Coronavirus: your questions answered
With our services busier than ever, we've decided to answer some of the questions we're being asked the most all in one place.
I’m over 70, do the new Government guidelines (from 1 June) apply to me?
Yes. The new Government guidance applies to people of all ages, including those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable and were previously advised to shield. The only exception is if you live in an area where there is a local lockdown in place, which means you may have to follow different guidelines for a limited period of time.
If you are over 70, living with an underlying health condition, or considered clinically extremely vulnerable (were advised to shield during lockdown) it’s a good idea to take extra care when going out as being older does carry increased risk from coronavirus. Make sure you are strict about hand hygiene and where possible you should stay 2 metres away from those not in your household or support bubble. If 2 metres really isn’t possible then you should follow the 1 metre plus rule. This means that you can be 1 metre away from people outside of your household so long as you take additional precautions when doing so, such as wearing a face covering or meeting outside.
You may also wish to think about limiting the number of people you meet as the more people you meet up with the higher the risk of transmission. Although you can spend time in groups of up to six people inside or outside, you may prefer to see people in outdoor spaces, where the risk of coronavirus spreading is lower. If you do decide to meet with people in an inside space, it is best to go to places which are spacious, have fewer people there, and are well-ventilated. If people from outside of your household or support bubble come to your house, open the windows and doors to let fresh air in.
As attractions and restaurants start to open, you might want to avoid places which you know will be busy and where it will be harder to socially distance.
If you live alone and want to form a support bubble, there are some things you could think about to make it safer. Joining up with a smaller household means you will be in contact with fewer people and therefore the risk of infection is smaller. You may also want to avoid joining up with a household which is more exposed to coronavirus. For example, if there are people in the household who are healthcare workers and potentially seeing people with coronavirus, then forming a social bubble with them would be higher risk.
I am clinically vulnerable, should I be leaving my home to go to work?
This question is aimed at those in clinically vulnerable groups (over 70, under 70 with underlying health conditions) that do not fall into the extremely clinically vulnerable group who were advised to shield during lockdown. If you are a care worker aged 70 or over please see the general guidance for people working in social care.
The government has published guidance about how employers can make work environments safer for workers and minimise the risk of Coronavirus infections.
Workers aged 70 or over, people with long-term health conditions, and pregnant women are considered to be ‘clinically vulnerable’, which means they are more likely to have a severe illness if they become infected with the coronavirus.
For this reason, workers aged 70 are over should be helped to work from home, either in their current role or in an alternative role.
If workers aged over 70 cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the ‘safest available on-site roles’, this means roles which enable workers to stay 2m away from others.
If workers aged 70 or over have to spend time within 2m of others, employers have been advised to carefully assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk. Guidance acknowledges that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment. Particular attention should also be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
If you do have to go into your place of work, the government has advised that you should try to cycle, walk or drive wherever possible, only using public transport if absolutely necessary.
It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household or support bubble where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate.
Things you should know as a worker:
- Employers have a duty to consult their people on health and safety.
- Employers must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers. Employers cannot decide who the representative will be.
- Employers must consider actions which mitigate risks such as
- increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
- keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
- using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
- using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
- reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).
If you're a worker and you are concerned about your ability to work safely then you can raise a concern with you employee representative, contact your trade union if you have one, or contact Health and Safety Executive (HSE) online or by phone on 0300 003 1647.
How can I get my shopping and medication if I’m self-isolating?
If you or someone in your household or support bubble develops symptoms of coronavirus or receives a positive coronavirus test then you will need to self-isolate. You should also self-isolate if you are advised to do so by the test and trace service or have returned to the UK from certain locations.
If you are self-isolating then you should not be leaving the house, including to buy essentials or get medical supplies. You should speak to friends, family and trusted neighbours to see if they can support you to get the supplies you need during this time, whether prescriptions or food. When doing this they should leave any supplies on your doorstep to avoid spreading the virus.
Alternatively you can look at online delivery slots, most supermarkets are prioritising their online delivery slots for the most vulnerable so you should check with individual supermarkets for more information. You can also call our advice line on 0800 678 1602 and we may be able to support you to get a supermarket delivery slot.
