Coronavirus Q&A: 16 questions on furlough, weddings, supermarkets and everyday life answered
We know you have many questions about coronavirus and how it's impacting your life - so ITV News is putting your questions to the experts in a special weekly programme, called Coronavirus: Q&A.
The programme is broadcast every Monday at 8pm on ITV.
In this week's programme, Consumer Editor Chris Choi answered some of the many questions ITV News viewers and readers sent in about how the outbreak is affecting your health work, travel and your everyday life.
These are the answers to the questions Chris answered on the programme, plus other questions we didn't have time to include on air.
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Janet: If a person has terminal cancer, can their immediate family visit - keeping two metres apart?
Answer: If someone is receiving end-of-life care in an NHS setting such as a hospital or hospice, one visitor at a time is allowed.
However, they do need to be an immediate family member or carer.
And in most circumstances at the moment, visiting patients in hospital is not allowed. The only other reasons you can go and be with someone in hospital are: if you’re a birthing partner for a woman who’s in labour or if you’re a parent or guardian visiting your child.
Amy: I have been told I should be in the “shielding group” of people seriously at risk, but I have not received any text or letter from the NHS informing me.
Answer: The NHS identified around 900,000 at severe risk. These patients include those with organ transplants, people on immunotherapy and those with some types of cancer.
They should all have had letters from the NHS and about 75% may also have had texts. If you think you should be on this list but haven't had a letter or text - contact your GP. In time another 600,000 are expected to be added to this list - bringing the total to 1.5 million.
Dawn: I received a letter from the NHS telling me I need to self-isolate for 12 weeks. Will I get sick pay or be furloughed?
Answer: For the first two weeks you get statutory sick pay – £94.25 per week. After that - if you can’t work from home, your employer can furlough you, which means they will receive a Government grant to pay 80% of your wages. Chat to your boss now about whether they’ll agree to furlough you for the next 10 weeks.
Kate: Do I need to wash or disinfect all groceries?
Answer: The current advice is that it’s not necessary, and many disinfectants that kill this virus shouldn’t be on your food. Washing your hands before and after handling groceries and packaging is the most important thing. This is not a food-borne illness, but this virus can survive on surfaces like packaging for up to 72 hours.
Anonymous: As easyJet have now cancelled all flights, should I be offered a refund rather than a change of flights to suit them?
Answer: Yes - you are entitled to a refund for cancelled flights. You don’t have to accept a voucher or a rebooking. EasyJet say their customer service line for refunds is “currently experiencing extremely high call volumes” on this subject, so getting through to speak to someone may take time.
Robin: My car hasn’t moved in over a week. Can I take it for a drive? If I don’t and I have an emergency, I could well have a flat battery.
Answer: The advice is to drive only when the journey is essential – which doesn’t apply to going for a spin just to boost the battery. If there is a genuine emergency and you have a flat battery, the emergency services will respond. You can use your car for essentials like basic shopping and will have to rely on that for recharging.
Jeanette: Should children be continuing to work delivering newspapers?
Answer: Yes. They are doing a great job and it’s good to help prevent people going to the shops to pick up a paper. They must stay two metres from others and just leave the papers on doorsteps – no need to touch the letter boxes.
Lucy: My boyfriend and I live separate with family so aren’t visiting each other, can we rent an Airbnb to spend some time together?
Answer: No - the advice is that you shouldn’t be moving between households – which this would constitute.
Suzanne Johnson: My daughter & her fiancé were due to be married on 16th May this year. One provider has refused a refund. Where do we stand?
Answer: Current restrictions continue until around April 13th and will then get reviewed. You should wait for the review, which is likely to extend the period into May. If that happens, it’s likely your service provider – whether that’s a hotel, wedding cars or a caterer – will close and you will then be entitled to refund.
Dave: I work 300 miles away from my home. Can I drive home on my time off? Currently working one week on, one week off.
Answer: You are allowed to travel to work, if you can’t work from home. However, this is different because work is 300 miles away. If you have accommodation nearer to work it might be advisable to stay there to minimise travel. If you haven’t got accommodation – then you’d have to return home.
Lisa Taylor: Could you tell me what happens if you are furloughed for three months. Do I need to cancel my working tax credits?
Answer: When you are furloughed, you continue to pay tax as normal and receive tax credits as usual if you are on a low income. From Monday 6 April the basic element of working tax credit increases £20 a week.
Steve: I work in sales. My basic salary is very low but I earn commission. My employers say I am only entitled to 80% of my basic and nothing else, but I’ve read that if my pay varies, then I’m entitled to the same pay based on the previous tax year?
Answer: Furlough refers to people being laid off work with 80% of their salary paid by the government Job Retention Scheme, up to £2,500 a month. In a new clarification issued on Saturday (4 April), the Treasury says sales commissions and bonuses can be taken into account when this is worked out.
Employers can either take an average of your monthly earnings from the last year or pay you what you earned in the same month last year - whichever is higher.
Anjali: Is there any arrangement for families identified with Covid -19 who don’t fall in the vulnerable category when it comes to supermarket deliveries?
Answer: If one of your household has the virus you must self-isolate for 14 days from when their symptoms started. That means not leaving the home even to shop for essentials.
Sadly the delivery slots are not there for many, many people. If you don't have neighbours, friends or family who can help by dropping shopping off at your door, there are thousands of volunteer groups across the country that have been set up to help.
Check if there’s one in your area - details should be online – and many groups post flyers and leaflets through doors.
Phillip Stewart: Will the key workers who are working extra long shifts to keep the system going end up paying more tax? This seems unfair as they’re putting themselves at risk.
Answer: It's true that a lot of key workers will be working overtime during this period, and doing extremely important work. However, no tax breaks have been announced for any extra money earned from this, so essential workers will be paying tax at the usual rate on their overtime.
Mrs Harpet: My daughters are single mums and must go shopping with the kids - aged 4, 7 and 8. Supermarkets say on the door that no kids are allowed - how do single mums shop with kids?
Answer: You can see why a supermarket would say this – they want to minimise numbers in store to help with distancing – vital for protecting customers and staff. A supermarket manager told me some are treating the shopping trip like a family outing, while supermarket staff are doing an incredible job, very much on the frontline.
Sainsbury's asks one adult per household to shop but adds that children are welcome if they are not able to stay at home.
Asda has said ”if possible bring fewer family members”, so these retailers are signalling that there can be exceptions. Some (including Morrisons) have staff at the door and in car parks to dissuade large groups from entering.
Laura Mitchell: I started a new job in March but after just one week, the office closed because of the coronavirus and I was told that because I hadn’t worked there long enough to be furloughed. I’ve looked into Universal Credit but I’m told it takes weeks to get the first payment. How am I supposed to afford to support myself and my son?
Answer: The guidelines for the Government’s Job Retention Scheme say that any company who had you on their payroll on the 28th February can furlough you. That’s the key date to remember here.
Even if you have stopped working for an employer since the 28th February, if you were on their payroll on that date they can now re-employ you for 80% of your wages – which they claim back from the Government.
Your previous employer will have to agree to this, so it’s worth having that conversation now. If you both agree that you’ll accept 80% of your salary to stay on their payroll, it won’t cost them anything.
If your previous employer doesn’t agree to furlough you, Universal Credit is another option. The current advice is that it will probably take around five weeks to get your first payment, but you can apply for an advance to help cover costs for that time. You will have to pay this advance back over time, which can be done in installments over a period of up to a year.
Coronavirus: Q&A is broadcast every Monday at 8pm on ITV - you can also watch it here.