Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

This page was updated on: 18 February 2020

This page will keep you informed about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and contains links to coronavirus-related resources produced by the government and other bodies.

We’re in contact with government and the NHS about the latest developments and what this might mean for pharmacists and UK medicines supply, as well as speaking to other professional bodies and pharmacy organisations.

For expert pharmacy advice and answers to your questions about coronavirus, contact our One-to-One Support Team. They're here to help all our members via 'phone, Twitter and email, Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm.

Key facts for pharmacy teams

  1. Currently, there are nine confirmed cases in the UK and the risk to the UK population has been assessed as moderate .  
  2. National guidance is updated regularly as the situation changes; see detailed advice for the relevant country below.
  3. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 acute respiratory disease. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. (PHE).
  4. The main symptoms reported are fever, cough or chest tightness, and shortness of breath (PHE).
  5. The Department of Health and Social Care is evaluating the potential impact of coronavirus on the supply of medicines and medical goods. Find out more here

If the patient satisfies epidemiological and clinical criteria, they are classified as a possible case.

Epidemiological criteria

In the 14 days before the onset of illness:

  • Travel to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, or Thailand

OR

  • Contact (see definition here) with confirmed cases of COVID-19

Clinical criteria

  • Severe acute respiratory infection requiring admission to hospital with clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome

OR

  • Acute respiratory infection of any degree of severity, including at least one of shortness of breath or cough (with or without fever)

OR

  • Fever with no other symptoms

Clinicians should be alert to the possibility of atypical presentations in patients who are immunocompromised (PHE).

Advice to give patients

Public Health England has produced guidance to assist professionals in advising the general public.
Usual hygiene measures to prevent infections spreading should be followed: 

  • Regular hand washing
  • Covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with a tissue
  • Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.

Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing (WHO). We have produced a handwashing guide.
Further advice for the public on how to slow the spread of coronavirus can be found in the PHE UK-wide public information campaign.

The advice from Public Health authorities does not recommend the use of face masks outside clinical settings. PHE has issued an advice sheet for people who live in the same accommodation as the patient. This includes information on wearing a facemask if advised to do so.

The World Health Organization guidance on when to use a mask says:

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.  

WHO also advise wearing a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
Further information on the use of face masks can be found on the WHO website

Advise travellers from Wuhan and Hubei province to stay at home and avoid contact with people and public places for 14 days and call NHS 111 (England), NHS 24 (Scotland) or NHS Direct Wales to inform them of your recent travel to the area.

All travellers who develop relevant symptoms (fever or cough or shortness of breath), however mild, within 14 days of returning from other parts of China and other specified areas, should self-isolate at home immediately and call NHS 111 (England), NHS 24 (Scotland) or NHS Direct Wales.

Further information