In late December 2019, the People’s Republic of China reported an outbreak of pneumonia due to unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei Province.

In early January 2020, the cause of the outbreak was identified as a new coronavirus. While early cases were likely infected by an animal source in a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan, ongoing human-to-human transmission is now occurring.

On the 30 January 2020 the World Health Organization declared that the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

In Scotland, Public health regulations have been amended to make coronavirus (Covid-19) a notifiable disease.

The changes to the Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008 mean that medical practitioners are now required to share patient information with health boards if they have reasonable grounds to suspect a person they are attending has coronavirus.

There are a number of coronaviruses that are transmitted from human-to-human which are not of public health concern. However COVID-19 can cause respiratory illness of varying severity. Currently, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for infection with the virus. 

The Scottish Government’s approach is guided by the Chief Medical Officer, and continue to monitor the situation closely and to work with the WHO and international community.

What is Coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a type of virus. Typical symptoms include fever, a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

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.

Because it's a new illness, it is not exactly understood how coronavirus spreads from person to person, have a precise incubation period and there hasn’t been any studies on how long it might survive outside the body.

Similar viruses spread by droplets generated in coughs and sneezes and are likely to develop within a few days of exposure. Based on current information, public health advice is that anyone potentially exposed should be alert to any symptoms for 14 days after their last possible exposure. 

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Symptoms of a coronavirus infection usually start up to 14 days after catching the infection. Common symptoms include:

  • high temperature or fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

What is the current situation?

The WHO has continued to produce daily situation reports containing the latest numbers of confirmed cases. On 20 February 2020, 99% of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally were reported from China, with 26 other countries around the world have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Which areas are affected by coronavirus?

Certain areas have been identified where people are at higher risk of getting coronavirus. This includes:

  • China
  • Thailand
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Macau

 What is the situation in Scotland?

A total of 368 Scottish tests have concluded, of which 368 were confirmed negative and 0 positive (as of 21 February 2020). For up to date figures see here.

Overseas visitors to Scotland, regardless of their residency status, are exempt from NHS charges for both the diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19). `

What can be done to prevent infection with coronavirus?

Advice has been issued for people who have recently been in any of the risk areas so that the possibility of them passing on the virus is minimised. This advice includes self-isolation for people who have recently been in Wuhan City or other parts of Hubei province even if they have no symptoms. Anyone who has recently been in any risk area, and who is unwell is being managed according to national guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission of the illness.

You can reduce your risk of acquiring and spreading respiratory infections by practising good respiratory hygiene, such as:

  • avoiding direct hand contact with your eyes, nose and mouth
  • maintaining good hand hygiene – washing hands with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser, after coughing or sneezing, after going to the toilet, and prior to eating and drinking
  • wherever possible avoid direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items such as their mobile phone
  • when coughing or sneezing cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues and dispose of them in the nearest waste bin after use