Coronavirus: your questions answered
National lockdown: Stay at home
The Government has announced a new national lockdown in England. This replaces the tier system and means we must all stay at home as much as possible. Find out more about the rules in England.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also announced lockdown measures.
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.
Can I still visit older loved ones?
You can only spend time indoors with members of your household or support bubble.
You’re currently allowed to meet with one person outside of your household or support bubble in order to exercise in an outdoor, public space. This might be to go for a walk, run, or cycle. You should only be meeting to exercise though, and you’re not able to meet and socialise, such as by having a picnic.
You may also be able to form a support bubble with your older loved ones if you:
- are a single-adult household (this includes households with one adult and any children are under the age of 18)
- have only one adult living there who does not need continuous care. For example, this would be the case if one adult provides for full-time care for their partner.
- have a child under one (regardless of how many other adults are in the household), or
- have a child under 5 with a disability that requires continuous care (regardless of how many other adults are in the household).
If you form a support bubble you can continue to see each other and visit each other’s households without needing to socially distance. You can only form one support bubble and once you have formed a bubble you should avoid changing who’s in it.
You’re also able to visit someone to provide care or support to a vulnerable person. If you’re providing care to an older loved one make sure you take precautions, including frequently washing your hands and keeping the room you are in well ventilated. Try to stay at least 2 metres apart (if you’re providing personal care then this may not be possible).
Where it’s simply not possible to visit a loved one you might want to think about other ways you can communicate with each other if you have not done so already. This could be over the phone, by text or by letter. You might even want to send a card or gift to your loved one in the post to show them you are thinking of them.
Can I form a support bubble with someone who lives in a different area to me?
Yes you can. You are able to travel to visit and stay over with someone in your support bubble. However the guidance recommends that you form a local support bubble and avoid travelling out of your local area wherever possible.
Can I still visit a loved one in a care home?
Care home visits can only take place at a distance. This includes:
- window visits, in designated ‘pods’ or with a substantial screen
- visits in person in exceptional circumstances, including when someone is at the end of their life.
Every care home is responsible for the visiting policy in that home and you may wish to speak with them about these arrangements.
If a care home has an outbreak of coronavirus, the Government advice is that visiting needs to stop immediately except in exceptional circumstances, including when someone is at the end of their life.
From 8 March, every care home resident will be able to nominate a named visitor. This visitor will be able to visit regularly indoors and hold hands with their loved one, subject to a negative coronavirus test beforehand and the wearing of PPE during the visit. This nominated visitor doesn't need to have had their vaccine.
This regular, nominated visitor is in addition to visitors being allowed to visit as outlined above with screens, pods or outdoor visits. We have more information about this guidance here.
Do the new rules mean I can’t spend time with or look after my grandchildren?
If you provide informal childcare to a child 14 years or under then you can form a childcare bubble. A childcare bubble allows the child you normally look after to continue coming to your house.
Childcare bubbles are different to support bubbles as you don’t need to be a single adult household in order to be able to form one. They’re also purely for childcare purposes and you shouldn’t otherwise be mixing with the other household.
You can only form a childcare bubble with one other family. This means that if you’re a grandparent then you can look after more than one grandchild if they’re from the same household, but you can’t look after children from different households.
If you live in a single adult household or your grandchildren do then you can also form a support bubble with them which allows you to mix.
Can cleaners and tradespeople still come into my home?
People who work in other peoples homes such as cleaners and tradespeople can continue to do so. You should discuss with the person working in you home what precautions they are taking to keep everyone safe. Regularly touched areas should be cleaned and you should maintain socially distancing measures at all times. There is Government guidance on working safely in other people's homes available.
If you or someone in your household or the person working in your home has symptoms of coronavirus or are self-isolating, then they should not continue working until the self-isolation period is complete.
If you’re considered more vulnerable to severe illness from coronavirus, for example if ‘ over 70 or you are shielding then you should take extra precautions and make sure that anyone working in your home is aware that you are at a higher risk.
I am over 70, am I more at risk from the effects of coronavirus?
Anyone can catch coronavirus, but we do know that some people are more likely than others to become seriously unwell. This includes people over the age of 70, even if you're otherwise fit and well and people of any age living with long-term health conditions which mean you'd normally be offered the flu jab.
This doesn’t mean that you would definitely become severely unwell if you caught coronavirus, but your risk is higher.
At the start of the pandemic NHS England and the government categorised some people at particularly high risk because of certain health conditions and these people were advised to shield. We have lots more information on this here.
Other charities have put together helpful information specific to health conditions which you may wish to read:
I am over 70 or living with a long-term condition, should I be leaving my home to go to work?
