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Another glimmer of hope? UK's coronavirus daily death toll drops for the second day in a row with 180 new fatalities recorded overnight taking total victim count to 1,408 as number of cases jumps by 2,619 to more than 22,000

Another glimmer of hope? UK's coronavirus daily death toll drops for the second day in a row with 180 new fatalities recorded overnight taking total victim count to 1,408 as number of cases jumps by 2,619 to more than 22,000
  • England reported 159 deaths in last 24 hours, while Wales recorded 14, Scotland six and Northern Ireland one 
  • UK daily increase in deaths has fallen for two days in row, dropping from 209 on Sunday and 260 on Saturday
  • But there are fears of fresh spike in fatalities tomorrow because officials will count deaths outside of hospitals
  • Until now, the figures have not included people who succumbed to the virus before being admitted to hospital
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The coronavirus outbreak in the UK may finally be starting to slow after the daily death toll dropped for the second day in a row, with 180 new fatalities recorded overnight.
As of this afternoon a total of 1,408 people in Britain have died from coronavirus. England recorded 159 new deaths in the last 24 hours, while Wales reported 14, Scotland six and Northern Ireland one. 
It marks the first time the daily increase in deaths has fallen for two days straight, dropping from 209 on Sunday and 260 on Saturday - in what was Britain's darkest day in the crisis yet. 
But there are fears of a fresh spike in fatalities tomorrow because officials will count deaths outside of hospitals for the first time. Until now, the figures have not included people who succumbed to the virus before being admitted to hospital. 

The UK's spiralling coronavirus death toll has jumped to 1,408 after 180 more fatalities were recorded in a single day 
Despite the growing number of cases and deaths recorded overnight, Britain's coronavirus outbreak looks to be slowing down, leading experts said today. Pictured:  Paramedics in hazmat suits take away a man that collapsed in a Lidl in south east London
Despite the growing number of cases and deaths recorded overnight, Britain's coronavirus outbreak looks to be slowing down, leading experts said today. Pictured:  Paramedics in hazmat suits take away a man that collapsed in a Lidl in south east London
Medical staff wearing protective masks and clothing in a Ambulance outside St Thomas' hospital in London on Sunday
Medical staff wearing protective masks and clothing in a Ambulance outside St Thomas' hospital in London on Sunday
While the latest figures suggest the spread of the virus may be slowing in the UK, there 'aren't enough numbers in the UK' to draw conclusions about the outbreak yet, according to Professor Michael Levitt, who accurately predicted the demise of China's crisis after analysing the raw data.
Professor Neil Ferguson, a leading disease expert at Imperial College London, agreed that it was hard to say how Britain's epidemic was progressing.
'In the UK we can see some early signs of slowing in some indicators,' he said. 'Less in deaths as deaths do lag by a long time... but if you look as the number of new hospital admissions per day for instance, that does seem to be slowing down a little bit now.'Speaking on Radio 4, Professor Ferguson said: 'We think the epidemic is just about starting to slow in the UK right now... it is the result of the actions people have taken and governments have taken.'
He said the number of deaths was a reliable indicator of an outbreak, but gave the picture from two year ago.
Professor Ferguson stressed the rates of hospital admissions had 'not yet plateaued' but the rate of increase looked to be slowing. He also said the epidemic was spreading at different rates in different parts of the country.
'It is quite clear across the country, the epidemic is in different stages in different parts of the country. In central London it could be as many as three per cent to five per cent of the population has been infected - maybe more in individual hot spots. In the country as a whole in the UK, maybe two per cent or three per cent.' 
The latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care are the only official statistics available for the whole of the country. 
Some 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to help in the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson announced in a video messageThe PM - who is currently self-isolating after contracting the deadly bug - praised the significance of society in his video message
They are updated every 24 hours and allow the public to see the day-on-day change, as well as whether the rate is increasing or slowing down.
But it does not give us a real-time snapshot of the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK, nor is it an accurate reflection of exactly where the UK is in the 'curve' of the outbreak.
There are a number of reasons for this. First, the numbers that are published each day include deaths that have occurred day, if not weeks earlier. 
The list of deaths announced by NHS England in its bulletin of March 29 included deaths that were recorded as taking place as far back as March 16.
A death is only included in the figures once families of the victim have been informed.
So the day-on-day change in the official death figures is not moving in step with how many coronavirus-related deaths are taking place in real time.
Secondly, deaths being included in the official total are focused on those that have taken place in hospitals in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
These provide the most immediate sources of data for the Department of Health, and which are then used for the daily updates.
NHS England, for instance, publishes a daily breakdown of coronavirus-related deaths in England by NHS Trust. Deaths that have occurred in the wider community are not included.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes weekly provisional figures on the total number of deaths registered in England and Wales, including the wider community, as well as whether the underlying cause of death is a respiratory disease.
But there is a lag in these figures of about 11 days - the latest ONS bulletin, published on March 24, had numbers up to the week ending March 13.
These figures are also based on when a death is registered, not when it occurred.
A third reason the official death figures do not give a real-time snapshot of where we are in the 'curve' of the outbreak is due to the amount of time that can pass between somebody contracting the virus and them losing their life through a coronavirus-related death.
This means that any steps taken to limit the spread of the virus, such as social distancing or lockdowns, take time to show up in the number of deaths.
Asked about whether the current daily death tolls being released were all deaths or just those from hospitals, where tests are available, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The death figures are for those deaths which sadly take place in hospitals in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
‘From tomorrow, the Office for National Statistics will be publishing weekly data from death registrations, which would include people who die in the community.’
Regarding how a ‘community’ death would be classified as having been from coronavirus he added: ‘It will be necessary for a medical professional to be satisfied that one of the contributory factors to a death was coronavirus in order for it to be registered in that way.’
A study published in The Lancet on March 12 based on data reported in Wuhan, China, found that the median average time from the onset of coronavirus symptoms to admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) is about 10 days.
EasyJet has today grounded its entire fleet of 330-plus planes as coronavirus continued to decimate Britain's airlines
A separate study by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre, based on cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland up to March 26, found that of a sample of 165 patients treated in ICUs where an outcome was report-ed, 79 (48 per cent) had died and 86 (52 per cent) had been discharged.
Those who had died had spent a median average of four days in an ICU from admission to death.
These factors - the onset of symptoms and the time it takes for a patient to die while in hospital - adds further to the lag in the death statistics.
And it means that we are likely to have to wait at least a couple of weeks to get a clear idea of whether the recent measures introduced in the UK to 'flatten the curve' of virus-related deaths have had an impact. 
On the back of the latest figures, leading experts said Britain's coronavirus outbreak looks to be slowing down.
Professor Neil Ferguson claims to have detected 'early signs' that the spread of the life-threatening infection was being curbed by the draconian measure, with the rate of increase in hospital admissions easing.
But Professor Ferguson - one of the authors of a bleak Imperial College London report that convinced Downing Street to ramp up its efforts to stop the crisis after warning that 250,000 Brits could die under a controversial plan to build-up 'herd immunity' - warned deaths are still likely to rise sharply as they lag two or three weeks behind the new infections.
He also suggested that up to three per cent of the UK - around two million people - might already have been infected, and said the figure could be as high as five per cent in London.
The slight glimmer of optimism emerged after Boris Johnson delivered a rallying cry for Britain to work together, thanking everyone who was contributing in a video from his quarantine bunker in Downing Street.
But deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries has warned that Britons should not expect a return to 'normal life' for six months, and possibly longer.
A Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Stanford University today also claimed that the coronavirus outbreaks in New York City and Italy were burning out.
Professor Michael Levitt, who accurately predicted the demise of China's crisis after analysing the raw data, added Spain's outbreak also looks to be slowing - but added there 'aren't enough numbers' to say the same for the UK.  
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, leading epidemiologist Professor Ferguson said: 'We think the epidemic is just about starting to slow in the UK right now... it is the result of the actions people have taken and governments have taken.'
He said the number of deaths was a reliable indicator of an outbreak, but gave you the picture from two to three weeks ago.
'In the UK we can see some early signs of slowing in some indicators - less in deaths as deaths do lag by a long time...
'But if you look as the number of new hospital admissions per day for instance, that does seem to be slowing down a little bit now.'
Professor Ferguson stressed the rates of hospital admissions had 'not yet plateaued' but the rate of increase looked to be slowing. 
He said antibody tests, currently in final stages of validation, would be 'critical' to the understanding of the epidemic, adding they would 'hopefully' be available in days.
Dr Harries told a Downing Street press conference last night that people should not be viewing the coronavirus crisis as something that will blow over soon.
She said it will not be clear whether the 'social distancing' lockdown is working for another two or three weeks - after Easter - with deaths set to rise further.
But even if the draconian restrictions do succeed in 'squashing' the peak of the outbreak, reverting to a 'normal way of life' immediately would probably lead to a disastrous new spike in infections.
Stanford University's Professor Levitt said the crisis in Italy, Spain and the worst-affected parts of the US was 'turning', whereas in the UK it was continuing to get worse.
He added: 'New York City, which everyone is so sad about, is turning. It's passed its midpoint.
'Its [outbreak] is no longer accelerating, it's put the brakes on. New York is on the mend.
'In the UK, there aren't enough numbers and too many separate outbreaks.
'Italy has turned the corner, Switzerland has turned the corner. We hope, but we're not sure yet, that Spain has also joined this select club of people who have passed the midpoint'.
It comes as a health minister promised the Government was 'ramping up' its capacity to test health and social care staff to get ahead of the crisis.
Helen Whately sparked confusion when she said the UK now had the capacity to do 10,000 tests a day - although at the weekend around 7,000 a day were actually carried out.
'Within the next three weeks we expect to get to 25,000 tests a day,' she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
'The really important thing about that - the effort to test NHS and social care staff - is that we can prioritise the testing to parts of the health and care system where we have particular staff shortages so that we can help by testing people so that we can identify if they are negative so they would no longer need to isolate and they can go back to work.'
Ms Whately said that work was going on to develop an antibody test which would show whether people have had the coronavirus.
'I am not going to confirm when that is going to arrive. Work has been going on to bring that forwards because that will be really helpful to our battle against coronavirus,' she said.
She said that more than 170 million items of personal protective equipment had been delivered to health and social care organisations, but acknowledged that there had been delays in getting it to staff.
'I know that there have been delays in getting that to the front line in some places but the reality is it has been a huge challenge getting stock out,' she said.  

