When it comes to Coronavirus we are all suffering from a bit of information overload at the moment. So we’ve done our homework and consulted the experts to bring you everything you need to know about the Coronavirus in simple and straight-forward terms.
Where We Are Now
The Coronavirus has spread rapidly since it first arrived in the UK. While there have been more than 200,000 confirmed cases, the actual number is estimated to be much higher because until recently testing was limited to hospital patients and NHS and care home staff.
More than 32,000 people have died from Coronavirus in the UK, which has the highest official death toll in Europe and the second highest in the world. The vast majority of deaths have been older people and those with underlying health conditions.
The number of new cases as well as the number of daily deaths in the UK has been declining since it peaked in mid-April which would suggest that the social distancing measures introduced by the government are proving effective in curbing the spread of the virus.
You can find out more about the current number of cases in your area here.
You’ve probably seen and heard a lot about the “R” value of the virus but what it is it and why is it so important? Well, in simple terms the “R” value represents the rate at which the virus is increasing in the population.
An “R” value greater than 1 means the virus is spreading, while an “R” value of less than 1 means the virus is dying out.
Here’s a simple example. If the “R” value is 1.5 that means that every 10 people who have the virus will infect 15 people, they in turn will infect 22 people and so the number grows. Whereas if the “R” value is 0.7 that means that every 10 people who have the virus will infect just 7 people and those 7 will infect less than 5 and so on until the number reaches zero.
The “R” value is significantly influenced by the amount of contact we have with other people. If we don’t come into contact with other people, for example due to social distancing, the “R” value starts to come down.
At the moment the “R” value for the Coronavirus in the UK stands at between 0.5 and 0.9.
There are two types of test you should be aware of. One (the antigen test) tells you if you currently have the virus and the other (the antibody test) tells you if you have previously had the virus and recovered from it.
The Antigen Test
The antigen test can determine whether someone is currently carrying the virus and are actively infectious. It is done by taking a swab from a person’s nose or throat. The swab is then sent away to a lab for testing and the results are usually available between 48 and 72 hours later.
The government has set up testing centres all over the UK and you can apply for a test if you believe you may have the virus or if you meet certain criteria, for example if you are over 65 or a key worker.
You can find out more about the antigen test and how to get tested here.
The Antibody Test
An antibody test can detect if a person has had coronavirus before and has since recovered. The test is carried out by a small device that pricks your finger for blood. The device then tests the blood for coronavirus antibodies to see if you have already beaten the virus and gained some immunity to it. It can do this in about 15 minutes.
Last month, the Government ordered 3.5 million of these finger-prick tests, mainly from Chinese manufacturers. Unfortunately the tests were found by experts to be too unreliable for mass use. It could now be months before an effective antibody testing kit, that can be used at home, becomes available.
The COVID-19 App
The COVID-19 app is a piece of software (a programme) that you download to your mobile phone.
The aim of the COVID-19 App is to help reduce the spread of the virus by alerting people if they have come into contact with an infected person.
This is done by tracking your movements using GPS. If someone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 they tell the app and the app lets everyone who they have been in close contact with know that they may have been exposed to the virus. The app doesn’t share yours or anyone else’s personal details, it’s all done anonymously. The app does however store some of your personal details and this has led to some concerns about privacy.
Smartphone apps have proven effective in helping to reduce the spread of the virus in places like China and South Korea.
The UK COVID-19 App is currently being tested in the Isle of Wight and if the trials are successful the government may decide to roll the app out across the country however it won’t be compulsory to use it.
You can learn more about the app here.
Hopes For A Vaccine
In laboratories across the world enormous efforts are being made to develop a Coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine would, in theory, give those who receive it immunity to the virus.
A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. However scientists are hoping to achieve the same amount of work in only a few months. Some experts believe that a vaccine could become available by mid-2021. That would be a huge scientific feat and there are no guarantees it will be achieved.
Any potential vaccine will have to undergo a series of tests to make sure it is safe and effective before it can administered to the public. Then there is the challenge of producing enough of the vaccine for everyone and administering it to the public.
The uncertainties surrounding the development of the vaccine means that it isn’t currently a big part of the government’s plans for tackling the virus in the short term. However if an effective vaccine did become available it would change everything.
You can find out more about the development of the vaccine here.
It’s going to be some months before things return to normal here in the UK. A lot depends on the effectiveness of measures like testing, the app and social distancing to curb the spread of the virus and keep the “R” value below 1.
On Sunday 10th May Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a plan to alter some of the social distancing measures in place in England. However, the local governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not adopted these measure and have instead decided to maintain rigid social distancing measures.
For those in the higher risk categories which includes people with underlying health conditions and those over the age 65 the message remains the same. Stay at home and minimise your contact with people outside of those you live with. This is by far your best way of avoiding the virus and staying safe.
In the meantime, Greysnet will continue to monitor all the new information coming out about Coronavirus and keep you up to date as the situation develops.