Coronavirus Q&A: Your questions on work, moving house, holidays 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 work, travel plans, house moves and 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.
Sarah LouI, who works in a small workshop making soft furnishings: My boss has said she wants us to go back to work in May, but it’s an enclosed space and I’m worried about whether we’ll be able to stay two metres apart.You can go to work if it can’t be done from home. Social distancing measures should be strictly observed in the workplace, so if you have any concerns about this, try to raise them with your boss. The Health and Safety Executive has said that if employers do not comply with social distancing, they face being hit with enforcement notices and potential closure. If concerns can’t be resolved, workers can approach the Health and Safety Executive or their local authority.
Tanya: Can you be furloughed if you live with someone who has received an NHS letter telling them to shield for 12 weeks?Yes – under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, your employer can furlough you either if you’ve been told you need to shield because of your own health - or if you live with someone who has been told they need to shield. This means the Government will pay 80% of your wages while you’re isolating at home, but you won’t be allowed to do any work for your employer during that time.
Gemma Alexander: I’m a single mum with a four year-old son. I work two nights a week at a supermarket. Can my son’s dad stay at my house to look after him while I’m at work? The guidelines are specific in saying a child whose parents are separated is allowed to move between their parents’ homes - as long as nobody in either household has symptoms.So if it’s possible for your son to go to stay with his dad when you’re working - that looks like a good solution. But ideally, you shouldn’t be allowing someone from another household to stay in your home. And people should not be moving between households.
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‘Worried Plumber’: I work for a local council and we’re still being made to service boilers in many houses each day. Why can't gas safety certificates just be extended without an inspection?Under current guidance, you can still go into people’s homes to do maintenance work - as long as you’re not showing any symptoms of Covid-19. Of course, you must stay two metres away from everyone else while you’re there and you must be strict about hygiene. However, if someone in the household you’ve been asked to go into is shielding or self-isolating for medical reasons, you should not be going into their home unless the boiler is a potential safety risk and you need to carry out emergency repairs or inspections.
Anon: If a company has had a confirmed case of coronavirus, should they close during lockdown?The workplace does not need to close, but the company should follow cleaning advice. Disinfecting an area after someone with suspected coronavirus has left reduces the risk of further infection. Government guidelines say wear disposable gloves and aprons for cleaning, double bag them after use and store securely for 72 hours before discarding.
Marie: Will being furloughed affect my mortgage application?If you are applying for a mortgage now, some lenders will judge your ability to pay according to your furlough income - which could be significantly less than your normal salary. Not all banks and building societies have the same approach, so it’s worth looking around.
Diana: We were due to move house on 27 March, but just days before the final paperwork was signed by everyone in the housing chain, the lockdown came into force in the UK. The process of moving house is now on 'halt' in the housing chain. When can we move?Government is encouraging people in a chain like this to amicably agree an alternative moving date for a time when the current restrictions are no longer in place. This is difficult because we don’t know when things will change. However, mortgage offers are being extended up to three months where this sort of delay to completions happens.
Aneesha: We accepted the offer of a voucher for our flight as a refund wasn’t an option at the time, but the flight has now been cancelled - should we get a refund?Where an airline cancels a flight you are entitled to a refund - you don’t need to accept a voucher. Here it looks like you did accept one in satisfaction of the airline’s liability. So, hopefully at some stage you can enjoy a replacement flight.
Karen: Jet2 have cancelled our flights for our holiday in May so I have had to cancel my airport parking. They are charging me £15 to cancel - can they do this?Some car park operators are giving refunds but withholding an admin fee because that’s in their terms and conditions - which this may well be. Where such fees can be regarded as reasonable, they can be hard to challenge. Others are allowing cancellations without incurring any penalty fees.
Anon: We have paid over two thousand pounds in fees for our holiday home for this season, but we’ve been told we can’t use it. Is the Government going to help with the fees or will we get next year free?It sounds like you are under a contractual obligation to pay these fees – and possibly the owners of the holiday facility will say they still need to pay for maintenance. We still don’t know when the current restrictions will be eased - there is still a chance you’ll get to enjoy some time in your holiday home this year.
Jennifer Swandells: I have a communal garden which is shared with other neighbours. If I’m out and my neighbours’ children want to come out, I go back into the house.Can neighbours meet for a chat as long as they are 6 feet apart?Not really. The guidance says that we should avoid mixing with people from other households as much as possible. Some councils are even advising that households who share a garden arrange to use it at different times – and limit the amount of time they each spend there so that everyone can enjoy their share.
Those of us lucky enough to have gardens are being encouraged to get out and enjoy them – particularly in this lovely weather - but don’t use it as an excuse to socialise with other households. You should try to avoid being close to others, so if you do briefly end up being in the garden at the same time as your neighbours, stay as far away as possible – at least two metres.
Anon in Hampshire: Someone local to me organised a street party in their close with everyone sitting in their own front gardens. The idea was to support the older people who are experiencing isolation. Does this fit with government guidelines about not gathering in public places?The Government guidance says that you can spend time in your own garden, as long as you stay at least two metres away from people from other households. So, as long as there’s space in each person’s garden to allow them to keep a safe distance, it sounds like this should be OK – and joining in and seeing neighbours could help those people who are feeling isolated.
Linda Rogers: I know that you can leave your home for essential shopping, exercise, and work. What about people who have to see to their horses (or any livestock) to feed them, let them in or out. Can that be added to the list? Yes. As long as you’re not self-isolating for medical reasons, you can leave your house to care for your horses and other livestock. However, the guidance says that you should use your one daily exercise trip to do this, and that you should make your trip as short as possible. Of course, you’ll need to stay at least two metres away from other people while you’re out. If you are self-isolating or showing symptoms of Coronavirus, you should not be leaving your home at all. If that’s the case, ask someone else to take care of the animals if you can. If there is nobody to help you with this, contact your local authority.
Paula Beurskens: How long is the virus thought to last on soft surfaces such as dog's hair - and what is the likelihood of the virus being transmitted this way?It’s considered low risk - the main route for infection is from person to person through coughing and sneezing. The British Veterinary Associations says "there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease".However, the virus can live on surfaces for some time - ranging from a few hours to three days. Research hasn’t so far been specific to dogs, but to stay safe, wash your hands before and after you pet them and bath your dog more frequently.
Anon: I have recently had to stop driving lessons and I am wondering if it is acceptable to practise driving with a provisional licence. I would not come into contact with anyone other than one of my parents - who needs to be in the car with me when I drive. My theory test pass will no longer be valid past September, so the hope is to get the practical done in time.I'm afraid this isn’t an essential journey. And (without in any way seeming to question your driving skills) - any journey that adds to road use also adds to the chances of an accident – which could put extra strain on the NHS at this crucial time. Driving instructors were advised to stop giving lessons and tests have been halted. Your theory test certificate can’t be extended, so you will need to book and pay to take another one.
Anon: I have been told by my bank and the local supermarket that I can no longer use my cheque to withdraw cash and will have to use the ATM. I’m worried that this is putting me at increased risk. ATMs are likely to be a hotspot because so many people will touch the touch screen and the keypad – and the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on hard surfaces. Wearing gloves and washing or sanitising hands after using the ATM is essential. A lot of supermarkets are now requesting we try to use contactless payments - not cash.
Coronavirus: Q&A is broadcast every Monday at 8pm on ITV - you can also watch it here.
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