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Last updated: 30 March 2020 at 12.05pm

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

Symptoms of coronavirus

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear. They can be similar to the symptoms of cold and flu.

Common symptoms of coronavirus include:

Compare symptoms of coronavirus, flu and cold



Symptoms range from mild to severe


Abrupt onset of symptoms


Gradual onset of symptoms
Fever or chillsCommonCommonRare
CoughCommon (usually dry)Common (usually dry)Mild
Aches and painsSometimesCommonCommon
Sore throatSometimesSometimesCommon
Shortness of breathSometimesNoNo
Runny or Stuffy NoseRareSometimesCommon
DiarrhoeaRareSometimes in childrenNo

If you have any of these symptoms, you should behave as if you have the virus and self-isolate for 14 days. People in your household will need to restrict their movements.

Read more about coronavirus testing

Restricted movements and self-isolation


How coronavirus is spread

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets.

You could get the virus if you:

  • come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
  • touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on and bring your unwashed hands to your face (eyes, nose or mouth)

As it's a new illness, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person or how long the virus stays on surfaces. Spread is most likely from those who have symptoms.

The virus may survive for up to 2 days if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.

Deliveries of packages

You cannot get coronavirus from deliveries of packages or food. There's no evidence that animals or animal products legally imported into the EU are a health risk due to coronavirus.