The coronavirus pandemic is said to be 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu – but people with pre-existing health conditions are likely to be worst hit.
Special guidance will be issued by the NHS for the 1.4 million people most at risk from the disease – including the elderly with underlying health conditions – on further measures they need to take to "shield" themselves from it.
In the first of his daily No 10 press conferences Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on people to stay away from pubs, clubs and theatres and to avoid all non-essential contacts and travel.
Anyone living in a household with somebody who has the symptoms of a persistent cough or fever was told to isolate themselves for 14 days.
Anyone with any of these eight conditions, are advised to take extra care.
Here is more information about the eight underlying health conditions which are most at risk.
Those who have diabetes generally face greater risk of complications when it comes to dealing with viral infections.
Diabetes UK chief Dan Howarth said: “Coronavirus or COVID-19 can cause complications in people with diabetes.
“If you have diabetes and you have symptoms such as cough, high temperature and feeling short of breath, you need to monitor your blood sugar closely.”
2. Heart disease
People with heart and circulatory diseases are at risk of developing complications due to coronavirus.
In particular, someone with an underlying heart issue is more likely to have a less robust immune system.
This means their body’s might not respond as strongly when exposed to viruses.
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The British Heart Foundation says: “The majority of people diagnosed with coronavirus (Covid-19) make a full recovery.
“However, early indications are that people with heart and circulatory diseases are at higher risk of developing complications and requiring admission to hospital.
“If you are concerned you may have Covid-19, or have symptoms, you should self-isolate for 7 days. If your symptoms are significant or get worse, you should call 111 in line with the Government’s advice.”
Astra is a condition affecting the airways, the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.
And coronavirus is a viral infection which can affect the airways.
According to Asthma.org.uk, when those who suffer from asthma get respiratory infections, it can set off their symptoms.
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The website says it is important to keep taking your inhaler as prescribed, and to carry it with you always in case symptoms flare up.
4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties.
This includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The British Lung Foundation recommends anyone with a lung condition to keep avoid getting any sort of virus by taking “sensible steps to reduce your risk”.
On their website, it says: “It may be tricky to work out whether new symptoms are due to COVID-19 or due to an exacerbation or flare-up of your condition.
“Typically, exacerbations of COPD and asthma are not associated with a high fever.”
Cancer patients are more at risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus due to their compromised immune system.
This reduced their ability to fight infections such as coronavirus.
This is because some treatments, such as chemotherapy, can stop bone marrow from making enough white blood cells, which are part of your immune system.
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Cancer Research UK says: “This is most likely to happen during a course of cancer treatment, but the effects can last for some time afterwards.
“Some types of cancer can also lower your ability to fight infection. This is usually cancer that affects your immune system like leukaemia or lymphoma.
“When your ability to fight infection is lowered the symptoms of any infection can be much more severe and may become dangerous.”
6. Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis is a condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system.
This can cause lung infections and problems digesting food.
Cystic Fibrosis.org.uk says: “We still don’t know how infection with COVID-19 will affect people with CF, though we have enquired internationally.
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“In those who are well it may be a mild illness, but people with significant chest problems are likely to be at risk of more severe illness.”
7. Primary Immunodeficiency (PID)
Primary Immunodeficiency is a group of over 300 different conditions that affect how the body’s immune system works, according to PID UK.
Because coronavirus can spread through person-to-person contact, those with immune deficiency are at risk.
However, Primary Immune.org says: “There is no data on how severe this respiratory virus can be in PI patients, but judging from the China experience this virus is very serious.”
Experts have warned those who smoke are at risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said: “If you are a smoker or paper that does make you more vulnerable.
“If you are a smoker or paper this is a very good time to stop that habit and we will help you.”
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Those who smoke are at risk of getting lung and chest infections in general.
Those also at risk of severe illness from coronavirus are those aged 70 or older, those who are pregnant, or those who are seriously overweight.
The NHS is urging people to visit a new online advice hub at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus as the go-to place for clear advice for people with early symptoms of coronavirus.
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