How COVID-19 (Coronavirus) spreads

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) can be spread:

  • Directly, through contact with an infected person’s body fluids (for example, droplets from coughing or sneezing)
  • Indirectly, through contact with surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on and which are, therefore, contaminated with the virus

As it is a new virus, we do not know how easily the virus spreads from person to person. We do not know if someone can spread the virus before they show symptoms.

The virus may only survive a few hours if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on a surface. Simple household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is spread through close contact with an infected person. A close contact involves either face-to-face contact or spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person. Close contact does not include someone you passed on the street or in a shop. The risk of contact in that instance is very low.

More information on how COVID-19 (Coronavirus) spreads is available from the HSE.

Symptoms of the Coronavirus:

It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to show.

Symptoms of the virus include:

  • A cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fever (high temperature)


How to protect yourself?

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty
  • Practice good respiratory hygiene, that is, when coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • Maintain social distancing, that is, leave at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself

For people working with the general public who are feeling well and do not have respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, fever, shortness of breath), facemasks are not recommended. There is no evidence that using masks in this setting is of any benefit to people who are not sick.

The most important action we can take to protect ourselves from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is regular hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene.


What to do if you’re at risk of Covid-19?

  • If you do have symptoms of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), you should phone your doctor or emergency department (ED) immediately.
  • Do not visit a doctor or ED – phone them first. This is so you do not accidentally put other people at risk. If you do not have a doctor, phone 112 or 999.
  • Tell them about your symptoms. Let them know you have been to a country or region with a spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
  • If your doctor thinks that you need to be tested, they will tell you where the test will be done. They will also tell you when to expect results.
  • Avoid contact with other people by self-isolating.