English Coronavirus Vocabulary

The Coronavirus has spread throughout the world, and the World Health Organisation has said that the world is now in uncharted territory (we’ve never been here before).

How can you talk about this disease in English – and what vocabulary do you need to talk about prevention, recovery and the impact of the virus on the world economy?

Here’s some useful English coronavirus vocabulary for you. New words are in bold, with a definition after the word.

What is the coronavirus?

The coronavirus is a type of virus that can be transmitted (spread) between animals and humans. The outbreak (start and spread of an illness) of this particular coronavirus (Covid-19) has been traced back (found to originate) to a market in Wuhan.

Although the authorities did everything they could to control the spread of the virus, there has now been widespread infection throughout the world. The World Health Organisation are avoiding the word pandemic (a global epidemic), but the virus has infected thousands of people.

How can you prevent infection?

Someone can be contagious (able to infect you) without showing any symptoms (signs) – for up to two weeks. The best thing you can do to prevent the spead of infection is to wash your hands thoroughly in soap and water, making sure to clean your nails and in between your fingers.

If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitiser (an antibacterial gel). As well as washing your hands regularly, avoid people who are sneezing (a typical sign of a cold) and coughing (what you do to clear your throat). You should cover your nose and mouth if you sneeze / cough. You should also avoid close contact with people in general. (No hand-shaking!)

Can you recover from the illness?

The coronavirus can cause mild (not strong) illness, like when you have a cold, and most people make a full recovery (get better). But the coronavirus is more serious for people with respiratory illnesses (problems with lungs and breathing, etc) or with serious underlying conditions (serious illnesses that you already have).

If you contract the disease (get the disease) or show symptoms like shortness of breath (when it’s difficult to breathe), a fever (high temperature) or a bad cough, you should call the health authorities.

What are the governments doing?

Most governments advise anyone who tests positive (takes a test to be sure they have the virus) to self-isolate. This means to stay at home for at least two weeks. This is similar to a state of quarantine, where you can’t leave a place for a number of days. The Chinese authorities tried to stop the spread of the virus by putting entire cities on lockdown. (If a city is locked down, nobody can go in or go out.)

Many airlines have suspended flights (stopped flights) to places with severe outbreaks of the virus, such as China, Korea, Iran and Italy. In other countries, the authorities have banned large-scale public events (made it illegal for people to gather in public in large numbers). For example, football matches and trade conferences have been cancelled, and schools closed.

What is the impact of the coronavirus?

Because so many cities were quarantined in China, manufacturing industries have been affected. This, in turn, affects industries in other countries which rely on Chinese factories for their supply chains.

On top of that, when companies make less money, their share price falls, as investors sell their shares and invest in safer places, like government bonds.

As people become ill and take time off work, productivity also suffers. People may also feel worried about catching the virus, so they don’t go shopping, or to restaurants. So the coronavirus also affects the hospitality sector (restaurants and hotels), the airline industry and retailers (shops).

To learn new words and phrases, start using them immediately in your own sentences. This practice is essential, because it helps you to “fix” the words in your brain. You can get regular practice when you join the English Fluency Club.

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