COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

An illustration of the SARS-CoV-2019 coronavirus created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Alissa Eckert / CDC)

The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a new strain of coronavirus first found in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from a cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

As the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and related deaths continues to rise, so does the need for awareness and preparedness actions in cities, communities, households and businesses across the world. Using an "all of community” approach, the goal is to slow the transmission of COVID-19, reducing illness and death, while minimizing social and economic impacts. There are still some things we don’t know about the virus, but there are many actions we can take to prevent transmission.


If an outbreak occurs

  • Stay home if you are sick to avoid infecting others
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Practice good coughing etiquette (cough into your sleeve/elbow, or disposable tissue, not your hand).
  • Seek medical care early if you or your family member has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
  • Call your doctor or health provider before coming to the clinic. You should also call if you have traveled to an area where the COVID-19 virus has been reported.
  • If caring for a sick person: - Use barriers such as a face mask and gloves to reduce your risk of getting sick.
  • Disinfect reusable supplies that are used to care for sick people.

Useful COVID-19 Resources for Families

Tips on Social distancing, quarantine and isolation during a disease outbreak

Coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak

UNICEF Tips - How to talk to your kids about coronavirus

American Red Cross Tips for Caring for someone with COVID-19



Businesses play a key role in epidemic preparedness in communities.

Some Useful Resources for Businesses:


Community Organization

What do I need to know? THE BASICS


A healthy person can get the virus through close contact with an infected person. “Close contact” means physically touching them, touching items they have used or coughed/sneezed on, or spending a lot of time within 1 meter of them while they are sick. The virus spreads through direct contact with ‘drops’ of saliva. These fluids come out of the nose or mouth. For example: - When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these droplets can enter the eyes, nose or mouth of another person - If an infected person sneezes and coughs into their hands and touches another person or a surface - When a person touches surfaces and objects that are contaminated by those droplets. It may also be possible for the virus to spread through contact with the feces of someone who has COVID-19, but this is less common.


Symptoms of COVID-19 normally begin within 2-14 days after exposure, usually around 5 days. For most people, coronavirus is mild and similar to a cold (runny nose, fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath). It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. If the disease becomes severe, organ failure can occur and this can be life threatening. The disease can lead to death, but this is rare.


  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water. If soap is not available, alcohol based hand gel may be used to wash away germs.
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth or nose with a tissue or your bent elbow. Try to not sneeze and cough into your hands because then you will spread the virus with your hands. Throw the tissue into a bin. If you cough/sneeze into your hand, don’t touch anything and immediately wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing, sneezing, or sick. Keep at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance and encourage them to go to a nearby healthcare center.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.
  • Contact your doctor if you have a fever, cough or feel that it is difficult to breathe. This is the best way to look after yourself and stop the infection spreading to your family and others. Make sure to first call the doctor and let them know your symptoms so you don’t infect other people.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with chlorine- or alcohol-containing cleaning solution. It is not yet known if and how long the virus lasts on surfaces, but a disinfectant with 70% alcohol can kill it.


Currently there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for the virus that causes COVID-19. Treating the symptoms of COVID-19 can help people to recover. Community-based interventions such as school dismissals, event cancellations, social distancing, and implementing employee plans to work remotely can help slow the spread of COVID-19. Individuals should always practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Pandemic Situation Update

Decisions about the implementation of community measures are still being made by local and national public health authorities, in consultation with the World Health Organisation and others, based on the scope of the outbreak and the severity of illnesses in respective countries. Implementation will require extensive community engagement, with ongoing and transparent public health communications. While pandemic preparedness materials have not been developed for the newly emerged coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it is a respiratory disease which bears many similarities to the flu. Content that has been developed to prepare for, or respond to an influenza (“flu”) pandemic is generally applicable. Guidance and tools developed for pandemic influenza planning and preparedness can serve as appropriate resources now that the COVID-19 outbreak has triggered a pandemic.