Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and answers regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Short answers to questions you might have about the virus.

What can you do to help?

The single most important thing you can do is follow NHS advice. Wash hands, and self-isolate when you get symptoms - this is vital. 

Please avoid leaving the house where possible. If you can work from home, please do. 

Good hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation are critical in the fight to slow the risk of infections - both for yourself and importantly for others - particularly those over 70, those with underlying health conditions and those who are pregnant.

What does the Government's announcement about staying at home and away from others mean?

The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the government is now (23 March 2020) introducing three new measures.

1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes

2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces

3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings. These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible. To read further on this, please click here.

When should you self-isolate?

  • If you have a high temperature or new, continuous cough
  • You must self-isolate for 7 days if you live alone
  • You must all self-isolate for 14 days if you live with others (if someone gets symptoms during isolation all householders must remain symptom free for 7 days even if that means isolating for more than 14 days)

Self-isolation will save lives - it's important you follow the guidance if you're affected.

You do not need to call NHS 111 to  self-isolate.

If your symptoms worsen during isolation or are no better after 7 days contact the NHS online coronavirus service . If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999. 

Why should you self-isolate?

If you have a high temperature or new continuous cough you must self-isolate for 7 days, if you live alone. If you live with others you must all self-isolate for 14 days.

Self-isolation will save lives - and while 90% of people will recover from this virus - some will get seriously ill and it is these people we need to protect.

After seven days, if you feel better and no longer have a high temperature, you can return to your normal routine.

How should I look after myself when I self-isolate?

•    Get plenty of rest
•    Drink plenty of water (fluids)
•    Eat as healthily as you can
•    To reduce pain and fever take paracetamol (if you use other mediation get in touch with your care provider)
•    Keep in contact with friends and family by phone, video and online

Can I go to the theatre, cinema, the pub, a restaurant, clubs ...

No. The Government has said that as of Friday 20th March, these venues must close. The Government has changed the law so pubs and restaurants without a licence can offer take away services only. Social-distancing, keeping physically distant from others, is critically important in saving lives.

Why aren’t more people being tested?

The Government is trying to delay the spread of infection so has prioritised testing for the most at risk of severe illness from the virus rather than divert resources to widespread testing. As at the 18th of March over 53,000 tests have been completed. Plans s to test up to 25,000 per day have been announced. Testing currently includes people in hospital who have pneumonia or acute respiratory illness. The reason this is being done is to make sure we are using our valuable NHS resources as well as we can. By focusing our testing on the most vulnerable we help relieve pressure on the NHS and save more lives.

Do I need to wear a face mask?

When you're doing normal day-to-day activities face masks do little to protect people from viruses. The best way to reduce any risk of infections is with good hygiene, like washing your hands, not touching your face and avoiding social contact (within 2 metres) with any potentially infected person.

Healthcare professionals may wear special masks if they're spending hours each day looking after people who have tested positive for coronavirus, or may have been infected. If someone has been told they have coronavirus, they may be advised to wear a mask to protect others.

What financial support can I get?

The Government have made a number of changes to benefits and sick pay and will likely take more steps over the coming days and weeks. The following two organisations provide detailed support and advice about your money in light of coronavirus and new government measures.

  • This up-to-date guide from the Money Advice Service is easy to follow and filled with good advice about sick pay and changes to claiming your benefits during this challenging time.
  • The advice and benefits and grants calculators at Turn2Us are useful to get support if the coronavirus has had a negative impact on your finances.

When am I allowed to leave the house?

You should only leave the house for very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home

Find out more about staying at home and away from others

Can I go to the dentist, my GP or another medical appointment?

You can leave home for medical appointments.

GP practices may postpone non-urgent health checks or routine appointments.

You should go to the doctor if there is an essential medical need.

Can I walk my dog / look after my horse?

Yes – provided it is alone or with members of your household.

People must stay at home as much as possible to reduce the spread of the virus. But you can also still go outside once a day for a walk, run, cycle. When doing this you must minimise the time you are out of your home and stay at least two metres away from anyone else that isn’t from your household.

Further advice for people with animals

4. Should I stay at home or go to work?

You may travel for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.

Certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services such as train and bus drivers.

Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.

Can I see my friends?

We must all stay away from each other to stop spreading the virus, and that means you should not be meeting friends unless you live in the same household.

