More than 90,000 people worldwide have now been infected by coronavirus and the death toll stands at more than 3,000.
Since the outbreak began in January it has spread around the globe with Italy seeing the most infections outside China. There are currently 115 confirmed cases and has been one death in the UK.
Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) hasn’t yet declared the situation a “pandemic”, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Thursday there is “every indication” that we are about to enter that phase.
So what can people do to keep safe? Are there practical steps you can take to reduce the risk of contracting the airborne illness like wearing a face mask or latex gloves?
A shop in Brighton, which became a hot-spot for the virus after one resident became a “super-spreader”, has said all customers must wear face masks and plastic gloves in order to browse the store.
And shares in Top Glove (a Malaysian company that makes more than 70bn pairs of surgical gloves a year) have climbed 14 per cent in the last 48 hours, indicating the heightened interest. But do gloves actually protect you?
Should I wear gloves to protect myself?
The NHS says that items like face masks and gloves play a “very important role” in a clinical setting but there is “little widespread evidence” that they are useful for members of the public.
Public Health England (PHE) and the World Health Organisation has also not recommended people wear gloves or face masks to protect themselves.
A spokesperson for PHE says“PHE is not recommending the use of gloves as a protective measure against COVID-19 for the general public.
“People concerned about the transmission of infectious diseases should prioritise good personal, respiratory and hand hygiene.”
A virologist at Imperial College London also told The Independent that they worry items like gloves give a “false sense of security” and washing hands is a far better precautionary measure.
What is the best way to prevent spread?
Public Health England says: “The best way to protect yourself and others is: wash your hands with soap and water, or use a sanitiser gel, regularly throughout the day. [And] catch your cough or sneeze in a tissue, bin it, and wash your hands.
“If you have recently arrived back from specified areas, follow the returning traveller advice.”
WHO also advises the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to wash your hands frequently, either with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
It also recommends maintaining “social distancing”, saying that you should keep at least one metre (three feet) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
“When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease,” it says.
You also need to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands, as this is how the virus can enter your body.
WHO also recommends people practice good respiratory hygiene, which includes covering your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow if you cough or sneeze.