Last updated: 19/03/20
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a type of virus that can affect your lungs and airways. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world.
But, as this is a new strain of the virus, we don’t know exactly how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread in cough droplets. It's highly unlikely that it spreads through packages from affected countries or through food.
Scientists are currently working hard to find out more about it, and our understanding of the virus is likely to change as new information becomes available.
What are the symptoms of the Coronavirus?
Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. Generally, much like the flu, the Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, such as older people and those with long-term health conditions.
Even if your symptoms are mild, you should not go to the doctors or the hospital because it could put others at risk. Instead, stay at home for 7 days and avoid contact with others. You can use the NHS 111 Online Advisory Service if you feel you can't cope with symptoms at home or if your symptoms do not get better after 7 days. Only call 111 if the online service is unavailable.
Is there a vaccine?
The NHS state:
“There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19). The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Simple hygiene measures like washing your hands with soap and water often, and avoiding people who are unwell, can help stop viruses like coronavirus spreading”.
How can I minimise the risk of myself and others getting the Coronavirus?
There’s currently no vaccine for this virus, but there are things you can do to help stop germs like the Coronavirus from spreading:
- First of all, the NHS advise that you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve - not your hands - when you cough or sneeze, and then put any used tissues in the bin straight away
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water – using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- And avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- They also tell you to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean. There are also other things you can do to help prevent infections from spreading:
- Keep your fingernails short
- Don’t wear wristwatches, bracelets, or rings (apart from plain bands) as they can harbour germs and also make handwashing less effective
- At work, you can wear personal protective equipment, such as disposable gloves, masks, aprons and oversleeves, when you handle anything that may be contaminated with pathogens
- Keep clothes and protective equipment clean by washing them regularly. Putting clothing on a hot wash, hot ironing them or tumble-drying them should kill any bacteria present
- Keep your work and home environment clean, especially frequently touched objects and surfaces such as phones, keyboards, door handles, light switches and tabletops
- Get rid of waste regularly, for example by picking up rubbish and emptying bins. Use foot-operated bins rather than lifting lids with your hands
- Take particular care to throw away used tissues, sanitary waste, and medical waste correctly and immediately—and remember to wash your hands afterwards!
- Bacteria can build up on cloths and re-used towels, so always use single-use disposable towels or hand-dryers if they’re available, to avoid spreading bacteria
What do I do if I think I may have the Coronavirus?
Even if your symptoms are mild, you should not go to the doctors or the hospital because it could put others at risk. Instead, stay at home for 7 days and avoid contact with others. You can use the NHS 111 Online Advisory Service if you feel you can't cope with symptoms at home or if your symptoms do not get better after 7 days. Only call 111 if the online service is unavailable. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
GOV.UK provides guidance on managing the Coronavirus whilst at home, if you are showing symptoms. You can access it here. Those displaying mild symptoms will not require testing but should self-isolate.
Does washing hands help prevent the Coronavirus?
Keeping your hands clean is one of the important control methods for reducing the spread of infections but it is most effective if you follow the steps below:
To wash your hands:
- Use clean, hot, running water and soap – preferably antibacterial liquid soap from a dispenser – as soap bars can harbour germs.
- Wet your hands thoroughly.
- Rub the soap into your palms to form a lather.
- Clean your hands for 20 to 30 seconds. Go between your right and left hand for each of these areas – the backs, between your fingers, your thumbs and your wrists. Remember to check and clean your fingernails too.
- Then rinse the soap off with clean, hot, running water.
- Turn the tap off with a disposable hand towel to avoid re-contaminating your hands.
- Dry your hands thoroughly using a second disposable hand towel or a hand dryer. Make sure you dry your hands properly – it's easier for harmful bacteria to spread if your hands are wet or damp.
What do I do if I’m asked to isolate myself?
If there's a chance you could have Coronavirus, you may be asked to isolate yourself which means, that for 7 days you:
- Should stay at home
- Should ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you
- Should not go to work, school or public areas
- Should not use public transport or taxis
- And avoid having visitors at home
However, it's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.
If you live with other people, they should also stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.
How can I educate my employees on preventing the Coronavirus?
We have recently released an Online Coronavirus Awareness Video that is available to view for free.
In the video, we provide practical advice to raise awareness of what Coronavirus is, how to reduce the risk of the virus spreading and what to do if you’re showing symptoms.
Do I need to allow my staff to work from home in the wake of Coronavirus?
Whilst the Government have not explicitly told employees and employers to work from home as a precaution, many employers are now starting to allow more staff to work from home as a precaution.
Employers must deal with requests in, what the government considers, a ‘reasonable manner’, which includes:
- assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application
- holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
- offering an appeal process
You can find further guidance on what is considered a “reasonable manner” from Acas.
For some roles and organisations, remote work might be impossible. With that said, an employer can refuse an application if they have a good reason for doing so.
If you do choose to refuse a flexible working application, as an employer, you must inform the employee that you’ve rejected their application.
Employers can reject an application for any of the following reasons:
- extra costs that will damage the business
- the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
- people cannot be recruited to do the work
- flexible working will affect quality and performance
- the business will not be able to meet customer demand
- there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
- the business is planning changes to the workforce
- work physically cannot be done from home
Where can I find information on mental health considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak?
The WHO have documented some considerations to support mental and psychological well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak, which can be accessed here. With continuous news stories on the Coronavirus, anxiety levels can rise but it is important for organisations and individuals to protect mental health with sensible and informed advice.
FAQs regarding our Coronavirus Awareness Video
What is the duration of the video?
The video is roughly 9 and a half minutes long.
Why is watching the video important?
Given recent events and the further spread of the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19 or the Novel Coronavirus) into Europe, it’s time to think about how you can provide information to staff which will help reduce sickness absence as a result of common colds and influenza.
Fear of the unknown and feeling like we have a lack of control certainly contributes to further panic. But what’s important is learning what there is to know at the moment, and how this information can help us to take preventive measures, whilst also knowing what to do if further action is needed. Thankfully, there are a few things that can be done.
What platforms is the video available on?