On the 30th of December 2019, an “urgent notice on the treatment of pneumonia of unknown cause”, issued by Dr. Liu Wenliang to his fellow medics at the Wuhan Municipal Health Centre, was deemed to be “whistleblowing” by local police. Just over a month later, the ophthalmologist had passed away - a victim of the disease he had fought to suppress. 

Officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation, (a United Nations special agency that covers global health), what was to become the current outbreak is suspected to have originated in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market; an unsanitary market occupied by over a thousand tenants. It appears that 49 out of the first 99 confirmed recipients of the virus had been exposed to the area, supporting the theory that COVID-19 originated at the “wet market”. The market was occupied by over a thousand tenants, many of whom kept livestock and carcasses packed densely together. This allowed for native bats (who can be host to many zoonotic viruses) to easily infect the yet-to-be-slaughtered animals, who likely passed the coronavirus on to human shoppers. 

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that includes both the common cold and SARS (which was responsible for 774 deaths from 2002-2003). COVID-19 is transferred by carriers to their peers through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. It was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on the 30th of January by the World Health Organisation - a United Nations special agency that covers global health. There have been over 86,000 cases and almost 3000 deaths related to the virus since the first in early December 2019*. 

The World Health Organisation reports that symptoms for the infection include “respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.” In order to prevent its spread, they recommend that one should perform regular hand washing, covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, in addition to avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. There is yet to be a vaccine, however, the World Health Organisation estimates that one could be available in less than eighteen months. 

As over 92.5% of cases have been in China, the World Health Organisation has not yet declared the current epidemic a ‘pandemic’. The fact that it is currently* affecting 64 countries, in addition to the Diamond Princess cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, the agency has stated that it has ‘pandemic potential’. Most fatal cases have involved elderly patients, perhaps due to the coronavirus exacerbating existing conditions such as diabetes, and heart or breathing problems. There have only been 23 instances of the current virus in the UK (with only one recipient being infected in Surrey), appearing to pose little risk to the public compared to the 79,000 cases in China, and 3,150 in Italy*. The NHS has already ensured that 8 patients recover through its use of isolation pods (in scenarios where patients arrive with the virus), and 5 specialist hospitals. 

Consequently, it is certain that the NHS has prepared comprehensive plans on how to handle COVID-19.

For more information on the current epidemic, please visit the following sites:



*All figures were accurate as of the time of publication of this article.