If coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it's now known, has you freaking out, you're not alone. Even a quick scan of the news will reveal that it's easier to get you hands on a winning lottery ticket than a roll of toilet paper or a tinned good right now. So, before the panic buying goes any further we thought it best to find out the coronavirus' real facts.
As it happens, there is really only one man to go to for that kind of information: England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.
Not before time, Whitty has stepped forward to answer some of the most-asked questions about the disease. Whether you're worried about how far coronavirus will spread in the UK, whether you should start wearing a mask or if you have to say bye-bye to your 2020 holiday plans, Witty has the answer.
How Far Will Coronavirus Spread in the UK?
Rather than attempt to pacify people's fears, Whitty has been pretty forthright and honest about just how likely we are to experience a coronavirus epidemic here in the UK. With the knowledge we currently have of the virus and disease, Whitty says that it's "likely" but "not definite" that we will experience an epidemic at some point.
"At this point in time we think it is likely, not definite, that we will move into onward transmission and an epidemic here in the UK," said Whitty.
Are the Elderly at an Increased Risk?
You may have heard from every pseudo scientist on the internet that coronavirus is really only a disease that effects the elderly. If you fall into that category, you're probably pretty worried, but according to Witty, getting coronavirus isn't a death sentence, even if you're in a more vulnerable group.
"I think it's easy to get a perception that if you are older and you get this virus then you're a goner – absolutely not," said Whitty. "The great majority of people will recover from this virus, even if they are in their 80s."
Does Smoking Make Me More Vulnerable to the Disease?
While not explicitly saying that smoking makes you more vulnerable to the disease, Whitty has said that smoking does make people more vulnerable than they need to be, so if you're thinking about stopping smoking then now is the time to do it. Need a little help quitting, check out this guide to how 5 ex-smokers kicked the habit.
"To be clear on smokers, my recommendation is that they stop smoking," says Whitty. "If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it. I'm just highlighting that as an additional vulnerability for people who are otherwise healthy."
Should I Start Wearing a Mask?
Let's just dispel this one real quick: no, you don't need to wear a mask. Doing so has almost no impact on whether or not you're likely to contract the disease. "In terms of wearing a mask, our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don't have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all," said Whitty, "so we do not advise that."
Should Big Sport and Cultural Events Be Cancelled?
If you're a coronavirus naysayer, and are questioning the logic of cancelling big sporting events or delaying the latest James Bond film then we have news for you: community transmission of coronavirus is likely already happening. "It's likely that will be happening, if not now, but soon. I think it's likely to be happening at the moment, not definite," said Whitty.
Should I Cancel My Travel Plans?
One of the most asked questions about coronavirus is whether you should let it disrupt your travel plans, and while Whitty hasn't said that people should cancel their plans, he has said that they should consider whether it's wise to take a trip at this time.
Whitty has also said that people should be especially open to postponing their plans if they have an underlying health problem or if they're older. They should also 'think' about whether it's wise to travel to countries with health services that are weaker than the NHS.
"If you happen to be in a place with a very weak health service at the peak of their epidemic, weaker than the NHS, that obviously might be more problematic," said Whitty. "This is particularly an issue for people who are older or have pre-existing health conditions."
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