There is actually more than one coronavirus — coronavirus is simply the name of a group of viruses which, under an electron microscope, have characteristic ‘spikes’ that resemble a crown, hence the name.
Coronaviruses are circulating in the human and animal population all the time and are the cause of the common cold, for instance, that billions of people across the planet do battle with every year.
However, some are more serious, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The new coronavirus to come out of Wuhan, China, is known as a ‘novel’ coronavirus because it has not previously been identified in humans. It has likely crossed the species boundary between animal and humans at some point, although the animal-to-human transmission has yet to be identified.
The new coronavirus — known as 2019-nCoV — is on the more serious end of the scale alongside SARS and MERS rather than being comparable to the common cold.
Common symptoms of coronavirus are very similar to the common cold at first, including:
These symptoms can go on to develop into shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases — more common among the elderly, young children, pregnant women, the immunocompromised, those with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and other vulnerable groups — coronavirus can lead to pneumonia, respiratory and kidney failure and even death.
There could be between 2 and 14 days between becoming infected and exhibiting symptoms; during this period people may be contagious without realising they have the virus.
There is currently no specific cure or treatment for coronavirus. Antibiotics do not treat coronavirus because the disease is viral, not bacterial.
Nor is there a coronavirus vaccine, although the UK recently provided £20 million towards vaccine research.
Supportive treatment to relieve symptoms in a secure, quarantined hospital setting is recommended for those who develop the new human coronavirus.
This is to prevent further spread of the virus and to allow doctors and specialists to monitor your condition and intervene should it progress unfavourably.
If you have returned from mainland China and develop symptoms of coronavirus, no matter how mild, the NHS advises you dial 111 for advice and assistance and stay indoors away from the general population.
Fortunately, neither Life Insurance nor Income Protection tends to have exclusions for pandemics and so you’re likely to be covered should you develop the coronavirus, providing you held the policy before you fell ill with it.
Instead, the most common exclusions include:
This depends crucially on whether you have the virus, or have been at major risk of contracting the virus (e.g. you’ve travelled from mainland China in the past 14 days).
Providing you are all-clear from the virus and haven’t had any recent travel to China in the past 2 weeks, then there should be reason why most people can’t get Income Protection or Life Insurance that will cover coronavirus.
If you have recently returned from China then the underwriters at your chosen insurer may look to impose a waiting period before the policy can continue or require tests to insure you are virus-free before the policy can go live.
In the UK, unless you’ve recently travelled to China or neighbouring Asian countries, the risk of an individual contracting coronavirus remains relatively low. As of February 6th 2020, there have only been three confirmed cases of the virus in the UK.
However, the advice for prevention of the spread of coronavirus is similar to that of preventing the spread of the common cold and seasonal flu.
Note that the situation is changing and evolving rapidly and the information this page was based on was correct as of February 6th 2020.