COVID-19 / Coronavirus: Don’t panic — but do prepare
Information and advice are being updated on a regular basis – please see website links at the end of this post for government websites that you should check regularly for the latest updates.
What, if anything, can or should you be doing in response to Corona virus / Covid 19, now?
Prevention: good habits to reduce your chance of contracting the virus
One of the best ways to protect yourself against infection from COVID-19 (or any communicable infection) is hand hygiene. Washing your hands frequently, as well as avoiding touching your face, eyes and nose, is a simple but effective way to reduce your risk.
Studies have shown that good and frequent handwashing will decrease the risk of transmission of these viruses anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.
You can use the alcohol-based hand gels, or you can use soap and water, or both. You don’t need to use a specific antibacterial soap but you should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice)
If you cough or sneeze try to use a tissue (and immediately dispose of it in a bin) or alternatively into your elbow (and wash your hands right after)
Encourage others around you at home and work to follow similar habits – especially children.
What about face masks?
The science on whether it’s helpful to wear a face mask out in public is really, really mixed, as (for example it depends on what kind of mask you are wearing and whether you use it correctly). Some infectious disease experts are reluctant to recommend that people wear masks as a preventive measure because they can provide a false sense of security.
What experts do agree on is that wearing a mask is a good idea if you are sick, so you can reduce the chances that you’ll infect others, whether it’s family members at home or people in your community. Wearing a mask when sick is especially a good idea if you live with someone whose immune system is compromised or who’s elderly, since older people seem to be more vulnerable to Covid-19.
Some research suggests that wearing a mask can help protect you if you’re caring for a sick family member, but only if you wear it all the time in the presence of the sick person and if you are careful not to touch the front of it, which could be contaminated with pathogens.
Do you have a plan for children, dependents or older relatives?
Give consideration now to how you would manage if your children’s childcare provider or school were closed. Could you put a backup childcare plan in place?
Similarly, for elderly relatives or other family members who are dependent on care provision, consider now whether you could put contingency plans in place in case of disruption to that care provision.
Stock up on food and medication
The reason to stock up on certain products now isn’t so much to avoid potential shortages in the event of an outbreak but to practice what experts call social distancing. Basically, you want to avoid crowds to minimize your risk of catching the disease. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the last place you want to be is at a crowded grocery store or pharmacy.
If you take daily medications — for example, blood pressure pills — make sure you have enough to last a couple of weeks.
It’s also worth pre-buying: fever reducers like ibuprofen.
Think about adding enough non-perishable foods to your pantry to carry you through for a couple of weeks if necessary. Foods like chicken or vegetable broth and crackers as well as hydrating drinks will help if you do get sick and you want to be ready to ride it out at home if need be.
We still don’t know exactly how long the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces but most household cleansers — such as bleach wipes or alcohol — will kill them.
If COVID-19 does start circulating in your community or there’s someone sick at home, increase the frequency with which you’re cleaning surfaces that get touched frequently such as kitchen counters and taps to several times a day.
What to do about work?
Now is the time to talk to your employer about your ability to work from home if COVID-19 is spreading locally. Obviously, if you’re sick, you should stay at home. But even if you are well, working from home makes sense in the event of a local outbreak to reduce the chances that you’ll be infected. (Link to current government advice for employers below).
What’s the plan if you get sick?
If you show early signs of illness — like a fever or a dry cough —you should call your GP or NHS 111 but DO NOT go to the GP or another location where you might infect others.
As the situation develops you can keep up to date with the latest advice from government online: