What is it?

COVID-19 is the illness seen in people infected with a new strain of coronavirus not previously seen in humans. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses common across the world in animals and humans. Certain types cause illnesses in people.

For example, some coronaviruses cause the common cold; others cause diseases which are much more severe such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), both of which often lead to pneumonia.

What are the symptoms?

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to show.

The most common symptoms of the virus are:

  • a cough - this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
  • shortness of breath
  • breathing difficulties
  • fever (high temperature)

However, the presence of these symptoms do not necessarily mean that one is sick with COVID-19 as these symptoms are similar to other common illnesses such as colds and flu.

As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively. The current data seem to show that everyone is susceptible to catching this disease, and thus it is also more likely than not that the UK and Ireland will be significantly affected.

Among those who become infected, some will exhibit no symptoms. Early data suggest that of those who develop an illness, the great majority will have a mild-to-moderate, but self-limiting illness – similar to seasonal flu.

It is, however, also clear that a minority of people who get COVID-19 will develop complications severe enough to require hospital care, most often pneumonia. In a small proportion of these, the illness may be severe enough to lead to death.

More information on symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is available from the official websites of the NHS and HSE.

How is it spread?

Studies are still being undertaken to fully understand how this new illness spreads from person to person. However, because it shares certain similarities with other viruses, it is assumed that the disease spreads in droplets. According to the health authorities, it is unlikely that the virus can spread through things such as packages or food.

Who are at risk of the disease?

Some people are more vulnerable than others in contracting this disease. Current available data suggests that the risk of severe disease and death increases among elderly people and in people with underlying health risk conditions (in the same way as for seasonal flu).

Illness is less common and usually less severe in younger adults. Children can be infected and can have a severe illness, but based on current data overall illness seems rarer in people under 20 years of age.

So far, there has been no obvious sign that pregnant women are more likely to be seriously affected.

The majority of people with COVID-19 have recovered without the need for any specific treatment, as is the case for the common cold or seasonal flu and it is expected that the vast majority of cases will best be managed at home.

Which areas are greatly affected with the outbreak of COVID-19?

According to competent authorities, the following areas are greatly affected by the spread of the virus:

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • Italy

At present, more information on this disease is still being gathered. However, the Embassy continues to update its understanding of the disease and will then review and revise (where necessary) its plan of action accordingly.

Work is being done to contain the spread of the virus. The Philippines, UK, and Ireland have published extensive guidance provided to individuals returning from areas where there are cases being reported, and are encouraging self-isolation as the primary means to contain the spread of the disease. At the moment, treatment is focused on managing symptoms and providing support to patients with complications since no vaccine or specific, proven, anti-viral medication is available.


  • National Health Service
  • Health Service Executive