What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus that affects your lungs and airways. It was first identified in Wuhan City, China, but is now spreading across the globe.

Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, a high temperature and, in severe cases, shortness of breath.

As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively.

The current data seem to show that we are all susceptible to catching this disease.

What do I need to do?

Everyone must stay at home. You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:-

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home

If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

Do not go out to meet others, even friends or family - you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

More information on hand washing, social distancing, self-isolation, and shielding.

How can I help to stop the infection from spreading?

Stay at home - only go out for the reasons listed above.


  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • wash your hands as soon as you get back home
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards


  • touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

Where can I find the latest information and guidance about coronavirus?

Can I get coronavirus advice in other languages/formats?

The government has produced guidance in various formats and languages

Independent humanitarian movement Doctors of the World has also produced advice in 35 different languages