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Are we Coronavirus prepared?

THIS week, Southport Hospital had Coronavirus Pods installed, and other Hospitals all over the UK are also putting control measures in place. But, should we really be as worried as we are getting? Since the start of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, most people have recovered quickly after a few days' rest, but in some cases it can be more severe and in rare cases it can kill. Because it's a new illness and health professionals do not know exactly how Coronavirus spreads from person to person, in the UK people are getting increasingly confused and worried about it.

The virus is thought to be spread by coughs and via contaminated surfaces, such as handrails and door handles in public places, but taking sensible steps to reduce your risk of picking up the infection. This can be as simple as having good hygiene, this can stop you and others getting this virus, and other infections too.

Remember to wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer gel if soap and water are not available. Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. If you cough or sneeze, please cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) and don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean! Plus, always put used tissues in the bin immediately!

The Royal College of GPs, said in a press statement:- "The most important thing for patients is not to be alarmed. It's still more likely that anyone with cold or flu like symptoms will have the flu or a bad cold, not Covid-19. But if you think you might have Coronavirus, you should contact your Doctor over the phone or use the online the NHS line:- 111 and ask for the 'Coronavirus Service.' Do not go to a GP Surgery, Pharmacy or Hospital."

The following are symptoms of Coronavirus:-

1. A cough.

2. A high temperature.

3. Shortness of breath.

Remember to stay calm as even if you have them, it doesn't necessarily mean you have the illness. You only need to self isolate and stay away from other people if you are advised to by a medical professional. We think it's worth adding, that we should improve our hygiene anyway, so please do follow the old saying:- "Catch it, bag it, bin it!" if you do have any cold.

Over the last few weeks we have all been bombarded by meaningless statistics being used as click bait by media the world over. It's hard to convince our brain of facts at the best of times, hence why statistics often don't work and often lead to more problems than good. For example, the number of people being reported as infected is often used as an attention grabber, but they are often just misleading. At this point we should say far more people die in car accidents or household accidents per year than of Coronavirus, yet we don't panic about this! Covid-19 may be the focus of headlines, but the World Heath Organisation have also confirmed that seasonal influenza has already made more people ill this year, but we don't hear about that either.

It is understandable that people currently feel concerned and confused and it should not come as a surprise that misinformation is flying about. The perceived risk of catching this virus is making many people feel anxious, especially those with long term health conditions. Also, we have been seeing a growing trend of misleading information being pushed out on social media platforms, for example:- "Don't send your kids to school in Wigan, as they could easily get it!" In reality the World Health Organisation (WHO) have clearly said statements like this are wrong, as children aren't at greater risk at catching Coronavirus and healthy children are resilient and are less likely to suffer seriously. Other posts have said pregnant women are those who have an increased risk and should avoid being in public, but there is no evidence at present, that pregnant women are at any higher risk than any other group.

Sadly, another internet myth going around is that the flu jab will protect you. In reality, Coronavirus is an entirely different virus to flu, so this jab it will not help you. But influenza itself can also make you sick and can be severe in certain people. People are aged 65 and over, pregnant women and children and adults with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems can get free immunisation, for free, on the NHS. If you have not already done so, consider taking up the offer and give yourself a chance of avoiding or minimising the effects of seasonal flu.

We will point out that people with pre-existing health problems and older people are thought to be at greater risk of developing severe symptoms if they catch the Coronavirus, so might also be very worried at this time. For example, those living with either type 1 or type 2 Diabetes could be at greater risk of more severe symptoms. Also, those with underlying medical issues like:- high blood pressure, lung complaints and weakened, compromised immune systems or cancer and leukaemia are more likely to develop serious illness as a result of the disease. The latest advice from the government's chief medical adviser is that pensioners currently do not need to be self isolating, despite reports that have been going around following badly worded statements from the UK Government. We would like to add that the elderly and their families can also call Age UK Advice for free on:- 08001696565 to find out how the Age UK network can help someone who may be feeling lonely or worried. Also, if those of us in the lower risk categories should take a less cavalier approach to hygiene and, if they exhibit any symptoms or know they could have been a contact with the Corona virus, remember just because you are not really ill, you could be a potential carrier. Seek advice before you mingle!

With the mixed messages within the media and from Government, headlines like:- "Italy, more than a quarter of population have been placed in mandatory quarantine." The real damage from this outbreak will more likely be social and economic.

