Updated advice on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)


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Last updated at 3.45pm on Tuesday 18 February 2020

An outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19)​ has been occurring mainly in Wuhan City, in the Hubei Province of China, where the disease is believed to have started.

Public Health England (PHE) – the organisation responsible for safeguarding public health in the UK – is working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to constantly review the situation. Based on the WHO’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers raised the risk to the public from low to moderate. This permits the government to plan for all eventualities. On Monday 10 F​​ebruary the Department of Health rated the outbreak as a ‘serious and imminent’ threat.​

​DMU continues to monitor the situation and advises staff or students to check and follow the official advice from PHE, which is updated regularly.

The key points of the advice are: 

  • UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against ‘all travel to Hubei Province’ and now advises against ‘all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China’ (not including Hong Kong and Macao). If you’re a British national in China and able to leave, you should do so. The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be at heightened risk. 
  • If you have returned from Wuhan or Hubei Province in the last 14 days, the current advice from PHE is to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with other flu viruses; and contact NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area. 
  • If you have been in mainland China, (excluding Wuhan or Hubei Province) Hong KongJapanMacaoMalaysiaSouth KoreaSingaporeTaiwan or Thailand, and do not have symptoms, you do not need to self-isolate. However, if you develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately follow the same advice as above.
  • Take sensible hygiene precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses. 

On 17 February the government published new guidance on immigration provisions made by the Home Office for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China. 

If you need further health guidance, please contact your doctor or call the NHS 111 helpline. Advice for the public regarding symptoms is available on NHS Choices

The below FAQs have been compiled to address concerns about coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Coronavirus CDC image main

Frequently asked questions about coronavirus

What is Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from a cold to more severe diseases. These viruses are transmitted between animals and people. This novel respiratory coronavirus, currently named ​​​COVID-19, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. 

Where and when did the infection start? 

The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province. The city's health commission said the infection broke out in December, with some of the patients employed at the market.  

How far has it spread? 

Cases have been confirmed in other parts of China and a smaller number of cases have been confirmed in 25 other countries. At present, there are nine confirmed cases in the UK. ​

What are the symptoms? 

Common symptoms of the coronavirus include a fever, dry cough, fatigue and sore throat. As the infection progresses, patients may also experience tightness of the chest and shortness of breath. The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be at heightened risk. More advice for the public regarding symptoms is available on NHS Choices

What precautions should I take? 

As advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), please maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene. This advice includes:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • If you feel unwell, stay at home, do not attend work or school.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.

If you have travelled from Wuhan or Hubei Province to the UK in the last 14 days you should immediately:

  • Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • Contact NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area.

PHE is advising people to follow this advice even if they do not have symptoms of the virus. If you have travelled from elsewhere in China, Macao, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand to the UK in the last 14 days and develop symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath, you should immediately self-isolate (as above) and contact NHS 111​. 

Can I travel to China? 

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against ‘all travel to Hubei Province’ and now advises against ‘all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China’ (not including Hong Kong and Macao). If you’re a British national in China and able to leave, you should do so.  

Many airlines have now suspended flights to and from mainland China. Chinese authorities have imposed restrictions on movement within China in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Public transport is suspended in Wuhan and people in China are told to avoid travelling in and out of the city and to avoid crowds. Enhanced monitoring is in place for flights to the UK from mainland China, though these flights are reducing in number​. 

Is it safe to attend university? 

We are not aware of any stu​dents or staff who have been in Wuhan in the last 14 days. Therefore, there is no reason not to attend university as normal. But we advise keeping aware of Government advice on the issue, which updates daily. 

I have been abroad or am planning to go abroad to a country where coronavirus has been confirmed. What should I do?  

At the moment, PHE is only advising people returning from the Hubei Province to stay indoors and avoid contact people on arrival in the UK, even if they don't have symptoms of the illness (and those returning from elsewhere in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand​ if they develop symptoms). The FCO advises against 'all travel to Hubei Province' and 'all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China'. 

As it stands, travel to and from other destinations are not currently advised against. Of course, this is a rapidly developing situation and Government advice updates daily. Keep yourself informed by regularly visiting the main PHE advice page and the Government's foreign travel advice page. We will update this page as regularly ​as we can but PHE advice should be your first reference. 

What if travel restrictions mean my visa will expire?

On 17 February the government published new guidance on immigration provisions made by the Home Office for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China.

Due to travel restrictions because of coronavirus, some individuals may be facing uncertainty in relation to the expiry date of their current visa or leave to remain in the United Kingdom. The Home Office understands that in many cases this is because of circumstances outside of your control.

Subject to the full guidance, most people in the UK whose immigration status is affected by the coronavirus outbreak will get an automatic extension of their visa until 31 March 2020.

More detail on visa-related issues is included on the GOV.UK website, including:

The Coronavirus Immigration Helpline is now available on 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, calls are free of charge) or email CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk

What about planned university trips to China? 

Following the FCO advice against all but essential travel to mainland China, the university will not be sending students or staff to mainland China while this FCO advice remains ​in place. 

Where can I find out more information? 

More information can be found on the PHE advice pages here, which are being updated regularly. If you have any specific concerns about your circumstances at DMU, email InfoOnCoronavirus@dmu.ac.uk.

Public Health posters

The Department of Health and Social Care has issued a poster (shown below) containing essential public health advice, including details of what symptoms individuals should look out for and information for anyone who has returned recently from an affected region.

English poster v3 560px 

Simplified Chinese poster v3 560px

Image credit: CDC

Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020

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