It is really important to understand the facts about Covid-19 and know what you can do to protect yourself and to help stop it spreading. Here are the answers to some of the questions you may have about it, written by The Week Junior’s Editor-in-chief, Anna Bassi, to help you to make sense of the news.
What is a coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus that causes respiratory infections (like coughs and colds). Covid-19 is the name that has been given to a disease caused by a new coronavirus that was first discovered towards the end of 2019.
What is a pandemic?
Pandemic is the word that is used to describe the spread of a disease around the world.
Why is there a lockdown now, and when will it end?
All four nations of the UK were in lockdown at the beginning of January in an effort to stop the virus spreading. Many hospitals are struggling to cope with the number of people who are seriously sick with Covid-19. It is really important to take the pressure off medical staff so that they can continue to care for everyone properly. The surge in infections is partly due to a new version of the virus, which appears to be more infectious than before. This is causing it to be spread more easily. During a lockdown, people are far less likely to mix with others from outside their own household, and this will help to stop the spread of the virus. It is not yet clear when the lockdown will end, because that decision can only be made when infections and illnesses are much lower than they were at the beginning of January. For now, most children will continue to stay away from schools, and adults who can work from home will continue to do that.
How can I protect myself and others from Covid-19?
As well as following the rules of the lockdown where you live, there are further simple rules that everyone should follow to protect themselves and others. These are:
• Social distancing – keeping a minimum of two metres apart from other people is best. Avoid crowded places, even outdoors.
• Facemasks – wear a mask in public places such as shops and on transport and anywhere else where you see a sign (This rule does not apply to children aged under five in Scotland, under 11 in England and Wales, and under 13 in Northern Ireland.)
• Keep hands clean by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitiser.
• Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze. Throw away the tissue after use and then wash your hands. (Sneeze into the inside of your elbow if you do not have a tissue).
• If you or anyone in your household is tested for Covid-19 and receives a positive result, you should all stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least 10 days (this is called self-isolating). You should do this even if you have no symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Covid-19?
The symptoms of Covid-19 can be similar to the common cold or flu. If you suffer from a high temperature, a persistent cough or shortness of breath, or you notice a change to your sense of smell or taste, you should tell a trusted adult such as a parent, guardian or teacher as soon as possible. They will need to call the National Health Service helpline on 111 to get advice. They may need to book a test for you.
Not everyone has the same symptoms, and some people may be infectious before they start to suffer from any of the symptoms (this is why it is so important to social distance, wear a mask and take all sensible precautions). Some people who test positive do not have any symptoms and continue to feel perfectly well. Although some people have been very ill after being infected, the vast majority of children who catch the virus don’t get sick – in most cases it is no worse than having a cold – but they can still infect others.
How are people tested for Covid-19?
Most tests for Covid-19 involve using a swab (a bit like a long cotton bud) to take samples from the back of a person’s throat and/or from inside the nose. It’s very simple, it doesn’t take long and it shouldn’t hurt, although it might feel a bit uncomfortable. People can get tested at special testing centres around the UK, or they can send off for a kit so that the test can be done at home. Some tests – such as the Lateral Flow Test, which involves swabbing the nostrils – can give results in less than an hour. Others will take a day or two.
What is a vaccine and how will it help end the pandemic?
A vaccine is a medicine that helps your body to fight off disease by strengthening the body’s own defences. People who are vaccinated against Covid-19 are much less likely to contract the disease and are at less risk of serious illness. In the UK there are currently three vaccines against Covid-19 that have been approved for use. These are now being given to the people who are at most risk of becoming sick, including elderly people, those with serious health conditions and NHS staff. It will take a few months for all these people to be vaccinated. Once that has happened – and as long as everyone continues to follow sensible rules and restrictions – the rate of infections will slow and the number of people becoming seriously ill will drop.