The UK's Government attempts to stem the spread of the Coronavirus in this way has lead to a dangerous problem, as people not travelling think they are in the clear and that only those who have travelled in affected areas outside the UK could be infected. Likely sources of infection are not being fully understood and this misperception of danger being higher within certain ethnic groups inside the UK is damaging those areas and is also fostering a rise in racism in the UK's most diverse towns and cities. Racists seem to be feeling increasingly confident, since Brexit, in deploying abuse, and this is yet another way for them to pass on more misinformation and fuel even more antagonism In the last few days, Facebook said it will be removing Coronavirus conspiracy theories it has flagged up, in an attempt to counter this issue on its platforms. Sadly, the damage is already done. Already we have seen a rapid rise in reports of anti-Asian race related crimes in the UK, like the East Asian student who as badly assaulted in London and Meera Solanki who was attacked in a Birmingham bar after standing up for Chinese friend over comments about the Coronavirus. Not as bad as those examples, but sadly, our Editor has been shown evidence of eggs having been thrown at local Southport businesses, with Asian connections, in recent days. Those businesses affected have asked not to be identified as they are worried about attacks getting works if they go on record.

The UK Government needs to get a proper grip on things and issue clear information. We must also look at the way we deal with people who are ill. Currently, those on zero hour contacts and self employed don't get sick pay, so the chances are, if they get ill they will still go into work, as they cannot afford not to. They are also often those most likely to have issues that make them more prone to sickness, so they are more in need. Would it also not be a good idea anyway to help them, even if it is not Coronavirus related, as this outbreak has exposed massive issues in the way out health service works and also the way we work as a nation? It has highlighted the racism the UK has, plus the issues people face when ill. Let's use this as a wake up call to improve hygiene and also work out ways to help reduce the spread of viruses and to address this culture that pushes people into work, even when they are not well. This current ethos and working practice we have in the UK is just a perfect environment for a bigger and more worrying can of worms down the line.

Also, please do not start stockpiling things like toilet paper, as it makes no sense, unless you suffer from diarrhoea! Remember, check sites like the NHS and disregard Social Media posts as most are well intended, but often are wrong.

To read the UK Government's latest travel advice in connection to the Coronavirus please click on here

Remember to also see the NHS website for health related advice or call the NHS on:- 111. In parts of Wales where the 111 service isn't available, you can also call NHS Direct on:- 0845 46 47. In Northern Ireland, you should call your GP.

Did you know? The name of the virus comes from what they look like under an electron microscope. Under magnification the virus appears to have a halo or "crown" of club shaped spikes on the surface. The word corona is Latin for crown, hence its name. Coronaviruses belong to a family known as Coronaviridae that are a group of viruses that usually causes mild illnesses, within mammals and birds.

Small businesses in Liverpool City Region given guidance to minimise potential disruption from Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak

THE Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has issued advice to small businesses and FSB members about the novel Coronavirus COVID-19, alongside benefits and services that will help small businesses to prepare for any disruption from an outbreak of COVID-19 novel Coronavirus.

FSB Merseyside and Cheshire Area Leader for Liverpool City Region, Michael Sandys, said:- "Small businesses contribute billions to the UK economy and are a major source of employment. I'm pleased that we're able to offer them practical advice and services to help them prepare and recover more quickly from a potential outbreak, including help with cash flow. Being prepared is key and we urge businesses to prepare a business continuity plan as FSB research showed that just one in three small businesses have 1. We're seeing increased calls to our contact centre and our legal advice line and it is good that we are able to offer small businesses a strong package of advice and services, along with support. At times like this, I think being a member of FSB really comes into its own."

FSB is advising small businesses to follow official Government advice. In addition, it is offering them help to create a business continuity plan, providing advice about business insurance should a business be forced to close due to an outbreak of the Coronavirus, access to a 24/7 legal advice line, a health and medical advice service and help with cash flow.

Preparing for Coronavirus - FSB advice

1. Have an up to date business continuity plan (BCP)

Make it specific to a potential virus related situation; some of the issues you may need to think about are supply chains, employees, cash flow and travel. It is worth checking broadband speeds to assess ability for home working. FSB Insurance Service can help FSB members with free templates and guidance.

2. Business insurance. What happens if your business closes due to an outbreak of COVID-19?

Think about how your business insurance will work if your business closes due to an outbreak of the virus. Check your policy wording; standard policies may not include any protection if your business suffers due to an outbreak of disease, regardless of circumstance. Do you have Business Interruption cover in your commercial insurance policy? This covers the income that you lose after a disaster, and often comes up when discussing terrorism cover (for example, after the London Bridge attack, local businesses that were forced to close for a period of time would have been able to claim for revenue lost under this clause.)  Then you will need to check whether you have an extension for 'notifiable diseases,' if so ask your broker / insurer to confirm whether Coronavirus is covered. As of 28 February 2020, the UK Government has not declared COVID-19 as a notifiable disease. Holyrood has declared Coronavirus, as a notifiable disease in Scotland. If it isn't, you might be able to ask for it to be added by your insurer, but they are within their rights to refuse, or to ask for an increased premium.

For up to date advice for small businesses on the Coronavirus, please visit:- FSB.Org.UK or follow FSB on social media.

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