Coronavirus - FAQs for Families and Communities

I have symptoms, what do I do?

If you have symptoms and live with other people, you and your entire household need to stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days. If you live alone, you need to stay at home for 7 days. This is because you are most contagious in the first four days.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, and testing for coronavirus is not needed if you are staying at home.

You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home, and we are asking you to refrain from calling 111 or 999 unless you are seriously unwell. This is to ensure that the NHS’ resources can be focused on the people who need it most.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service HERE if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home.
  • Your condition gets worse.
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 7 days.

Further advice about staying at home can be found HERE

If you live in a residential care setting, more advice can be found HERE

 

What does self-isolating mean? 

It means staying away from contact with people outside of your household. If you do not have symptoms but are self-isolating for your own protection, you can still leave the house to exercise. You should not go out, if possible, to situations where you mix with other people, even to buy food or essentials, other than for exercise which can be done at a safe distance from others. It is likely that you will need to rely on friends and others to do your food and essential shopping. At this time, it is ever more important that our communities come together and support friends and neighbours who may be self-isolating.

 

What if I have no symptoms, do I need to change my life?

Even if you and your entire household do not have symptoms, we still need you to help our communities make the most effective response to the outbreak.

Unfortunately, now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and refrain from visiting pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues. It is also the time to avoid all unnecessary travel and to work from home if you possibly can. 

The Prime Minister has now put in place a three-week lockdown to push down the curve of transmission. To ensure this measure helps save as many lives as possible, the police will enforce the lockdown through fines and dispersal orders.

From now, you may only leave home to:

  • Shop for food, which should be done as infrequently as possible with a strong preference for online ordering. All other non-essential shops will be closed (e.g. electronics stores).
  • One form of exercise a day which should be done alone or with your household, but note play parks will be closed.
  • Medical reasons.
  • Help vulnerable people.
  • Travel to and from work if it is necessary and you cannot work from home.

You may not gather publicly in groups of more than two except for households. This means you should not be meeting friends and family members anywhere.

I understand that these measures are difficult and disruptive, but the Government is clear that such extreme action is only to be taken as and when it will make the biggest difference and save the most lives. That time is now. 

I know that social distancing is very difficult to maintain, but I cannot emphasise enough how each of us doing our part will help bring down the peak of this wave of infection and make it easier for the NHS to cope with the continuing outbreak and save lives.

 

I’m over 70 but am healthy, do I have to self-isolate?

The Government is asking people over 70 to refrain from all social contact for around 12 weeks. This is advised not enforced. 

People over 70 should continue to exercise if possible and can, therefore, go out, but are asked to self-isolate as much as possible. 

This virus is very nasty, and its effect on those aged over 70 is significantly more dangerous. Although you are extremely healthy, you may socialise with those who are not, and you may still find it affects you severely. 

Although it is demanding, this period of shielding and maximum protection is being introduced now to coincide with the peak of this disease, which will occur at marginally different times across the country. 

At this time, we must look out for our fellow citizens. I cannot stress enough the importance of not calling 999 or 111 unless it is an emergency.

 

Which chronic health conditions have been told to self-isolate? 

Please regularly check THIS WEBSITE which has the list of conditions for which the Government advises isolation. 

 

Who has been told to self shield?

On Sunday 22nd March, the Prime Minister announced that the NHS write to our country's 1.5 million most vulnerable people and advise them to enter into a period of self-shielding for 12 weeks, where they do not leave their house. This is necessary to save lives. 

The following people should self shield: 

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • People with specific cancers
    • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
    • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell disease)
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • Women who are pregnant and who also have significant heart disease, congenital or acquired

If you are over 70 you should be staying home, this virus disproportionately affects those over 70. Although you may be extremely healthy, you may socialise with those who are not, and you will still find it affects you severely. 

 

Self-shielding means you:

  • Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
  • Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces e.g. family homes, weddings, parties and religious services.
  • Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
  • Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  • Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP practise or other essential services as and when you need.

 

Do I still get paid if I have to self-isolate?

If you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you can now claim from day one (rather than day four) of self-isolation.

From Friday 20th March onwards, those who are self-isolating because of COVID-19 will be able to obtain an 'isolation note' by visiting NHS 111 online and completing a form, rather than visiting a doctor. 

Get more information on SSP HERE

 

I’m self-employed, am I entitled to sick pay if I have to self-isolate?

We recognise that the self-employed need support. In the Budget, the Chancellor established that self-isolating self-employed people will be able to claim Universal Credit (UC) and access advanced payments without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre.

On Friday 20th March, the Chancellor announced that the Universal Credit standard allowance has been increased by £1,000 a year and the minimum income floor suspended, ensuring self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at the same rate as Statutory Sick Pay for Employees. 

Get more information on UC HERE

 

What other support is available to self-employed people?

We recognise the strain this outbreak places on self-employed people, and so the Government announced on Friday 20th March that the next round of self-assessment payments (originally scheduled for July 31st 2020) will be deferred to January 2021. 

If you are self-employed, you may also be eligible for support through HMRC's Time to Pay service. 

HMRC has committed to supporting self-employed people through this crisis, and have said they are happy to explore instalment arrangements, suspend debt collection proceedings and more! These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. 

You can call HMRC's dedicated help and support phone line on 0800 0159 559 to find out what support they can offer you. 

