Several major phone networks are down amid coronavirus outbreak - here’s why

Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 4:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 4:25 pm

Several major mobile phone networks are struggling to cope as millions of people across the UK work from home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Customers from EE, Vodafone, Three, O2, Virgin and GiffGaff are reporting problems making and receiving calls and texts, as well as difficulties getting online.

Why are mobile networks down?

The communication outage comes as millions of Brits work from home, following the latest government advice amid the coronavirus crisis.

While the exact cause of the problem is not yet known, there is speculation that the volume of people working from home could be to blame for struggling phone networks.

According to the website DownDetector, which tracks the number of tech problems major networks encounter, the issue first started at around 9am this morning, with a peak number of complaints at around 11am.

‘Big spikes in data usage’

Last week, Vodafone announced the measures it had taken to help its customers during the Covid-19 outbreak on its website.

Nick Jeffrey, the company’s CEO, said: “We know we can cope well with big spikes in data usage.

“We’ve added extra capacity to the core fixed, broadband and mobile networks to cope with the extra demand as more people work from home.

“This minimises congestion at particularly busy aggregation points.”

‘Drastic action’

Yesterday the Prime Minister set out the need for "drastic action" to tackle the "fast growth" of coronavirus across the UK as increased social distancing measures are introduced for the population.

As part of the measures, anyone who is able to work from home was advised to do so. "Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel," Johnson said.

‘Cases could double every five days’

Now the government is advising all people to avoid gatherings and crowded places, while people who are vulnerable - including those who are elderly - will need to undertake even further measures.

Johnson said that according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) "it looks as though we are now approaching the fast growth part of the upward curve" in the number of cases.

"Without drastic action cases could double every five or six days," he concluded.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government adviceAs of the 12 March the Government has moved into the "delay" phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus. Advice is that anyone with a continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days. People over 70 have been advised not to go on cruises and schools advised to cancel trips abroad, though schools remain open.

Should I avoid public places?Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS