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Coronavirus (COVID-19): understanding the new status quo, following governmental advice, and interpreting the numbers

We have heard the advice, but how can we interpret the information? Why follow the lockdown protocols? This article will clarify the coronavirus’ status quo.

UK-specific numbers:

CONFIRMED CASES: 47,806.

PATIENTS DISCHARGED: 135.

PATIENTS WHO DIED: 4,934.

(GOV.UK, 2020b)

What’s the difference between the coronavirus and COVID-19?

The coronavirus is what people catch, and the COVID-19 is the respiratory disease that can develop. A good analogy for understanding the differences between the two terms is HIV and AIDS. Whilst not all people who test positive for HIV develop AIDS, those who do develop it become severely ill. Similarly, not everyone testing positive for the coronavirus develops COVID-19, but those who do develop it are hospitalised and become severely ill. This is why preventing catching the coronavirus is just as important as preventing catching HIV.

What is the likelihood of catching the coronavirus?

As of the date of this writing, and according to Worldometers (2020a), there have been 47,806 confirmed cases in the UK, which has a population of 67,802,457 (Worldometers, 2020b). This means that the total number of hospital admissions per 1 million population is approximately 704, and the number of deaths per 1 million population is 73. Furthermore, Plymouth (the city where I live) had a population of 264,200 as of February (World Population Review, 2020), and as of the date of this writing it has had a total of 102 hospital admissions (GOV.UK, 2020b), out of which 13 (approximately 12.8%) patients have died (O’Leary, 2020); which means that even though there is a low risk of catching the virus, those who do catch it and develop COVID-19 are at high risk of dying.

Why should I stay at home?

Because you do not know whether you are infected or not, and if you are coronavirus positive but you have not developed COVID-19; you could still pass the virus onto other people who might be more vulnerable than you and who might develop COVID-19. Alternatively, you could catch the virus and in the worst case scenario die.

How is staying at home protecting the NHS?

When you prevent catching the coronavirus, you also prevent spreading it around. This means that you are doing everything you can to make sure that the NHS does not become overwhelmed with patients.

What preventive action can be taken?

  • You could self-educate on the topic in order to feel confident that you know what’s going on, and how to survive the crisis.
  • You could stay home in order to prevent becoming a patient, or spreading the virus (creating patients). This means that the NHS will have more supplies to deal with the overwhelming number of cases, and those severely ill will have a higher chance of getting the medical attention and equipment that they need.
  • You could share the information with your friends and family.

What reliable advice is available?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO; 2020a) has a section dedicated to the coronavirus pandemic with all available scientific information.
  • The NHS.UK (2020) has a section also dedicated to the disease.
  • The GOV.UK (2020a) also has a section dedicated to the lockdown in relation to the pandemic.

How is the virus transmitted?

According the World Health Organization (WHO; 2020b) “COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact routes […] transmission of the COVID-19 virus can occur by direct contact with infected people and indirect contact with surfaces in the immediate environment or with objects used on the infected person […] Airborne transmission is different from droplet transmission […]can remain in the air for long periods of time and be transmitted to others over distances greater than 1 m”.

References

GOV.UK (2020a) ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do’ [Online]. Available at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus (Accessed 5 April 2020).

GOV.UK (2020b) ‘Total UK COVID-19 cases’, 4th April [Online]. Available at https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/ae5dda8f86814ae99dde905d2a9070ae (Accessed 5 April 2020).

NHS.UK (2020) ‘Advice for everyone’, 3 April [Online]. Available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ (Accessed 4 April 2020).

O’Leary, M. (2020) ‘Ten coronavirus deaths confirmed in past 24 hours across Devon and Cornwall’, Plymouth Herald, 5 April [Online]. Available at https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/coronavirus-death-toll-uk-risen-4021937 (Accessed 5 April 2020).

World Health Organization (2020a) ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic’ [Online]. Available at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 (Accessed 5 April 2020).

World Health Organization (2020b) ‘Modes of transmission of virus causing COVID-19: implications for IPC precaution recommendations’, 29 March [Online]. Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/modes-of-transmission-of-virus-causing-covid-19-implications-for-ipc-precaution-recommendations (Accessed 5 April 2020).

World Population Review (2020) ‘Plymouth population 2020’, 17 February [Online]. Available at https://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/plymouth-population/ (Accessed 5 April 2020).

Worldometers (2020a) ‘COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic’, 5 April [Online]. Available at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ (Accessed 5 April 2020).

Worldometers (2020b) ‘U.K. Population’, 5 April [Online]. Available at https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/uk-population/ (Accessed 5 April 2020).