Find out more about the scheme HERE

 

I am worried about being able to afford my mortgage payments during the outbreak, is there any help for me?

The Government has agreed with mortgage lenders that they will offer repayment holidays of 3 months to households in financial difficulty due to COVID-19.

If you are concerned about your current financial situation, please contact your lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss if this is a suitable option for you. 

If you think you may need financial support from your local authority, you may be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund which will mainly be used to provide council tax relief. Contact your local authority for more details. 

 

I am worried about being able to afford my rent payments during the outbreak, is there any help for me?

The Government are introducing emergency legislation so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three month period. This applies to private and social renters.

At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable payment plan, taking into account the tenant's individual circumstances. 

If you think you may need financial support from your local authority, you may be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund which will mainly be used to provide council tax relief. Contact your local authority for more details. 

The Government has also increased the generosity of housing benefit so the Local Housing allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents in Rutland and Melton.

 

I am worried about being able to afford personal loan/credit card repayments during the outbreak, is there any help for me?

The Financial Conduct Authority has called on lenders to use flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account customers' individual circumstances. Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect, so make sure you check your lender's website for details. 

If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender directly. If you do agree on a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score. 

 

What help is there locally?

Locally, a Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Local Resilience Forum has formed and is working to support our communities. If we follow scientific guidance, look out for each other, and commit wholeheartedly to the national effort, we will reduce the potential impact of this virus locally.

I have published a list of local organisations who you can go to for help if you need HERE

 

Why has the Government changed its testing approach? 

We have, of course, increased testing in light of the rising number of cases, testing 5,000 on the busiest days, but the Government and NHS’ priority remains to protect the most vulnerable and ensure the NHS remains ready and able to treat all urgent cases that occur. 

We have changed the testing approach to hospitals because we need to prioritise testing the most vulnerable to fully understand their care and treatment needs. 

To do this most effectively, large numbers of medical and caring staff are being tested, focusing our resources on limiting the spread of the virus to the most vulnerable. 

As is the case with a test for any virus new or old, the test is not 100% accurate and can give false-negative results. This is because you need a certain viral load to get a positive test. 

A critical concern for the Government is that by testing too early, those with mild or fewer symptoms may get a negative test and then stop self-isolation and start infecting others. This is why even if you do test negative, you should still self isolate with symptoms or if someone in your household has symptoms. 

The vast majority of healthy people under 70 with coronavirus will only experience mild symptoms and will recover to full health, so we need to focus on getting this outbreak under control and protecting our most vulnerable.

 

What is being done about supermarket shortages?

The Government has said there is no need for anyone to stockpile items and the Prime Minister is urging people to "behave responsibly and think about others".

In a joint letter, UK retailers have reminded customers to be considerate in their shopping so that others are not left without much-needed items. Some supermarkets have now limited the sale of some products and restricted customers to buying a maximum number of each item.

The Government is relaxing restrictions on delivery hours for shops to make sure shops remain stocked with basic items amid stockpiling concerns. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it will work with local councils to increase the frequency of deliveries.

The Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said by allowing night-time deliveries, stock would be able to move more quickly from warehouses to shelves.

 

What about online traders who stockpile overcharge for essential products?

I have personally raised the issue of profiteering with the Chief Inspector and I hope we see action against these individuals. 

Officials at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said sellers must not try and “take advantage of people” and have warned that retailers and traders inflating prices could face prosecution.

The CMA has urged retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices. They have also reminded members of the public that these obligations may apply to them too if they resell goods, for example on online marketplaces.

 

What if I have travel plans?

The most important thing to do is to check the FCO’s travel guidance before you go anywhere. The Government is asking everyone to limit any unnecessary travel.

The FCO's travel guidance can be found HERE

It is advised to be prepared to follow the advice of local authorities abroad. Be ready to comply with local isolation or quarantine requirements, and to rely on the local health system. Furthermore, it is advised to read the details of your travel insurance carefully and check that you are covered. Contact your insurer if you are uncertain and contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers to check for any coronavirus-related changes.

If you are aged 70 and over, or if you have underlying health conditions, we advise you against cruise ship travel at this time. Find out more in our cruise ship travel guidance HERE

 

What do I do if I am stuck abroad?

Britons stuck abroad due to travel restrictions have been advised to contact their airline, as well as the Foreign Office by calling +44 (0)207 008 1500, so that the Government knows they are trying to get home.

 

Why are we not screening at the airport?

As has been shown in the comparative decisions of other countries, screening measures have been shown to be ineffective. For example, the first recorded case in the USA passed into the country through an airport screening undetected.

 

Why have we not closed the borders completely to affected countries?

According to the Government’s scientific advice led by the Chief Medical Officer (Professor Chris Witty) and the Chief Scientific Officer (Sir Patrick Vallance) this is an ineffective measure that would have required all states to do so at the same time to be effective.

 

What’s the point in the Government trying to delay the inevitable?

The current analysis of our approach, displayed below in a graph from Lancet shows that under our approach, the UK will suffer only one peak of the virus in the upcoming spring/summer months, whilst countries who have adopted measures such as very early school closures will face two peaks, one in the coming weeks and another in winter- a very dangerous point. The blue line on the graph shows the risk of early intervention and no herd immunity and reinforces the view of our leading scientists that it is better to peak once, remove the virus from a country as quickly as possible and have that peak as close to the summer as possible.

Lancet