What is Coronavirus / Covid-19?

Coronavirus, or to to give it its official name, Covid-19, is a respiratory virus that has triggered a global pandemic. It causes viral pneumonia and there is currently no cure or vaccine available.

It is not treatable by antibiotics, nor with any of the antiviral drugs commonly used for treating flu. It is generally mild in the young, but can be dangerous in the elderly or those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or poor immune systems.

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Scientists are urgently trying to find a vaccine for the virus, but as of May 2020 there is none available. There are some under development, but the earliest a full human vaccine trial could start is late May 2020, and realistically we are looking at least another 6 – 12 months before a vaccine will be generally available and we can be released from full COVID-19 lockdown.

In addition to trying to find a vaccine, countries all around the globe are trying to work out how to dig their economies out of lockdown and get people back to work before it is too late.

They are however, also terrified of triggering a second peak or ‘wave’ of Coronavirus and making things a lot worse. The tactics being looked at include extensive testing, track and trace, the use of apps and simple measure such as letting different age groups out at different times of day, or insisting people wear face masks and face coverings if they are out in public.

The jury is still out on how much protection face masks give to people against others carrying the disease, but countries like Germany and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States are asking people to wear face masks when out in public to reduce the chance of the wearer spreading the disease to others.

The United Kingdom which has the the third highest death rate in the world from Coronavirus (the top two are the United States and Italy), is also investigating the use of face masks by the public, as it looks desperately at the options available to it for relaxing the lockdown.

When it comes to Coronavirus we need to protect ourselves and others by reducing our chance of picking up the virus, either by touch, breathing it in, or by being close enough to other people for us to infect them or them to infect us.

For those in lockdown in particular, we also have to consider how to keep ourselves active and as healthy as possible, especially now when we can no longer go to the gym and find our daily activities curtailed and restricted.

Finally we need to consider how to protect our mental health and find ways to interact and socialise with friends and family, whilst not necessarily being in the same city as them, let alone the same room.

Protecting ourselves from Coronavirus

Wash your hands as often as you can, and for at least 20 seconds. (this video really shows you how to do this). Washing your hands costs you nothing and is the most effective way you have, to reduce the chance of you picking up the virus or passing it on to someone else.

How do face masks help?

When choosing a face mask, make sure it meets either the N95, N99 or N100 standard. These figures refer to the percentage of particles that are 0.3 microns or bigger, that the mask filters out. That is 95%, 99% and 100% respectively.

When people breathe, or cough, or sneeze, they produce an aerosol spray from their throat or mouth and project this for up to two metres. If someone is infected with Coronavirus, this spray can contain the Covid-19 virus.

A single cough can produce up to 3,000 droplets. These particles can land on other people, clothing and surfaces around them, but some of the smaller particles can remain in the air.

A study on SARS and COV-2, cousins to Covid-19 shows that the virus can survive in droplets for up to three hours after being coughed out into the air. Fine aerosol droplets between 1-5 microns in size can remain airborne for several hours in still air.

Face masks reduce the chance of you being infected by breathing in the Coronavirus or spreading it to others by coughing and sneezing near them.

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The virus is 0.17 microns in diameter so obviously even N100 level masks won’t filter it out. But the infected aerosol droplets people produce are at least 1 – 5 microns or more in diameter and easily get blocked by the N95+ masks.

Try not to cough or sneeze over your hands, on surfaces, or directly in front of people. If you do, wash your hands as soon as you get a chance, and if possible sanitize them with a hand sanitizer. If necessary, clean the surface with a multi-surface cleaner.

Use a hand sanitizer and always carry some with you. It will kill the virus you may have picked up by touch, and reduce the chance of you passing it onto anyone else.

Apply some hand sanitizer every time you wash your hands, and ‘top up’ regularly with sanitizer throughout the day.

Washing your hands and if possible, using a hand sanitizer are the most important things you can do to reduce your chance of picking up Coronavirus by touching something.

Multi-surface sanitizers or Ultraviolet Germicidal sanitizers do a pretty good job on the toughest viruses and bacteria, and can eliminate up to 99% of coronaviruses, noroviruses, flu, and a multitude of other viruses and bacteria.

How long can Coronavirus live on surfaces?

The Coronavirus can survive for a few days (2 – 3 days) on plastic or stainless steel surfaces, such as toilets, tables, door handles, chairs, mobile phones, computer keyboards and screens, headphones, game stations, elevator buttons, or desks etc.

In a busy office, germs and viruses are transferred easily from surface to surface just by touching them. In fact, germs on one contaminated door handle can spread to 40-60% of other surfaces in the office within only a few hours, according to a study by the University of Arizona.

By using a biocide multi-surface sanitizer or ultraviolet germicidal lamp, you reduce the chance of anyone picking up the virus by touching a contaminated surface.