This question is for those over 70 or under 70 with underlying health conditions that don’t fall into the extremely clinically vulnerable group who have been advised to shield during lockdown.
Currently everyone is advised to work from home where they can, however, if you can’t work from home 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’re more likely to have a severe illness if they become infected with the coronavirus.
For this reason, workers aged 70 or over should be helped to work from home, either in their current role or in an alternative role.
If they can’t work from, they should be offered the option of the ‘safest available on-site roles’, this means they should be offered roles which enable workers to stay 2-metres away from others.
If workers aged 70 or over have to spend time within 2-metres 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, and 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, they shouldn’t 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’re 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.
I live with an older relative, should I still being going out or going to work?
Yes, you’re still able to go outside for exercise and to buy essentials. The pandemic has been a difficult and lonely experience for many people and being able to leave the house is important for our physical and mental health.
If you live with an older relative you may be feeling particularly anxious about doing this, which is understandable.
It’s a good idea to take extra care when going out. Make sure you’re strict about washing and sanitising your hands and where possible you should stay 2-metres away from those not in your household or support bubble.
If you’re working, the government has advised that you must work from home if you can do. However, for some people, this isn’t possible. Your workplace must make sure it is COVID-19 secure and follow guidance specific to the work setting. This is to make sure you minimise the risk of catching and spreading coronavirus in the work place. It’s a good idea to talk to your employer about your personal circumstances if you live with an older relative and explain to them any concerns you have.
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 must also self-isolate if you’re advised to do so by the test and trace service or have returned to the UK from certain locations.
If you’re self-isolating then you must not leave the house, including to buy essentials, get medical supplies, or for exercise. 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 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 or you can contact your local Age UK to see if they’re able to support you.
You can also speak to your pharmacy about organising a medication delivery.
Anyone who is self-isolating or vulnerable 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. 2020 was a difficult year for many of us and entering 2021 with more restrictions might be upsetting and worrying.
There’s a lot going on at the moment and lots of things are being affected. You may be feeling worried about how to stay safe or feeling down about the situation. We have lots of information and advice to help. Take a look at our advice on what to do if you’re feeling worried.
Talking about how you’re feeling can also help, and it’s likely that many of your friends and family will be feeling the same as you. If you think you need a bit more support, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP.
It might also be a good idea to think about activities that you can do during the day that you find interesting and explore how you can stay connected with friends and family if you’ve not done so already.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for there are a couple of numbers you can call:
How can I volunteer?
Under the new lockdown you can leave your house to volunteer, if it’s not possible for you to do so from home. However, if you’re more vulnerable to coronavirus then you may want to think carefully about how you can volunteer safely and see if you’d be able to volunteer from home.
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 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 there's no doubt that you’ll be thinking about what will happen if you become unwell.
It’s probably the case that you have a plan B in place already, but it’s worth considering a few things:
- Think about any friends or family who could step in. Find out in advance if they’d be able to help and if the person you care for would be comfortable with this arrangement.
- Develop an emergency plan about the person you care for that includes important information such as medication, ongoing treatment, medical appointments and emergency contacts
- The person you care for 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, which can be requested even if you’re well.
- You could look at making arrangements with a private care provider. This may be particularly relevant to people who aren’t 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 if a family carer became unwell at short notice.
Someone I love lives in a care home, how will they be tested?
Care home managers are now able to access regular testing of the whole care home. This includes testing both residents and staff, even if they don’t have symptoms of coronavirus. We would recommend speaking to the care staff in your loved one’s care home to find out how they’re accessing and implementing regular testing.
I want to update or make a will, how can I do it?
There are new rules for will writing and witnessing have been brought in due to the social distancing guidelines. You can find them here.
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. Witnessing can now take play remotely – for example by video call.
- 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 (either in person or remotely via video call) of two independent witnesses, who must also sign the same document in your presence. 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 in-person witnessing 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 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
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.
I rent my home. Can I be evicted?
In England, most evictions are on hold due to the national lockdown. Although landlords can serve eviction notices and progress cases through the courts, bailiffs can only attend properties to carry out evictions in limited circumstances.
These include if you’re being evicted because of anti-social behaviour or rent arrears of at least six months. If you’re an assured shorthold tenant and your landlord is evicting you using the ‘no fault’ procedure – which starts with them serving a ‘section 21’ notice – you should be protected even if the underlying reason for the eviction is anti-social behaviour or substantial arrears. Most private tenants are assured shorthold tenants.
These rules last until 31 March 2021, with evictions expected to resume as normal from 14 April 2021.
For more information see our page on housing advice during coronavirus.