You can also speak to your pharmacy about organising a medication delivery.
Anyone who is self-isolating for any reason can get support from the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme for shopping, medication delivery and check in and chat calls. To self-refer you can call 0808 196 3646. For more information and to see whether you are eligible for this support please see here.
I’m worried about everything going on, what can I do?
It’s completely understandable to be worried during this time – you won’t be alone in feeling this way.
There’s lot going on at the moment and lots of things are being affected. Also, while it’s important to stay up to date with the latest information, staying glued to the news all day can be overwhelming.
Our Coronavirus hub has lots of information which will hopefully answer questions you have – we’re updating this regularly with the most up to date information. There’s also lots of tips on how to maintain your wellbeing during this difficult time and what to do if you’re worried about others.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for there are a couple of numbers you can call:
Can I still visit older loved ones?
It is now possible for you to visit older friends or relatives, however there is still guidance in place to keep everyone safe.
- If you or an older relative or friend live alone or in a single adult household then you can form a support bubble. This means that you can see each other indoors and outdoors and do not need to socially distance from one another. You are only able to be in a support bubblewith one other household.
- You can also meet up with people outside of your household or support bubble, in groups of up to six people. You can do this in inside spaces, such as in people’s homes or in restaurants or pubs, or outdoors. You should follow precautions and socially distance from people you don’t live with or who aren’t in your support bubble.
- If you usually provide essential care, either as a formal or informal carer, then you can carry on doing this. You should take precautions though, including washing your hands regularly with warm water and soap. If you are not in a support bubble with the person you care for, you should try to socially distance from them, however we know this will not always be possible.
You shouldn’t be meeting up with others or going outside at all if you or anyone in your support bubble or household has symptoms of coronavirus or has tested positive for coronavirus. You also should not leave the house if you are self-isolating after advice from the Test and Trace service or you are quarantining after returning to the UK from certain other locations.
For more information on visiting someone in a hospital or care home, take a look at our information here.
If you can’t see your loved ones it can be difficult. Why not still keep in contact safely over the phone, via text or a video call?
How can I volunteer?
We have been overwhelmed with offers of support for older people which has been amazing. For some ideas on how you can help in your area, please see our neighbourly volunteering page or you can help your Local Age UK, details can be found here.
I'm over 70. Can I return to my volunteering now?
Some volunteering roles come with greater risks than others. For example, volunteering in a hospital will be riskier than over-the-phone befriending. Sometimes it won’t be obvious how risky your role is. We've got some information that can help you weigh up the risks and decide how you'd like to return to your volunteering.
Read more here
There are also precautions that all of us should be taking when we leave the house, that are important to remember if you return to volunteering:
- Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. You could carry hand sanitiser with you for times when washing facilities aren’t available.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth when you are outside of your house.
- Try to socially distance from people that you don’t live with. If it isn’t possible to socially distance, then, if you are comfortable doing so, wear a face covering.
You must not volunteer outside your home if you or anyone you live with have symptoms of coronavirus, are waiting for test results, or have been asked to self-isolate by the test and trace service.
I can't get my food delivered. What can I do?
More people are having their food delivered at the moment which means it can be tricky to get a delivery slot. However, some supermarkets are providing priority delivery slots to those that are more vulnerable and you should contact your supermarket or visit their website for more information about this.
If you're still struggling to get what you need, you can contact the following:
- Speak to your Local Age UK
- Community mutual aid groups
- Trussel Trust (emergency food)
- Local authority
- Self-refer to the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme by calling 0808 196 3646.
- You can also call our helpline on 0800 678 1602 and we may be able to support you to get a supermarket delivery slot.
I care for my parents, what happens if I get coronavirus and can’t care for them?
If you care for your parents or a loved one you may be particularly worried about what will happen if you become unwell.
If you're a carer, you should think about a plan B, just in case.
They may be entitled to support from the local council. You should start by contacting the person’s local council and asking for a needs assessment. This assessment can be requested even if the carer isn’t unwell.
