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Money, lockdown, work, and travel: Your coronavirus questions answered

Your coronavirus questions answered by our consumer editor. Credit: PA

Whether it's money, lockdown rules, work, or travel - ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi has been answering your questions on the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Amanda - My neighbours have been meeting friends and family in their gardens, is this allowed?

It’s a no to garden gatherings at the moment.

Minimising non-essential social contact means get-togethers with more than two people are banned, unless they live in the same household.

It's a timely question because people are planning VE day commemorations for this bank holiday Friday.

Where several neighbours - all in their own gardens – stay two metres away from other households, you can create a good street party-style atmosphere.

  • Carol - My mother is 89-years-old and still has bills to pay. She cannot get out to go to the bank and does not have a bank card to pay bills - can she nominate a relative to draw money from her account?

You could try to connect your mum with the Post Office's “Payout Now” scheme, which incorporates all banks and building societies.

A one-time barcode voucher can be sent by text, email or post to your mum - who can then share it with a trusted person to withdraw cash. Please do watch out for fraud - which sadly has increased during the pandemic.

Outdoor gyms and play areas have been closed during the lockdown. Credit: PA
  • Pamela - I work for a well-known discount store in north Manchester and we still get very busy. We do have some notices in place about social distancing, but our customers don’t take any notice of them, and we are not allowed to make a fuss about it. I feel afraid and disrespected - what can I do?

It’s not acceptable that anyone working in retail to feed the nation should feel afraid and disrespected. Employers have been told that they have to put measures in place to ensure distancing is maintained and where that’s not possible, we have seen screens and masks being used.

If customers aren’t obeying the rules, they should be reminded – and can be asked to leave if they ignore these measures – so you could try talking to your bosses about that happening.

If you still have concerns, the Health and Safety Executive has powers to take action against employers who aren’t doing everything possible to ensure that staff are safe. You can submit a report on their website as a whistleblower without giving your name.

  • Emma - I own a hairdressing salon in Romsey. I am hearing more and more reports of hairdressers going to people's homes to style and cut hair. Is this allowed?

No. There is evidence of a black market in hairdressing, but going into people’s homes for any reason - other than for health purposes or to carry out essential maintenance - is against guidelines.

Online tutorials; “hair hacks”, have been posted by professionals – so they could be helpful for anyone thinking of having a go themselves!

Many retailers are only accepting card payments. Credit: PA
  • Francis - How can I clean money?

The virus can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours. Chinese banks used ultra-violet light and high temperatures to clean cash, but a simpler solution is to wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly after handling cash.

Use electronic transfers and contactless when you can - money should be considered dirty because it goes through so many hands.

  • Alana - Are grandparents who aren't in the vulnerable group able to provide childcare for key workers? This was our childcare method prior to COVID-19.

The Prime Minister specifically advised against grandparents helping out with childcare in his announcement on school closures in March.

For those over 70, social distancing is particularly crucial, but like everyone else, not even younger grandparents should be mixing outside their own households. Schools and many nurseries are still open for the children of key workers, so take a look at those options.

  • Julian - I've been placed on furlough and my employer says that I have to take half of my annual leave by June, even though lockdown is still in place. Where do I stand?

Even if staff are on furlough, employers do have the right to tell workers when to take holiday. For example, an employer could shut for a week and tell everyone to use their holiday entitlement for that time off.

Your employer must give you twice as much notice as the amount of holiday they’re asking you to use – so for ten days, they have to tell you at least twenty days beforehand.

  • Ian - My employer furloughed me three weeks ago, but has asked me to come into work to tidy up and prepare for re-opening. Am I allowed to do this?

When on furlough, you can’t work for your employer. It might be worth giving a gentle reminder to your bosses that the government can audit the scheme - and if they find evidence of abuse, they can claw back payments. In circumstances like this, your employer would either have to ask non-furloughed staff to carry out the tasks that need to be done or engage outside help.

Many workers have moved to a work from home model. Credit: PA
  • Tina - I have been furloughed. Can my employer terminate my employment immediately or at all without giving me notice?

If you’re on furlough, you are still employed even though you’re not working, so all your usual employment rights still apply. That means that your boss would have to give you notice if they were making you redundant. The required notice period depends on how long you’ve been working there. If you’ve been at your job for under two years it can be as little as a week, but it goes up to twelve weeks if you’ve been there twelve years or more.

  • Diane - l am British and my son lives in the USA. l have always wanted my ashes to be scattered at sea there - on the beach where my son got married. If l died from the virus and that was on my death certificate, would this still be allowed?

