Coronavirus explained: What is considered a serious underlying health condition?

This week the Government announced people should avoid all “non-essential contact”, work from home if possible and avoid social gatherings such as pubs and theatres. By the weekend, the Government are also expected to ask people over 70 or with underlying health conditions to stay home for 12 weeks.

What is considered a serious underlying health condition?

Certain people are considered more vulnerable if they catch coronavirus, including:

  • People aged 70 or over
  • People who are pregnant
  • People with long-term health conditions
  • People who have a weakened immune system


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People with underlying health conditions, such as people who are regularly instructed to get the flu jab on medical grounds, are considered a high-risk group for coronavirus.

The same goes for chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and bronchitis.

Other conditions which are said to heighten the risk are:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer

Ireland’s health services have also released a list of conditions that weaken the immune system:

  • Patients undergoing treatments for cancer
  • Patients undergoing treatments for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS) and inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Patients with HIV
  • Anyone who has had organ or bone marrow transplants

The NHS website states it will contact you from Monday, March 23 if you are particularly at risk from getting coronavirus.

In this case, you will be given specific advice about what to do.


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What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

It is very important that if you develop a high temperature, or a new continuous cough, you must stay at home.

Do not visit a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, your condition gets worse, or they do not go away after seven days, the NHS advises you use the 111 coronavirus service online.

The current advice is only to call 111 if you cannot get help online.

The NHS says if you have symptoms of coronavirus, you must stay at home for seven days.

If you live with someone who has symptoms of the virus, you must stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, the NHS advises you “try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days”.

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