This assessment will look at the person’s care needs and see if their needs meet the eligibility criteria. A financial assessment is used to work out if the person will have to contribute to the cost of any care.
If the person is entitled to care, a care and support plan will be drawn up detailing what services will be arranged.
The carer should also be offered an assessment of their own to see what support may help them in their role as a carer.
Due to the situation with Coronavirus, some local authorities may be acting under emergency powers, which mean they only have to meet urgent needs. However, they must still carry out a needs assessment on request and decide whether the person is entitled to help.
An alternative option is making arrangements with a private care provider. This may be particularly relevant to people who are not entitled to help from their local authority. As part of planning ahead, a care provider may be able to advise whether they can put services in place in the event a family carer became unwell at short notice.
If there is concern that a person is at risk, for example because they are not receiving the care they need, a safeguarding concern can be raised with the local council. They have a duty to investigate concerns.
I live with an older relative, should I still being going out or going to work?
If you live with an older person you are still able to go outside and spend time with others, as long as it is line with Government guidance.
If you’re working, the Government has advised that if you can, you should work from home. However, this isn’t possible, you can still travel to work. If possible, you should travel to work by foot, bike, or car. If you need to use public transport, try and travel at off-peak times when there will be fewer people. Your workplace should be encouraging members of staff to sit 2 metres apart where possible and to wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds.
There are also things you can do to keep the people you live with safe. Make sure that surfaces are regularly washed down and that everyone in your house washes their hands with soap and warm water regularly.
If you or someone in your household or support bubble develops symptoms of coronavirus or receives a positive test result, then you will need to self-isolate and not go into work. For more information on when you need to self-isolate and for how long see our test and trace page.
I want to update or make a will, how can I do it?
With the coronavirus pandemic causing many of us to worry, you may be thinking about updating your will.
Making a will
Writing a will requires preparation and potentially difficult decisions about who you want to benefit from your estate. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the normal rules and advice for writing and amending a will still apply. A will is the only way to make sure your money, property, possessions and investments (your estate) go to the people and causes you care about. If you die without making a will, you are said to have died ‘intestate’. In this situation, your estate is divided up according to the rules of intestacy. This takes away any personal decisions and means you have no control over how things are distributed.
Although it can be difficult to talk about wills, inheritance and what happens after someone dies, clear and frank conversations with loved ones now can make things a lot easier down the line. A will can help reassure loved ones that they are respecting your wishes after your die, which can make things easier for everyone involved. A properly written will also helps avoid disputes. Badly drafted or outdated wills can cause arguments among loved ones and these disputes may need to be resolved by a solicitor. Your will should remove any doubt about who you want to benefit from your estate, and help avoid further stress for family and friends at an already difficult time.
It’s usually best to get advice from a solicitor or chartered legal executive. You may wish to speak to a lawyer who specialises in wills and probate (applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions). Check they are licensed with the relevant professional body, such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority or Law Society.
For a will to be valid:
- it must be in writing and signed by you and two witnesses who will not benefit from it
- you must have the mental capacity to make the will and understand the effect it will have
- you must have made the will voluntarily and without pressure from anyone else.
The beginning of the will should state that it revokes all others. If you have an earlier will, you should destroy it.
Signing and witnessing the will
You must sign your will in the presence of two independent witnesses, who must also sign it in your presence – so all three people should be together when each one signs. If the will is signed incorrectly, it is not valid. Beneficiaries of the will, their spouses or civil partners shouldn't act as witnesses, or they lose their right to the inheritance. Beneficiaries shouldn't even be present in the room when the will is signed. It’s also best not to ask an executor to act as a witness.
Current rules around social distancing may make witnessing particularly challenging. Consult a solicitor for their advice on what steps you can take. It may be possible for a will to be witnessed from the other side of a door, window or from at least 2m distance. It’s really important to consider how everyone can be kept at a safe distance from each other, including the handling of documentation.
Making a will if you have an illness or dementia
If you can’t sign the will, it can also be signed on your behalf, as long as you’re in the room and it is signed at your direction. However, you must have the mental capacity to make the will, otherwise the will is invalid. Any will signed on your behalf must contain a clause saying you understood the contents of the will before it was signed.
