‘Everywhere you go people are talking about it,’ said a radio producer, ‘you can’t get away from it.’  He was referring to the Coronavirus that originated last December in China and has spread rapidly around the world, with more than 110,000 confirmed cases globally with more than 270 in the UK. 

It’s said to have only minor effects on most people but can badly affect those with underlying health problems and younger children:  older people are particularly vulnerable.  It’s spread by air-born ‘aerosols’ or by droplets on surfaces, and advice includes keeping a distance of at least a metre from anyone who is coughing or sneezing, and to wash hands frequently.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised everyone to use contactless payment instead of bank notes that can be carriers of the virus.  Many older people prefer to pay by cash, so if you know anyone who does this, be sure to tell them about it and remind them to wash their hands afterwards or use a hand sanitizer. Dr Michael Mosley, is 62 years old and male, which puts him into two of the higher-risk categories, advises against shaking hands, buying zinc lozenges, and having a good night’s sleep. ‘During deep sleep, your body makes proteins that boost your immune system and help you fight infection. Lack of sleep will make you more vulnerable to coughs and colds.’ 

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has raised the risk to the public from low to moderate.  He emphasised that even those at greatest risk of infection were not likely to be "a goner” and that the great majority of people who caught this virus survived it.  

Prof Whitty said it takes about five days from getting the virus for symptoms to show, and then up to a week to recover. Those who get more seriously ill tend to do so after about five or six days of having the illness. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

At Pilgrims' Friend Society our Coronavirus Lead is Assistant Director of Operations Barbara Margetts. She said, ‘We have been caring for vulnerable older people for decades, and our infection control procedures are a part of our everyday life. In this current outbreak we keep up to the minute with information from the Government and by Public Health England’s (PHE) local Health Protection Teams.’ 

In her briefings to housing and care home managers Barbara adds a footnote: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6