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

What is the coronavirus? 
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body's normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word 'corona', which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a 'sister' of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: 'Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 
'Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 
'Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.' 
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: 'The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
'We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.'  
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans' lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they've never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: 'Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
'Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we're talking about a virus where we don't understand fully the severity spectrum but it's possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.'
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 
'My feeling is it's lower,' Dr Horby added. 'We're probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that's the current circumstance we're in.
'Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.'
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?  
The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they're tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.
However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.
Can the virus be cured? 
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it's not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people's temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   
The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the 'worldwide spread of a new disease'. 
Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been 'spillover' from the epicentre, so the disease wasn't actually spreading actively around the world.

Pro

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?

What is the coronavirus? 
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body's normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word 'corona', which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a 'sister' of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: 'Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 
'Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 
'Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.' 
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000. 
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat. 
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: 'The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
'We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.'  
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans' lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they've never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: 'Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
'Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we're talking about a virus where we don't understand fully the severity spectrum but it's possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.'
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 
'My feeling is it's lower,' Dr Horby added. 'We're probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that's the current circumstance we're in.
'Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.'
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person. 
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why. 
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?  
The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they're tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.
However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.
Can the virus be cured? 
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it's not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people's temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   
The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the 'worldwide spread of a new disease'. 
Previously, the UN agency said most cases outside of Hubei had been 'spillover' from the epicentre, so the disease wasn't actually spreading actively around the world.fSome 20,000 former NHS st
aff have returned to help in the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson announced in a video message Ferguson confident NHS can cope if measures are followed
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Prof Ferguson confident NHS can cope if measures are followed
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