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Coronavirus Q&A: 17 questions on online shopping, holidays and renting answered

Your coronavirus consumer questions answered. Credit: PA

We know you have many questions about Covid-19 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, holidays and exercise.

These are the answers to the questions Chris answered on the programme, plus other questions we didn't have time to include on air.

It is still proving difficult to get an online shopping slot. Credit: PA

Julie: My 85-year-old mother-in-law lives on her own in Yorkshire. She's hard of hearing and has no family nearby. She manages to keep in touch through WhatsApp, but is struggling to get online shopping. How can we make her a priority - as she is unable to hear anyone on the phone?

Answer: Supermarkets have been using a government list of clinically ‘extremely vulnerable’ people, but that doesn't include many who badly need support. Some supermarkets are also using their own data to prioritise the elderly for deliveries, but it’s possible that Julie’s mother-in-law is not an existing customer on one of those lists. Stores have varying arrangements - the shopping section of the Age UK website has details of these.

A new scheme is also about to be launched where elderly and vulnerable people can register on major supermarket websites to be matched with local volunteers who can help with their shopping deliveries.

In the meantime - if all else fails contact the local authority - who should be able to arrange volunteers to help with shopping.

Can I renew my driving licence? Credit: PA

Anonymous: As a furloughed pub manager who lives on site, can my company expect me to complete tasks while we are closed?

Answer: According to Treasury guidelines, furloughed employees can’t provide any services or fulfill any tasks that make money for their employers – so that means that most tasks you might be asked to do are off-limits.

If something needs to be done at the pub, the company may need to employ an independent trades person to carry out the task - or ask an employee who hasn't been furloughed.

Pubs have been shut for over six weeks. Credit: PA

John: How can I renew my driving license? My current license will expire in the next couple of weeks, but I’m not sure DVLA offices are open for renewals?

Answer: Key workers can still renew their driving licenses by post, but at the moment, the only way everyone else can do this is online. This can take more than three weeks, so make sure you apply in plenty of time. The online form can be found on the DVLA website.

If you can’t access the internet and there isn’t anyone who can fill in the online form for you, you’ll probably have to wait until after restrictions are lifted to renew your license by post.

Anonymous: Are we allowed to drive convertible cars – could this be dangerous for drivers and passers-by because the virus is airborne?

Answer: No specific guidance has been issued on convertibles, but remember that we should only be using cars for essential journeys at the moment, so although a drive in this sunny weather may seem very appealing, it’s not allowed. If you’re driving a convertible for an essential reason – to shop for food or medical supplies or to go to help a vulnerable person - remember that you need to be two metres away from everyone else at all times.

That means that if there’s a chance other road users or pedestrians might get closer to you than that, it might be best to drive with the roof on – even if it is a lovely day.

The Kennel Club says that people should not collect puppies at the moment. Credit: PA

Anonymous: Is it OK to have potential purchasers visit a private residence to buy home bred puppies at this time of lockdown?

Answer: It’s a very cuddly question, but the Kennel Club says that people should not collect puppies at the moment. It may be possible to flip this so that the seller delivers puppies if it’s part of a breeding business and they apply social distancing and fulfill hygiene requirements. We all know that puppies have plenty of those!

Shane Farrow: Can I go metal detecting for exercise alone?

Answer: The National Council for Metal Detecting has said don’t do it – on the grounds that what starts with one detective in a field can too easily become a group – especially if you find something significant that requires police or archaeologist attendance. Sadly, finally searching for all that change at the back of the sofa should be as far as you go for now.

It's a no to metal detecting during lockdown. Credit: PA

Kay: My sister and I are both elderly and live 80 miles apart. We have both been behind closed doors since the beginning. Can I go and stay with her for the duration? My car is outside my door, and my sister has a big drive so I won't be near anybody.

Answer:The guidelines aim to stop people moving between households – and of course, a long car journey also brings its own risks. Generally, Public Health England emphasise that you shouldn't be meeting relatives who are not in your household - especially if you are older and therefore in the more vulnerable group. They do not make an exception. I'm sorry that’s not the answer you want – but it is the official view.

Can I stop paying my benefit charge on my company car? Credit: PA

Jason: I am an employee with a company car but I have been asked to work from home - so the car isn’t being used. Can I stop paying my benefit charge on the company car whilst I am not in work? I’ve been working from home for just over 30 days but can't take the car back to the office - can I take a photo of the mileage to prove that it isn’t being used?

Answer: Usually, the only way you can qualify to be exempt from the benefit charge you pay on your company car is if the car has been physically returned to your employer for a period of at least 30 days – making it unavailable to you for that time.

However, HMRC have acknowledged that in the current situation, returning the car may not be possible - so they have said that if you can’t return the car itself, you must instead return the keys (or the key fob) to your employer. They advise that this can be done by post.

A photo of the milometer is not enough to free you of the benefit charge – as this will only prove that you haven’t used the car – not that it has been unavailable to you. Remember that the key period is 30 days – the car has to have been unavailable to you for that time for you to qualify for an exemption to the charge.

If your flights are cancelled you are entitled to a refund. Credit: PA

John: We have booked a holiday to Spain for May 9 with Love Holidays. There are 11 of us and it was due to be our first family holiday. Love Holidays have paid Ryanair for our flights. If Ryanair don't cancel the flights, do we have to go – and if we don’t go, will we have to accept a voucher? We are ATOL and ABTA protected.

Answer: Eleven going to Spain is a big holiday - and a big bill.