If you are not wearing a face mask, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then wash your hands or sanitize them. If you have to cough or sneeze and do not have a tissue, try holding your arm up in front of your face and sneezing or coughing into your elbow, or the inside of your upper arm.

Protecting others from Coronavirus

If you have returned from an infected area or think you may have caught the virus, follow your countries guidelines and medical practitioners’ advice. Any guidelines in place will change at any time so make sure you know what you are meant to do.

Self-isolation and social distancing. Self-isolation is where people who are at risk from the infection, or are infectious (or are suspected of being infectious), isolate themselves away from others for a specified period of time to reduce the chance of them catching or passing the infection onto others whilst infectious.

Social distancing is primarily used when you are in social situations or in public but don’t want people to get too close to you. Social distancing, along with closing down bars, cafes, gyms etc (lock down) is fast becoming the norm to reduce the spread of the disease and give the health services a chance to keep up.

Social distancing techniques you can use, include for example, declining to shake hands with people when you meet them, no longer fist bumping with your friends, or hugging people when you say goodbye. Other ways to enforce social distancing include if you find yourself out in public, keeping a distance of at least 2 metres between yourself and others. Social distancing is the key to slowing the spread of the virus and flattening the curve.

Keeping active whilst at home

When self-isolating or in lockdown, we need to keep ourselves both physically and mentally active.

The medical advice in the UK is despite lockdown, try to keep yourself as fit as possible to help you fight the virus if you catch it. The suggestions include:

  • If you smoke then stop.
  • If lockdown regulations allow it take exercise unless you are unwell with the virus: ideally a brisk walk, cycle or jog. Strengthening and balance exercises are also recommended
  • Maintain a good diet, including trying smaller portion sizes and planning ahead for meals
  • Maintain your mental health, including getting a good night’s sleep
  • Have alcohol-free days

Exercise will reduce your stress and anxiety and also help you sleep better. We are all stressed at the moment, and we don’t know how long this will go on for, but if you are up to it, why not try to keep fit at home, whether its following Yoga, Tai Chi or Zumba on YouTube, or getting your ten thousand steps in, by running up and down your own stairs?

You can also try strength exercises at home such a triceps dips, sit-ups and stretching exercises. Using household furniture though, must come with a health warning of its own, you don’t want to end up in hospital by falling off a chair and cracking your head open.

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Or if you have to work from home check out this site that specialises in small offices and helping you to work at home or this guide to what you need to work from home.

Protecting your mental health during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that the pandemic is unsettling for everybody, whether they are concerned about the health of loved ones, their finances or what the future holds.

People are wired to be sociable and to deal with uncertainty by trying to rationalise it and deal with it but this pandemic rips all that away from us. The social distancing and lockdown requirements, will reduce the spread of the disease but it isolates us when we need people the most.

For most of us too much time to dwell on things, especially something like this viral pandemic can be too much. In response the WHO released the following guidelines on the 10th of March.

This can be broken down as:

Limit the news and be careful what you read

  • Limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren’t making you feel better. Perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news and stick with it.
  • Stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information.

Have breaks from social media and mute things which trigger a stressed response

  • Mute key words which might be triggering on Twitter and unfollow or mute accounts
  • Mute WhatsApp groups and hide Facebook posts and feeds if you find them too overwhelming

Stay connected with people 

  • Make sure you have all the phone numbers and email addresses you need close to hand.
  • Agree regular check in times with people and stick to them, don’t panic and go overboard though. Don’t obsess.
  • If you are self isolating create a routine and keep to it, also make sure you do different things each day to add variety and challenges to keep yourself physically and mentally active.
  • Read that book you always wanted to read but never had time to. Even better, write that book that you have in you.

Avoid burnout

  • With weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic ahead, it is important to have down time and relax.
  • If permissible and possible get access to natural daylight and fresh air.
  • Exercise, eat healthily and stay hydrated.

What is next?

Quite simply, we must protect ourselves to help protect others and ensure our medical services are as available as possible to treat those who really need their help.

With no vaccines or treatments available, the best and quickest ways to minimize the spread of the virus and protect yourself, include frequently washing your hands, wearing face masks (if appropriate), and using sanitizers and multi-surface or UV light antibacterial cleaners to keep yourself, your family, and your environment as virus free as possible.

Also use self-isolation if at risk or if you may have the illness, and always practise social distancing (at least two metres distance from everyone else) when in public (and this includes in queues).

Finally, Take care of your physical and mental health. Keep your physical distance from people but not your emotional distance. Let’s all help each other through this, and let’s be kind to each other.

More information on Coronavirus

Follow your countries advice and guidelines. They are there to protect you as well as others. For up-to-date advice on Coronavirus / Covid-19 in the US, go to the CDC website. If you are in the UK we recommend NHS online.

We also have a realtime global Coronavirus stats dashboard and have been tracking Coronavirus news items daily for the last three months.