novel coronavirus…
COVID-19 continues to dominate global headlines as the virus continues to spread. Local lockdowns are in force in many countries, with Governments constantly trying new measures to slow the pandemic and protect as many lives as possible.
According to the latest figures, there have been 1.13 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide. Currently, the world is grappling with more than 41.2 million cases with some of the hardest hit countries including the United States, the UK and Brazil. And as the UK is put under local restrictions according to the severity of the spread, let’s step back and look at the basics.
Common novel coronavirus questions and answers
Q: Coronavirus and COVID-19 – what’s the difference?
There are many coronaviruses circulating among us all the time. They cause mild illnesses such as the common cold or other respiratory tract infections. The difference with COVID-19 is that it’s a new coronavirus that had never previously been seen in humans.
On 11 Feb 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave the virus its official name. Here’s how it breaks down. CO stands for ‘corona’, VI for ‘virus’ and D for ‘disease. Before its official name of COVID-19, this illness was referred to as 2019-nCoV or the 2019 novel coronavirus.
Q: How can you catch COVID-19?
The virus that gives us COVID-19 spreads easily between people who are in close proximity to each other. This is the reason for social distancing and the urgent need for people to stay six feet apart.
COVID-19 spreads through an infected person sneezing, talking, breathing, singing or talking. Respiratory droplets are released by the infected person and are then inhaled by someone else. Inhaling infected droplets is the main reason for the fast spread of the virus. However, you can catch it from touching an infected surface or object too.
Q: How at risk are you from developing a serious illness?
People who have underlying health conditions (such as lung or heart disease), chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes and a poor immune system are more at risk of developing a serious illness. Older people are also at a higher risk of developing complications and suffering from what is now called ‘long COVID’. This is where people who previously appeared to recover from their bout of COVID-19 suffer from prolonged complications.
Q: How can you protect yourself?
We know roughly how the virus spreads and we know that simple steps are the best way of protecting ourselves and other people. Although there are a number of vaccine programmes underway around the world, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. And it is unlikely there will be for the foreseeable future. This means that the best way to stay safe is to not allow yourself to be exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Here’s what to do:
- Always stay at least six feet apart from people you do not live with
- Wear a mask in all public enclosed spaces, such as shops, restaurants and pubs – this is now law in the UK
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly
- Use hand sanitiser that contains 70% alcohol regularly
- Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze and immediately dispose of tissues
- Disinfect and clean frequently touched surfaces regularly
- Monitor your own health by taking your temperature regularly
- Keep an eye on the tell-tale symptoms of COVID-19: loss of taste, high temperature, cough, breathlessness and other symptoms
- Get a flu vaccine – this will take the pressure off the NHS during the winter and reduce the risk of getting other respiratory infections
Q: What if you do get COVID-19?
You may find that your symptoms are relatively mild if you contract COVID-19. The most important step to take is to isolate yourself from other people to minimise the chance of spreading it further. Of course, if you get severe symptoms you must contact emergency services immediately. Find out from the UK Government website exactly what to do if you get COVID-19.
Q: When will the pandemic end?
The current pandemic is unlike any other the world has dealt with in living memory. Looking back at other pandemics, we can predict the likelihood of this one dying out, but we will likely be living with COVID-19 forever.
The WHO has said that they hope the pandemic lasts less than two years, so that would take us to the beginning of 2022. The Prime Minister has just announced new coronavirus rules for the UK that may be in place for another six months. And according to Dr Fauci (the former White House coronavirus advisor), there are three things that need to happen before the pandemic is over:
- Effective public health measures everywhere around the world.
- A degree of global herd immunity.
- A successful vaccine.
Experts believe that the virus is unlikely to ever be eradicated, but the acute phase of the pandemic will as long as there is a concerted global effort. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates says that he thinks the pandemic will come out of its acute phase by the end of 2021, but millions more will be infected and die by then. He also warns that pandemics of this nature are likely to become much more frequent unless far more is done to tackle the problem.