Instead, you could keep in touch with your friends using phone or video calls.

Can I visit elderly relatives?

No, you should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home.

You should keep in touch with them using phone or video calls.

Where your relatives are elderly or vulnerable, you may leave your house to help them, for example by dropping shopping or medication at their door. You can also help them to order online.

Can I go out to help a vulnerable person?

You can only provide support to vulnerable people if you fulfil all of the conditions below:

  • you are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature and nobody in your household does
  • you are under 70
  • you are not pregnant
  • you do not have any long-term health conditions that make you vulnerable to coronavirus

If the answer is yes to everything above, you may leave your house to provide care or to help a vulnerable person, following the advice set out here.

When outside the home, you should stay at least two metres away from others wherever possible.

We have seen an incredible effort across the country already, and we’re hugely grateful to those who support the vulnerable in their communities by volunteering day-to-day.

My boss is forcing me to go to work but I’m scared of coronavirus. What should I do?

Employers must make all efforts to help people to work from home where possible, as this will help limit the spread of the virus by reducing the amount of contact between people.

In some circumstances this may be impossible – this would apply to those working for a business or organisation that we have not asked to close and requires them to travel and be at work, such as train or bus drivers, construction workers, restaurant workers handling deliveries or those on the frontline like NHS workers.

For these workers who need to be at work, do not have symptoms or live with anyone who has symptoms, and are not vulnerable people, we have outlined clear guidance for employers to help protect workers.

I can’t go to work because I need to look after my child, but my boss is threatening to sack me if I don’t. What should I do?

We would urge employers to take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their workforce – particularly when they have childcare responsibilities.

Employers and employees should come to an agreement about these arrangements.

If individuals need advice they should approach ACAS where they can get impartial advice about in-work disputes.

Can I move house?

Homebuyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus.

If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.

Read the detailed guidance on moving house during the coronavirus outbreak

Can I go to the park?

You can still go to the park for outdoor exercise once a day but only alone or with members of your household, not in groups.

Communal places within parks such as sports courts, playgrounds and outdoor gyms have been closed to protect everyone’s health.

We ask that households use parks responsibly and keep 2 metres apart from others at all times.

Unless you are with members of your household, gatherings of more than two people in parks and other public spaces have been banned. The police have the powers to disperse gatherings and issue fines if necessary.

Can I drive to a national park or other green space to walk?

We advise you to stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily.

You can still go to the park for outdoor exercise once a day but only by yourself or within your household, not in groups.

We ask you to keep 2 metres apart from others outside your household at all times when outdoors.

Read more information on accessing green spaces during the coronavirus outbreak

What will happen to me if I break the rules?

We appreciate all the effort people are putting into containing the spread of coronavirus which will help protect our NHS and save lives.

However, if you leave your home or gather in public for any reason other than those specified, the police may:

  • instruct you to go home, leave an area or disperse
  • instruct you to take steps to stop your children breaking these rules if they have already done so
  • take you home – or arrest you – if you do not follow their instructions or where they deem it necessary
  • issue a fine (fixed penalty notice) of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.
  • issue a fine (fixed penalty notice) of £120 for second time offenders, doubling on each further repeat offence

Individuals who do not pay their fine could be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

Can I claim sick pay?

Will my employer be obliged to pay me while I stay at home? 

Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from day 1 instead of day 4 for those affected by the virus.

What if I have a 'zero hours' contract?

You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. Check with your employer in the first instance and if you're not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit  or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) .

What if I’m self-employed?

You can apply for Universal Credit  - the Government have changed certain rules governing this benefit during the coronavirus period.

What if the whole family has to stay at home so we have no income?

If no one is getting Statutory Sick Pay, the family can apply for Universal Credit  -  the Government have changed certain rules governing this benefit during the coronavirus period.

I'm worried about paying my tax - is there any help?

Yes - there are 2000 staff supporting a COVID-19 dedicated helpline for businesses and self-employed being run by HMRC Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 8am-4pm - 0800 0159 559 who will discuss possible remedies such as:

  • agreeing an instalment arrangment
  • suspending debt collection proceedings
  • cancelling penalties and interest

Can I get up-to-date news about coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Yes sign up here  and check your junk mail for confirmation.

Last updated on Monday 6th April