• Staying home and avoiding contact with others could help contain the virus.
  • Different governments and authorities have different advice.
  • Here's an example of the UK government's guidelines.

This article was updated on 13 March.

The UK government has updated its measures to tackle coronavirus - including a call for anyone with a mild symptoms (raised temperature or a 'new cough' to self-isolate for 7 days.

But what does "self isolation" actually mean?

It differs from country to country and region to region, so it's important to check. But, as an example, here are some of the UK government's recommendations:

  • only allow people who live with you to stay
  • separate yourself from other people – try not to be in the same room as other people at the same time
  • stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened
  • make sure you tell delivery drivers to leave items outside for collection
  • clean toilets and bathrooms regularly
  • think about a bathroom rota if a separate bathroom is not available, with the isolated person using the facilities last, before thoroughly cleaning the bathroom themselves
  • use separate towels from anyone else in the household
  • wash crockery and utensils thoroughly with soap and water; dishwashers may be used to clean crockery and cutlery

Why self-isolate?

Self-isolation reduces the number of visitors to health care facilities, allowing them to operate more effectively, and protects others from possible infection.

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected more than 100 countries. For an estimated 80% of people, the virus represents mild ill health, but for a small number the consequences are more serious. And if enough people get sick at the same time, it could overwhelm health systems.

confirmed covid-19 cases
The number of confirmed cases outside Mainland China have spiked over the last few weeks.
Image: John Hopkins University

Globally, more than 138,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, the vast majority in China. The second largest outbreak is in Italy.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

How to help

Following World Health Organization advice, there are some simple precautions that can be followed to help contain the outbreak.

In daily life, our hands regularly touch door handles, taps and many other surfaces. Make sure you wash your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub to remove traces of the virus, which can live on some surfaces for several days.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as the virus can be transferred from your hands and enter the body.

A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Self-isolation can help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Image: via REUTERS

When someone sneezes or coughs, they spray tiny droplets from their mouth or nose, which could potentially contain the virus. Avoid breathing in these droplets by maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre between yourself and anyone coughing or sneezing.

It’s also essential that you maintain effective respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Dispose of the tissue immediately and then wash your hands.

Lessons from Italy

With Italy on lockdown, the government has been trying to reply to confused citizens unsure about what they can and can't do.

"I'm separated/divorced, can I go and pick up my children (from the other parent's house)?" is one of the questions on the Health Ministry's Q&A page

"Am I allowed out to put the trash out?" is another. "Can I walk my dog?"

The answer to all the above is 'yes', provided you keep your distance from other people.

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak. Accurate, reliable and up-to-date information is available on the World Economic Forum’s dedicated site and the World Health Organization’s Coronavirus site.