Coronavirus Update

We have produced a new resources page in the member’s area of our website which links you to the latest official advice on the Coronavirus outbreak. Both the NHS and the UK Government are updating this advice on a regular basis. Regularly checking and following this advice will help reduce the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

The number of cases in the UK is expected to continue to increase with the Government’s response moving into the “delay” phase. The benefits of delaying the spread are that it will reduce the peak of the virus, provide more time for health authorities to prepare and move the peak to spring or early summer when pressures on health services are less.

The coronavirus is likely to have an ongoing impact on businesses and people lasting for a number of months. Last week, Professor Chris Whitty who is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England gave evidence to Parliament in which he responded to a range of questions from MPs on the outbreak.

Transmission of the virus

Professor Chris Whitty explained that:

“……transmission is via someone who coughs or sneezes, usually within a couple of metres of someone and usually for reasonably prolonged contact, which is the usual way with these things, and there is probably a secondary route via hands. The way that hands do this is by touching the mouth, nose and eyes.”

He further explained that the risk of transmission after someone with the virus touches a surface was such that:

“the risk peaks immediately after they have done it and then goes down over time. It is probably largely gone by 48 hours and almost completely gone by 72 hours, on a hard surface. On soft surfaces, viruses last for a shorter period, so there is a difference between those.”

Proportion of the population likely to be affected

Professor Chris Whitty explained that:

“The highest number for any new virus which has essentially come out of nowhere to infect humans is about 80%, because after that it runs out of people: every time there is an infection, they are surrounded by people who are immune. So we would always put 80% as our starting point, and then it is not so much that 80% may not get infected, but it may be that 70% of the 80% get it without any symptoms at all. At this point, we do not know.”

Likely interruption to business activity

Professor Chris Whitty explained that:

“There will be quite a long period between knowing that we have an epidemic running at a reasonable rate and the actual peak. We are keen not to intervene until the point when we absolutely have to, so as to minimise the economic and social disruption on people, and then to stop it again as soon as we can afterwards.”

And that:

“If you model out the epidemic, one thing that is clear is that we will get 50% of all cases over a three-week period and 95% of cases over a nine-week period, if it follows the trajectory that we think likely.”


Official advice on the coronavirus outbreak is being updated on a regular basis. It is important to regularly check and follow the official advice from the Government, NHS and other public bodies.

The following actions will help support the Government’s efforts to contain and delay the outbreak.

  1. Encouraging regular handwashing
  2. Ensuring that adequate handwashing facilities (including soap/handwash) are available in all places of work
  3. Increasing the frequency of cleaning
  4. Displaying NHS public information posters
  5. Encouraging anyone who has had contact with a Coronavirus case or is showing symptoms to use the online 111 checking service or call 111 for further advice
  6. Ensuring that returning travellers from specified areas abroad follow advice on self-isolation

Jonathan Mail, Head of Public Affairs, Charity Retail Association