If you have a serious illness or a diagnosis of dementia, you can still make a will, but you need to have the mental capacity to make sure it is valid. A solicitor should make sure of this, and you may need a medical practitioner’s statement at the time the will is signed, certifying that you understand what you are signing.
Amending a will
You should review your will every five years and after any major change in your life such as a new grandchild or moving house. Never make alterations on the original document.
Any amendment to a will is subject to the same conditions as when writing the original. If you are making a minor amendment to your will, you can add a supplement, known as a codicil. This must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the will, although the witnesses don’t have to be the same as the original ones.
If anything substantial needs to be changed, you should make a new will and cancel your old one.
Someone I love lives in a care home, how will they be tested?
Care home managers are now able to apply for regular testing of the whole care home. This includes testing both residents and staff, even if they do not have symptoms of coronavirus. This means there will be weekly testing of staff and residents can be tested once every 28 days.
The tests available are swab tests, which involves taking a swab of someone’s nose and the back of their throat with a long cotton bud. This type of test can only tell if someone has coronavirus at the time of the swab, not if someone has previously had it.
We would recommend speaking to the care staff in your loved one’s care home to find out how they are implementing regular testing.
I rent my home – can I be evicted?
A court ban protecting renters from eviction has ended. This means landlords can take eviction cases to court, but only if certain conditions are met. You do not need to leave your home just because the ban has ended, and there may be steps you can take to prevent eviction.
In most cases, the eviction process has three stages. Taking the case to court is the second stage. The first stage is your landlord giving you a written notice saying they want the property back. The notice must give you a period of time (‘notice period’) before your landlord can take the case to court – six months in most cases.
For more information see our page on housing advice during coronavirus.
Do the new rules mean I can’t spend time with my grandchildren?
From the 14 September, if you are spending time with people outside of your household or social bubble, you are only able to meet in a group of up to six people. Children are counted as part of this six. This means, for example, that if a couple has three children, then they are only able to meet up with one other person, from outside of their household or support bubble, at a time.
We know this may be hard for people from large families and it may not be possible for you to spend time with all of your grandchildren at once.
There are some exceptions to the rules. If you’re part of a support bubble with another household, because you or they live in a single-adult household, then you are able to meet with them without having restrictions on the number of people. For example, if you live alone and have formed a support bubble with your child, their partner, and their four children, you would still be able to visit them, even though this would be seven people.
What are local lockdowns?
The Government is closely monitoring the transmission of coronavirus across the country and if the rate of transmission starts to increase in certain areas, a local lockdown may be put in place to stop the spread.
The area which a local lockdown covers will vary; a city may be put into a lockdown, but it could be on a much smaller scale, such as a couple of businesses or a particular building.
If you live in an area where there is a local lockdown you will need to follow separate guidance and will be asked to take additional precautions. This will be a temporary measure and will be lifted once the spread of coronavirus has gone down in the area.
How could a local lockdown impact me?
If a local lockdown is put in place non-essential shops and businesses, such as restaurants and hairdressers, may need to close until the transmission rate lowers. You might be asked to limit your contact with people outside of your household or support bubble and to stay inside as much as possible. Travel in and out of areas where a local lockdown is in place may be restricted.
It’s a good idea to think about what you might need if a local lockdown comes into place where you live. You may want to make a list of useful contacts, such as your local Age UK, who could help you if a lockdown is enforced. NHS Volunteer Responders are able to help you to get food or medicine and you can refer yourself for support by calling 0808 196 3646.
How can I prepare for a local lockdown?
Although there's no need to stockpile, make sure you keep on top of any medication you need and don’t leave it to the last minute to reorder prescriptions. Make sure you have enough food in your house in case it becomes harder to get to the shops.
If you are affected by a local lockdown you may feel frustrated, disappointed, or concerned. If you're feeling worried about the changes to the guidelines take a look at some tips on looking after your mental wellbeing.
For Government guidance on local lockdowns, take a look here.
How can I stay well in a local lockdown?
