What is the situation in the UK?

The number of recorded cases of coronavirus in the UK stands at 40. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have one recorded case with the remaining 37 in England.

A total of 13,525 patients tested have been found not to be infected and there have so far been no fatalities. But Boris Johnson has warned that the virus is likely to spread in the coming days.

How is the government responding?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the government’s strategy is still in the “containment” phase. This involves isolating and treating those infected and tracing the source of infections to minimise the spread of the virus.

There are fears that containment might become impossible because the virus may be being spread by people who do not know they have been infected.

Even if containment ultimately fails, the hope is that the strategy will buy enough time to develop a vaccine. Delaying the spread of the virus until warmer months will, it seems, also make it harder for the virus to incubate and take pressure off the NHS.

The PM chaired an emergency Cobra meeting on Monday morning at which he announced that a UK-wide action plan would be published on Tuesday.

Cancelling major public events, closing schools and asking people to work from home are among the measures being considered.

How does the coronavirus spread?

It’s not known exactly how the virus spreads from human to human. But transmission of similar viruses occurs when someone ingests small aerosol particles or droplets of saliva or mucus from a cough or a sneeze.

The incubation period – the time gap between contracting the virus and showing symptoms – is 14 days, according to the WHO. It’s thought that a patient is most contagious when their symptoms are most acute.

What can I do to minimise the risks from the virus?

The NHS recommends taking the following precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the virus:

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Catch coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues. Bin them immediately.

Avoid contact with people who are unwell.

Face masks also offer some protection against contracting the virus from water droplets, though not from aerosol particles which pass through most masks.

What should I do if I start showing symptoms?

Initial symptoms of coronavirus are similar to those of a common cold. A runny nose, sore throat and headache tend to develop into a fever, followed by a dry cough. More serious cases lead to shortness of breath around a week later. Severe cases can cause pneumonia.

Even if you exhibit these symptoms it’s highly unlikely you’ve contracted the virus, unless:

You’ve recently returned from a country with a high risk of coronavirus.

You’ve come into contact with someone who has coronavirus.

If you suspect you have coronavirus, instead of visiting a hospital or GP surgery, NHS advice is to call 111.

Should I self-isolate?

Government advice is to self-isolate if you’ve recently returned from Hubei province, Iran, lockdown areas of northern Italy or special care zones in South Korea, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

You should self-isolate if you start to develop even mild symptoms and have recently returned from other parts of mainland China, northern Italy and South Korea, as well as Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

How deadly is the coronavirus?

Based on a study of 44,000 cases of coronavirus in China, the WHO has concluded that 81% of people infected developed mild symptoms, 14% developed severe symptoms and 5% became critically ill.

The mortality rate appears to be around 1%-2%. Although figures are unreliable because of difficulties in detecting mild cases, meaning the true rate could be much lower. By comparison, the mortality rate of seasonal influenza tends to be around 0.1%.

However, unlike flu, there is no vaccine for the coronavirus which makes it more dangerous for vulnerable groups, including old people and those with pre-existing respiratory and immune problems.

Recovery depends on the strength of your immune system and many who have died after contracting the virus were already in poor health.

How worried should we be?

The rise in cases in the UK has been anticipated for several weeks and doesn’t come as a shock. The picture will become clearer as more data comes in about how easily the virus spreads. It’s worth noting that the more contagious a virus is, the less deadly it tends to be.

UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the public risk level in the country from low to moderate. But the NHS says that the risk to individuals remains low. The Health Secretary, speaking on Sky News on Sunday, cautioned against panic: “At this stage people should go about their ordinary business”.