It’s worth checking whether Ryanair has now cancelled those flights, because it has said that it doesn’t expect to operate many flights at all in May. Once they cancel, you are entitled to all your money back and you don’t need to accept a voucher.

That is the law. In practical terms, this may take time. Ryanair says its helpline staff are working from home with a huge number of refunds to process, but persevere - because a full refund is your entitlement.

Janet: How do people who are at-risk keep safe during a compulsory gas safety check?

Answer: Routine gas safety checks are still going ahead because it’s been decided that these are important for people’s safety – especially when most of us are spending even more time than usual in our homes.

However, if you’ve been told by a medical professional that you need to ‘shield’ – or if you are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 because you’re aged over 70 or have a medical condition that puts you at increased risk, you can refuse to have an engineer in your home to carry out a routine check. If you fall into one of these categories, talk to your landlord because the inspection can be delayed until you’re out of isolation.

If you’re shielding or vulnerable, the only reason an engineer should enter your home is to deal with an immediate danger.

Evictions are on hold until the end of June. Credit: PA

Becky: Am I allowed to travel 30 miles to check on my mother’s property? It is currently unoccupied as she is in residential care, and when the lockdown came into force I was in the preparing it to be put up for sale.

Answer: This isn’t allowed in the guidelines. Perhaps if you are in contact with neighbours, they can alert you to any obvious problems? You should also check the insurance policy for the home – many policies specify that if a property is unoccupied for an extended period, they won’t pay out - so do check with the company.

Karen: My tenancy ran out on March 20 but the landlord was prepared to keep us on a month-by-month agreement. However, we don’t have anything in writing and we have now been given notice of two months to leave the property. Where do I stand - and should I be moving during the pandemic?

Answer: All court proceedings for eviction are on hold until the end of June. The housing charity Shelter is advising that people should stay in their home if the landlord gives notice or asks them to leave. There’s an underlying principle here - which is that all unnecessary moves are being avoided.

Anonymous: My son has been called back into work after three weeks of lockdown (he doesn't live with me). He manufacturers office furniture. Half the workforce has been called back in, but surely this isn't an essential job?

Answer: Many businesses that are not deemed 'essential' are still allowed to operate – if the work can’t be done from home.

However, bosses who are asking employees to go to work must make sure that workers can stay a safe distance of two metres from one another at all times. They must also have appropriate hygiene measures in place – including heightened cleaning regimes and frequent hand washing for everyone.

If your son has any concerns that this isn’t happening, it’s definitely a good idea for him to talk to his boss before he goes in to work about additional steps that could be taken. If he still has concerns after that, your son can take matters to the Health and Safety Executive – which can take action against employers if needed.

Some stables have launched fundraising appeals to keep them afloat. Credit: PA

Aileen: I have a riding school in Stevenston. I have no income, but I cannot furlough my staff as I need help to look after the welfare of my 26 horses while I am closed. The staff would not even be allowed to volunteer if I did furlough them. Some of my horses are retired, but I don’t want to part with them after they’ve worked for me all their lives. Where do I go for help?

Answer: It is desperately hard for riding schools who have no income, but who still have horses to take care of. You could potentially furlough some of your staff to save you having to pay their salaries – whilst keeping a core number to look after the essential welfare of the horses. Some stables have successfully launched fundraising appeals with great success because they are so treasured by customers past and present.

Aileen Edgar: My son's employer won't furlough him and he is too young for Universal Credit - what can he do?

Answer: In order for employees to be placed on furlough – the government scheme which pays at least 80% of salary (up to £2,500 per month) - employers have to agree. Money has now started going into company accounts for this month’s payday.

Universal Credit is available to 16 and 17 year-olds if they’re not receiving support from their parents or local authority.

People of this age can also qualify for Universal Credit if they’re unable to work for medical reasons; if they’re responsible for a child or if they’re caring for a severely disabled person.

The Department for Work and Pensions assess applicants from this age group on an individual basis – so it’s worth your son contacting them about his situation if he thinks he’ll qualify.

Driving lessons are not considered a good enough reason to leave your home. Credit: PA

Adam Ainsworth: My daughter is learning to drive. Would I be able to take her out in my car with the ‘L’ plates on or would the police stop us and fine us?

Answer: This is not considered a good enough reason to leave your home at the moment. Remember that there are only four reasons we’re allowed to leave home – these are: to shop for food and essentials; to travel to work if you can’t work from home; for essential medical reasons; and to go out once a day for exercise. Police may stop and question you if you’re out and about, and in some cases being out for a reason other than those four can result in a fine.

Brian Mac: My wife is ‘shielding’ and I am a vulnerable person. My wife has a Motability car but doesn’t drive, and I am the only named driver. We have our shopping and medication delivered, so the car is sitting on our driveway and is unlikely to move for many months. Motability gets my wife’s full benefit from DWP - in excess of £250 per month. Are there any plans for Motability leases to be paused or suspended?

Answer: At the moment, there is no facility to pause your lease on a Motability vehicle because you are not using the car while you’re isolating. Motability have told us that they are looking at further ways they can help people who use the scheme, but they haven’t said whether or not pausing leases is something that’s being considered.

It’s good that you’re getting food and essentials delivered, but for users who are struggling with that, Motability is making it easier to change or add named drivers to their vehicles. This means that friends and family can make use of those vehicles to help vulnerable people with deliveries if they need to.

Coronavirus: Q&A is broadcast every Monday at 8pm on ITV - you can also watch it here.