What you need to know about coronavirus

People with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical mask.
People with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical mask. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

While there is no confirmed case of coronavirus in Kenya, the government has downplayed concerns over the country's preparedness for the deadly virus that has killed more than 2,800 people and infected more than 83,000 others globally, majority of whom are in China - the epicentre.

On Thursday, the government allowed 239 passengers from Guangzhou in China aboard the Southern China Airlines, to land in Nairobi, which has sparked public outrage.

Here is what you need to know about the Covid-19 to keep yourself safe.

World Health Organisation’s recommended protection measures for everyone:

Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the new and highly transmittable coronavirus.


  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

    Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

  • Maintain at least one-metre (three-feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

    Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the Covid-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

    Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

    Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and Covid-19.

  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

    Why? National and local authorities will have the most up-to-date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your healthcare provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

  • Stay informed on the latest developments about Covid-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from Covid-19.

    Why? National and local authorities will have the most up-to-date information on whether Covid-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where Covid-19 is spreading.

  • Follow the guidance outlined above. (Protection measures for everyone).

  • Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible Covid-19 and other viruses.

  • If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travellers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of Covid-19 and other viruses.

How likely are you to catch Covid-19?

The risk depends on where you live or where you have travelled recently. The risk of infection is higher in areas where a number people have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

More than 95 percent of all Covid-19 cases are occurring in China, with the majority of those in Hubei Province.

For people in most other parts of the world, your risk of getting Covid-19 is currently low, however, it’s important to be aware of the situation and preparedness efforts in your area.

Should you be worried about Covid-19?

If you are not in an area where Covid-19 is spreading, or if you have not travelled from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low.

However, it’s understandable that you may feel stressed and anxious about the situation. It’s a good idea to get the facts to help you accurately determine your risks so that you can take reasonable precautions.

Your healthcare provider, your national public health authority and your employer are all potential sources of accurate information on Covid-19 and whether it is in your area.

Kenyatta National Hospital.

Kenyatta National Hospital. FILE PHOTO | NMG

It is important to be informed of the situation where you live and take appropriate measures to protect yourself.

If you are in an area where there is an outbreak of Covid-19 you need to take the risk of infection seriously. Although for most people Covid-19 causes only mild illness, it can make some people very ill.

More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes) appear to be more vulnerable.

A suspected Covid-19 infection is linked to travel in areas where cases have been reported, or close contact with someone who has travelled in these areas and has become ill.

Should you wear a mask to protect myself?

People with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical mask. WHO recommends the use of masks for people who have symptoms of Covid-19 and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever.

The use of masks is crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone (at home or in a healthcare facility).

WHO advises rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and misuse of masks.

Use a mask only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing), have suspected Covid-19 infection with mild symptoms, or are caring for someone with suspected Covid-19 infection.

A Tanzanian health officer screens tourists at

A Tanzanian health officer screens tourists at the Kilimanjaro International Airport on January 29, 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus in China. PHOTO | AFP

Is it safe to receive a package from any area where Covid-19 has been reported?

Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes Covid-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.

How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes Covid-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses.

Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the Covid-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.

This may vary under different conditions such as type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus.

What NOT to do

The following measures ARE NOT effective against Covid-2019 and can be harmful:
• Smoking

• Taking traditional herbal remedies

• Wearing multiple masks

• Taking self-medication such as antibiotics

In any case, if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your recent travel history with your healthcare provider.

Which countries have confirmed cases of Covid-19?

As at Friday, February 28, the following countries had confirmed cases.

Globally confirmed infections are 83,719 with 2,858 deaths. Some 36,652 people have recovered.

Cases per country/region

  • 78,824 - Mainland China
  • 2,337 - South Korea
  • 705 others
  • 655 - Italy
  • 226 - Japan
  • 93 - Hong Kong
  • 93 - Singapore
  • 27 - Iran

Regions with most death cases

  • 2,682 - Hubei, China
  • 26 - Iran
  • 20 - Henan, China
  • 17 - Italy
  • 13 - Heilongjian, China
  • 13 - South Korea

Africa's situation

  • Nigeria – one confirmed case of an Italian national.
  • Algeria- one confirmed case
  • Egypt –one confirmed case but now recovered

Excerpts source: World Health Organisation (WHO)

Compiled by Annie Njanja