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Q&A on COVID-19

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a family of viruses known to cause illnesses ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.


What is COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. The new coronavirus strain was first identified in China in December 2019. Cases have been exported worldwide, including Singapore. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.


What are the symptoms?

Common signs of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties

Other symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose

  • Sore throat

  • Diarrhoea

  • Aches

  • Headache

  • Tiredness


Some people have experienced the loss of smell or taste. In severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death. Symptoms normally appear two to 14 days after a person has been infected.

The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. Some people may experience no symptoms at all. Older people who have existing chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, or who have compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficult breathing should seek medical attention.


How does COVID-19 spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to practise safe distancing and stay at least one metre away from a person who is sick.


How can you reduce your risk of getting infected?

While the disease is severe and spreads easily from person to person, you can stay safe by adopting the following precautions at all times:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

  • Avoid wearing contact lenses. Although contact lenses can be washed daily, small particles or viruses can stick to them. Inadvertent trauma and friction when inserting or removing the contact lenses may cause abrasions in the surface of the cornea and allow germs to enter, leading to infection or inflammation of the cornea.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing, and dispose it in the rubbish bin immediately.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys, mobile phones, and doorknobs.
    Disinfect your glasses with alcohol* twice daily. You can also wear lightly tinted sunglasses for extra protection. (*Alcohol may cause surface coating of glasses to wear off)

  • Practise safe distancing and stay at least one metre away from a person who is sick.
    Minimise close contact with people who are unwell; refrain from visiting places or attending events with large crowds.

  • Defer all overseas travel. If you travelled overseas, monitor your health closely two weeks upon return to Singapore. Seek medical attention promptly if you feel unwell, and inform the doctor your travel history.


Play your part in containing the spread of the virus by being socially responsible and practicing good personal hygiene. It is imperative to remain calm and vigilant, look out for health advisories and news from reliable sources, and comply with control measures.

Get the latest updates and important information on COVID-19 by signing up for the Gov.sg WhatsApp channel (www.go.gov.sg/whatsapp), or at the Ministry of Health website (www.moh.gov.sg).