New killer coronavirus is named Covid-19 – as experts confirm it’s a strain of SARS – The Sun

THE disease caused by the new killer coronavirus has finally been given an official name – Covid-19, the World Health Organization has announced.

International experts also confirmed that the deadly infection is a sister of the SARS illness, which killed 774 people between 2002 and 2003.

Read our coronavirus live blog for all the latest news and updates

The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) have named the new virus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2.

Dr Nathalie MacDermott, of King's College London (KCL), said: “Covid-19 is the name of the disease or illness the virus causes.

"The virus has been named as SARS-CoV-2 as the ICTV have determined that it is the same species as SARS but a different strain of the species.”

Yesterday, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was important to name the new virus to avoid stigma or inaccuracies.

It comes six weeks after the virus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.

Since then it has killed 1,116 people and infected more than 45,000 around the globe.

The virus has been dubbed various things since it emerged – though has mostly been referred to simply as coronavirus.

However experts say it was important that it was given its own name because the term coronavirus refers to the wider family of viruses, including SARS and MERS.

Avoid stigma

Dr Ghebreyesus told a press conference a name was decided that "did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease".

He said: "Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising.

"It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks."

He explained: "C-o stands for corona, v-i stands for virus, d for disease, so COVID.

"Under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.

"Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising.

"It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks."

Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising

Scientists said last week that they had been grappling to find a proper term for the virus.

Crystal Watson, senior scholar and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the BBC: "The naming of a new virus is often quite delayed and the focus until now has been on the public health response, which is understandable.

"But there are reasons the naming should be a priority."

Temporary name

The WHO had previously recommended using the temporary name 2019-nCoV, which includes the year it was discovered, "n" to denote new or novel, and "CoV" for coronavirus.

But it didn't stick and people continued to call it coronavirus.

Dr Watson added: "The name it has now is not easy to use and the media and the public are using other names for the virus.

"The danger when you don't have an official name is that people start using terms like China Virus, and that can create a backlash against certain populations."

Coronaviruses are named for their crown-like spikes when viewed through a microscope.

What to do if you're worried you've got coronavirus

BRITISH health chiefs have raised the coronavirus risk to the public from low to moderate.

Health professionals are working to contact anyone who has been in close contact with people who have coronavirus.

The majority of those who have been infected with the virus so far have either visited China or been in close contact with someone who has.

But if you are concerned known the signs is one of the best ways to protect yourself from 2019-nCoV.

Symptoms usually include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • difficulty breathing

In most cases, you won't know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus.

But if a coronavirus infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract, it can cause pneumonia, especially in older people, people with heart disease or people with weakened immune systems.

It is incredibly contagious and is spread through contact with anything the virus is on as well as infected breath, coughs or sneezes.

The best way to prevent catching any form of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene.

If you have cold-like symptoms, you can help protect others by staying home when you are sick and avoiding contact with others.

You should also cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough and sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands.

Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.

If you have returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days:

  • Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with other flu viruses
  • Call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the city
  • your recent travel to the city

If you are in Northern Ireland, call your GP.

Please follow this advice even if you do not have symptoms of the virus.

Meanwhile, leading symptom-checking provider to the NHS Doctorlink has been updated to help identify patients' risk of having coronavirus.

Source: NHS

During a WHO meeting in Geneva today, Dr Ghebreyesus also revealed that the first vaccine targeting the illness could be available within 18 months.

Dr Ghebreyesus added:"So we have to do everything today using available weapons."

He also urged the world to unite efforts on coronavirus to avoid "far more cases and far higher costs".

Dr Ghebreyesus asked countries to be "as aggressive as possible" in fighting Covid-19, adding: "If the world doesn't want to wake up and consider the virus as public enemy number one, I don't think we will will learn from our lessons.

"We are still in containment strategy and should not allow the virus to have a space to have local transmission."


It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the spread "will get worse before it gets better" as he announced greater powers and funding to help tackle the spread of the disease.

In a Commons statement, he told MPs: "Dealing with this disease is a marathon, not a sprint. The situation will get worse before it gets better."

He also said that new funding was being launched immediately "to support any urgent works the NHS needs for the coronavirus response, such as the creation of further isolation areas and other necessary facilities."

Mr Hancock added: "Be in no doubt, we will do everything that is effective to tackle this virus and keep people safe."

As of Tuesday afternoon, a total of 1,358 people have been tested for coronavirus, of which 1,350 were confirmed negative and eight positive, the Department of Health said.

Earlier, Dr Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, issued a statement on Twitter.

He said that, with 99 per cent of coronavirus cases in China, "this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world".

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