The growing and pressing threat Coronavirus (COVID-19) poses to the UK has led to significant high-level government contingency planning. I have been to three briefing meetings with the Chief Medical Officer for England in the past few weeks – unprecedented in my time as your MP. The number of new cases is rising, and is likely to continue to rise significantly.
This week the government published its Coronavirus Action Plan, which involves containing the virus, delaying its spread, researching its origins and cure, and finally mitigating the impact should the virus become more widespread. The plan also includes potential further steps should the situation worsen, to prepare for all eventualities. A major public information campaign is underway to help inform the public.
Typical symptoms of Coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. For most, the virus will present as only a mild illness from which a speedy and full recovery will be made. But generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
This is particularly concerning for South Shropshire, where almost 30% of people are aged over 65, compared to just 18% nationally. If more people need to self-isolate, this not only affects those who think they might have the virus, but also those who work with others – care workers being a key example.
So we must all do what we can to help stop the virus from spreading. Regular hand hygiene – washing your hands with soap and hot water for the length of time it takes to sing happy birthday twice - and cleaning of frequently touched surfaces will help to reduce the risk of infection.
It is crucial people returning from travelling in affected areas take necessary precautions. Please check on NHS or government website www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public for latest updates, which includes advice on self-isolation for those returning from China and the Far East, Iran and northern Italy.
If you are unsure, please call NHS 111. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. By taking necessary precautions, we can all do our bit to help stop the spread.