Well, let’s hope that won’t be something that you and your family need to think about. Experts say that ashes can’t carry the virus, so in most cases victims of Coronavirus can still be cremated if that is their wish.

One thing to be aware of at the moment is that different local authorities have different rules in place around the collection of ashes. Some are allowing a family member to come to the crematorium to collect ashes, whilst others are asking funeral directors to collect ashes on families’ behalves.

There are crematoria that aren’t allowing anyone on the premises to collect ashes at the moment, but are storing ashes to be collected after restrictions are lifted.

Transporting ashes to the US could be another thing to consider – obviously the current restrictions on travel mean that nobody could take the ashes over in person at the moment. To send human ashes by post, you would usually need to use a specialist repatriation shipping service. These services are still operating in some circumstances, so the advice is to discuss this with your funeral director.

Bear in mind too that anyone hoping to scatter ashes at the moment should be very aware of whether or not they are able to access their chosen location to do so - and lockdown in the US might restrict access for your family to get to the beach for now.

In short, scattering ashes in the US should still be possible if someone sadly dies in the UK with Coronavirus, but many families are having to wait a little time for restrictions to be lifted before they can fulfil a loved ones’ final wish.

  • Marie - You can get a taxi when you’ve been shopping, so why can’t I take my mum shopping?

The best thing to do for your mum is probably to do her shopping and drop it off on her doorstep. Taxis are still operating, but you should only use them for essential journeys - and even then only if you don’t have symptoms of Covid-19.

Victoria station in London has been nearly empty as commuters stay at home. Credit: PA
  • Barbara - I need to have a length of guttering cleaned because it is clogged badly - is the tradesman OK to do this job? He will not enter the property and I will leave payment outside.

Many tradespeople are still operating - and if they can stay two metres from customers, that’s usually fine.

No work can be carried out if the tradesperson has symptoms, and only urgent safety work can be done in homes where people are extremely vulnerable or shielding. In your case, the work is outdoors – which reduces the risks, and you have devised a money drop - which is a very sensible idea.

  • Melody - Should university students have to pay rent and build up future maintenance and tuition fee loan debt for the time affected by Coronavirus? I am paying rent for a house that I am not able to live in due to lockdown.

Nobody would want to be paying so much for something they are not even using.

At least 60 universities have agreed to waive rent for accommodation they manage, but for many in private rentals this comes down to a contract - which remains in force. Read your contract carefully to see if there is a break clause – which might allow you to stop paying rent early.

If not, ask your landlord to release you from the obligation. Some landlords have waived or reduced rents – but by no means all.

On tuition fees, universities have switched to remote teaching and students are being told not to expect refunds if they are receiving adequate online learning and support.

  • Ather - My tenant thinks that the government has announced that tenants do not have to pay any rent for three months. Can the tenant do this, and is there any way he can claim rent from the government?

Government has asked landlords to “offer support and understanding”. No legal action for repossession can start within a three month notice period.

Government has strongly advised landlords not to start eviction proceedings “during this challenging time”, but this is not the same as saying you can just stop paying rent.

  • Mike - I am over 70 and working, but I have taken the government advice to self-isolate. My employer has stopped my pay from that date and will not furlough me. The company is in the retail sector and still trading. Can they legally do this?

Your employer does have to agree to place you on furlough, and they are allowed to refuse. If you’ve specifically been told by a medical professional though that you’re in a vulnerable category, that would be a very good reason for them to consider putting you on the furlough scheme.

Over-70s have been advised to take particular notice of social distancing guidelines, and employers have been told to take extra precautions to ensure that those in this age group are able to do this.

If you don’t feel that you’re able to go to work and keep safe, it’s worth talking to your employer. Can they take any more steps to ensure that you’re safe?

If you’re still uncomfortable and you have an annual leave entitlement, you could ask to take this – as long as your employer agrees, you could get holiday pay while you’re at home self-isolating.

  • Angel - I have been litter picking on my daily walks. Is this allowed?

There are no rules against litter picking if it’s part of your daily exercise, but it’s particularly important at the moment to wear gloves while you’re doing this and that you wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you get home.

Of course, make sure you stay at least two metres away from other people while you’re out.

  • Gillian - I live within walking distance from the river Thames, can I paddleboard as part of my daily exercise?

Put temptation aside, the British Stand Up Paddle Association is advising not to go out and paddleboard at the moment.

The association says that although paddleboarding is usually safe, it always carries a risk of accidents and injury – which would place extra strain on the NHS at what is already a very busy time.

The advice is to enjoy other forms of exercise if you can – such as walking, running or cycling – which can all also be enjoyed standing up!

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know: