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Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

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, named novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). While early cases were likely infected by an animal source in a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan, ongoing human-to-human transmission is now occurring.

There are a number of coronaviruses that are transmitted from human-to-human which are not of public health concern. However the 2019-nCoV can cause respiratory illness of varying severity. Currently, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for infection with the virus.

On the 30 January 2020 the World Health Organization declared that the outbreak of 2019-nCoV constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This is a rapidly evolving situation which is being monitored carefully.

If you have travelled to any of the infected areas within the past 14 days or been in contact with someone who has – even if you have not developed any symptoms you should not attend any face to face appointments but telephone first for advice.

What are the symptoms of a 2019-nCoV?

Typical symptoms if infected:

  • High temperature or fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

Generally, coronavirus symptoms are similar to seasonal flu, however cough may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.  Symptoms are likely to be more severe in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Which areas are affected by 2019-nCoV?

The following areas so far have been identified where people are at higher risk of getting 2019-nCoV:

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

If you have been to any of these areas within the past 14 days or believe you have been in close contact with someone who has and have a fever, cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel, phone your GP or NHS 24 (111)immediately.

Don’t go to your GP practice, phone for advice from home.

If you have been to Wuhan City or other parts of Hubei province, even if you don’t have symptoms current advice is that you should remain at home (self-isolate) for 14 days and:

  • avoid having visitors – it is okay for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food
  • don’t go to work, school or public areas, or use taxis or public transport
  • phone 0800 028 2816for further advice about what to do and how to look after your health


Whilst it may be possible to transmit the virus before symptoms are shown this risk remains low. It isn’t necessary for other household members to remain at home too.

If you have been to any other affected areas and don’t have symptoms: you can go about your normal activities.  If you become unwell within 14 days of your return, phone your GP or NHS 24 (111).

2019-nCoV helpline

If you do not have symptoms and are looking for general information, a free helpline has been set up on 0800 028 2816

The helpline is open:

  • Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 10.00pm
  • Saturday and Sunday, 9.00am to 5.00pm

If you’ve been in contact with someone with 2019-nCoV

If you have been in contact with someone with 2019-nCoV in the past 14 days, but have no symptoms:

  • remain at home for 14 days
  • phone your GP or NHS 24 (111)

If you have been in contact with someone with a confirmed coronavirus infection and have symptoms (fever, cough or shortness of breath), phone your GP or NHS 24 (111). Don’t attend your GP practice in person, phone for advice from home.

How is the virus spread between people?

Because it’s a new virus, we don’t know the incubation period or how it spreads from person to person.

Similar viruses:

  • spread by droplets in coughs and sneezes
  • suggest symptoms are likely to develop within a few days of exposure

How long can the virus survive outside the body?

2019-nCoV is a newly emerging virus so there hasn’t been any studies on how long it might survive outside the body.

Other coronaviruses have been shown to survive on hard surfaces for at least 48 hours, so proper cleaning is very important.

What you can do to prevent infection

You can reduce your risk of getting and spreading respiratory infections by:

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

Will wearing a mask help to prevent the virus spreading?

There is currently no evidence that face masks for the general public are effective in stopping the spread of the virus.

Can I get the virus by using or having contact with towels or bed linen used by a person with the virus?

Washing at 60 degrees C with a detergent is effective at killing viruses and bacteria on towels and other fabrics.

It is good hygiene practice for anyone who has any symptoms of respiratory illness to use their own towels.

Treatment for 2019-nCoV

Currently, there’s no vaccine and no specific treatment for the virus.

If you’re suspected of having 2019-nCoV, you will be tested and treated for free. This includes all overseas visitors to Scotland.

Can I go about my normal activities if I have had a negative test for 2019-nCoV?

Even if you have had a negative test result you should:

  • still remain at home
  • phone your GP or NHS24 (111) if your symptoms get worse or new symptoms develop within the 14 days

You may need to be retested.

If you have had a negative test result since returning from Wuhan City or other parts of Hubei province

If you have received a negative result within 14 days of travel from Wuhan or Hubei, remain at home until the end of the 14-day period whether your symptoms get better or not.

If you have had a negative test result since returning from any other affected area

If your test result was negative, remain at home until either:

  • your symptoms get better
  • the end of the 14-day period if your symptoms don’t go away

Further information

More advice on travel can be found on Fit for Travel and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Up to date information on the situation in Scotland is being published by Scottish Government.