It can be more challenging to look after your physical and mental health when you're being asked to stay at home more. We have lots of advice on accessing healthcare, keeping busy, and ways to keep well on our coronavirus hub.
Can I visit a loved one in a care home?
Limited visiting is allowed, where possible – but individual care homes are responsible for their own visiting policies.
Even though each care home can introduce their own visiting policy, it should be based on advice from the local director of public health in line with risks associated with coronavirus, such as local infection rates. This advice should be assessed and provided regularly.
The circumstances of the individual care home should also be considered, for example, staff availability and the circumstances of residents. The benefit to residents of receiving visitors should be balanced against the coronavirus risk to the care home and wider community.
When assessing the potential risks relating to visiting, care homes should consider whether residents’ needs make them particularly clinically vulnerable to coronavirus as well as whether residents’ needs make visits particularly important.
If necessary, the director of public health should place restrictions on visiting where the coronavirus infection rates are increasing in the local area.
Visits should be limited to exceptional circumstances only, such as end of life, in any area listed as an ‘area of intervention’ by the government. An ‘area of intervention’ means additional measures are in place to deal with COVID-19. You should check with your local authority about whether this applies in your area.
The government has said that in all cases, where restrictions are in place, exemptions should be made for visits to residents at the end of their lives.
Where visits are allowed, care homes should take steps to limit the risk of infection, including:
- Ensuring residents receive one constant visitor only, wherever possible. This means residents should not receive visits from loves ones, such as family members.
- Making arrangements for visits to be made by appointment only.
- Supporting visitors to wear a face covering. Visitors should wear additional PPE where appropriate during their visit. For example, this may be if there is close personal contact between the resident and visitor.
- Providing facilities for visitors and reminding them to wash their hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the care home.
Where restrictions to visits are in place, the guidance says care homes should offer alternative ways in which residents can communicate with family and friends. This may be through telephone or video calls.
The care home should make its visiting policy available to residents and families. Contact the care home for information about visiting arrangements, or the local authority for local coronavirus advice.
The guidance is available here.
How can people visit my home or how can I visit other homes safely?
Guidance on care home visits allows limited visiting where possible – though individual care homes are responsible for their own visiting policies. This has meant many people have been unable to spend face-to-face time with those they care about. This can be quite distressing, and it continues to be a priority for Age UK to see this resolved.
Even though each care home can introduce their own visiting policy, it should be based on advice from the local director of public health in line with risks associated with coronavirus, for example local infection rates. This advice should be assessed and provided regularly.
The circumstances of the individual care home should also be considered, for example, staff availability and the circumstances of residents. The benefit to residents of receiving visitors should be balanced against the coronavirus risk to the care home and wider community. This means that every care home is likely to have a different policy for visiting in place – it may be that you have two parents living in different care homes and you are experiencing different visiting rules because of this.
Where visits are allowed it is likely they will differ from what may have been in place before the coronavirus pandemic, as care homes will likely take steps to limit the risk of infection. This may include:
- Only allowing a resident to receive one constant visitor, wherever possible, this means only one member of someone’s family or friend group may be allowed to visit.
- Making arrangements for visits to be made by appointment only, meaning you cannot turn up unannounced.
- Asking visitors to wear a face covering and additional PPE where appropriate during their visit. For example, this may be if there is close personal contact between the resident and visitor.
- Asking visitors to use specific facilities to wash their hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the care home and throughout their visit.
- Facilitating face to face contact outside of a person’s bedroom, in a designated visiting room which may have plastic or glass barriers.
If a care home experiences an outbreak of coronavirus, or is in an area experiencing local lockdown restrictions, it is likely that the care home will implement a no visitor policy, which the guidance encourages care homes to do. If this does occur, guidance states that care homes should ensure there are alternative ways of communicating between residents and families and that they provide regular updates to resident’s loved ones of their mental and physical health and how they are coping.
Ultimately, the care home should make its visiting policy available to residents and families and communicate this clearly with you. It is likely that you have already done so, but if you are unsure of whether you can visit a loved one, we recommend contacting the care home for information about visiting arrangements, or the local authority.
The guidance is available here.