The latest statistics show that COVID-19 has now killed 1.13 million people worldwide. The novel coronavirus is currently infecting more than 41.2 million people globally and is showing no signs yet of abating.
And as COVID-19 continues to dominate the media, questions are piling up. Will the pandemic die out in the same way as Spanish flu did in the early 20th century? Or will we have to learn to live with this new virus? The UK is under a raft of new regional lockdown restrictions that the Government say may last for another six months. Before we consider how the pandemic may end, let’s go back to basics and answer some FAQs on the virus.
Answers to those frequently asked COVID-19 questions
Q: Why is this disease called COVID-19?
There are lots of coronaviruses around all of the time. They cause illnesses in humans such as the common cold and other respiratory diseases. COVID-19, however, is a ‘novel coronavirus’. This means that when it first appeared in Wuhan, China, it had never before been seen in humans.
In February 2020, this novel coronavirus was given its official name by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Previously referred to as the 2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV, it became known as COVID-19. Here’s why. The CO stands for corona, VI for virus and D for disease.
Q: How does COVID-19 spread?
The virus spreads easily and quickly between people who are too close to each other. This is why social distancing is so important. You can catch COVID-19 if you breathe in respiratory droplets from an infected person. For example, if someone sneezes, coughs or even talks and they have the virus, you will breathe in the droplets if you are standing too close to them. You can also catch if from infected objects or hard surfaces, which is why it’s extremely important to clean thoroughly.
Q: Who is most at risk from this novel coronavirus?
Older people and anyone with an underlying health condition or poor immune system is more at risk from developing serious complications from COVID-19. These conditions include everything from heart disease to chronic asthma, and diabetes to HIV. It’s extremely important that anyone who has compromised immune system takes extra steps to protect themselves. And it’s worth knowing that young people with no underlying health conditions have also died from this virus.
Q: What are the best ways to protect yourself from COVID-19?
There are plenty of ways we can all protect ourselves and each other. There is no vaccine yet and while there are many trials going on, we don’t even know when there will be one. Do the following to stay as safe as possible:
- Always stay well apart (6ft) from other people you don’t live with or who aren’t in your ‘bubble’.
- Wear a mask in enclosed public spaces – this is now the law in the UK and includes all shops, retail outlets, bars and restaurants.
- Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds regularly.
- Use hand sanitiser in between hand washes and make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough and immediately get rid of any tissues you use – then wash your hands.
- Take your temperature regularly and watch out for any symptoms of COVID-19, which include loss of taste, a persistent cough and breathlessness, among others.
- Get a flu vaccine as soon as possible. Not only will this protect you from other strains of flu and respiratory infections, it will take pressure away from the NHS.
Q: What if you end up with COVID-19?
The severity of the illness varies greatly. Some people have it and suffer barely any symptoms at all, while others can become seriously ill. As well all know, it can also kill. But for most people who get COVID-19, the best thing to do is self-isolate. Keep away from as many people as you can for at least 14 days. If you do have severe symptoms, then of course you must call emergency services. Check the NHS website for full details of who to contact and when.
Q: When will the COVID-19 pandemic be over?
This pandemic is the worst the world has dealt with in living memory. If we look back at other, significant pandemics like the Spanish Flu pandemic of the early 20th century, we can see that the worst phase does eventually burn out. But we will essentially have to find a way to live with this virus, as it will never be eradicated.
The WHO say that the pandemic could be over by 2022, but that’s only if world leaders work together to find and disseminate a vaccine. Former White House COVID-19 advisor Dr Fauci says that there are three things that need to successfully come together before we can beat this pandemic. They are:
- Long standing and effective public health measures throughout the world.
- A degree of global herd immunity.
- A successful vaccination.