Coronavirus: Q&A - From holidays to shopping and pets, your questions answered

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, Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen 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 Carl answered on the programme, plus other questions we didn't have time to include on air.

Laura: If we are contacted by the NHS Test and Tracers telling us that we need to isolate, how will we know it is genuine and we’re not being scammed?

The NHS Test and Trace system works by contacting anyone who has tested positive for Coronavirus – and anyone who has been in close contact with them in the two days before their symptoms started – so that they can self-isolate and avoid passing the virus onto anyone else.

If you test positive for Covid-19, a tracer will contact you and you’ll be asked to share details of anyone you have been in contact with during the two days before you developed symptoms.

The contacts you share will then in turn be contacted and told to self-isolate, as they may have been infected.

It’s a good question though – how will you know – at either of these points - that the contact is genuine?

You may be asked for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, but it’s important to know that NHS Test and Trace will never ask you to make any payments, share any bank details or to download any software to your computer or other devices. You will never be asked to give any PIN numbers or passwords over the phone – and you should never be asked to call a premium rate telephone number to speak to anyone.

In England, all calls from NHS Test and Trace will come from the number 0300 013 5000, and texts will come from the sender ‘NHS’. Emails and texts will ask you to log in to the Test and Trace website – the message you get will contain login details which are personal to you. You will never be asked to log into any other websites that do not belong to the government or NHS.

In Northern Ireland, contact tracing is being done by phone call at this stage – although other digital methods like email and text are being explored as possibilities for the future. The Northern Irish Government warn that the number you’re called from may display as ‘witheld’, so it’s important to be alert to what you’re being asked for.

In Wales, most tracing is also being done via phone call, but is being managed by local authority teams – meaning that who gets in touch will vary depending on whereabouts you are.

Tracers in Scotland are primarily contacting people by phone call or text message.

How can you tell if a test and trace call is genuine? Credit: PA

Rosie: I am returning from teaching abroad on the 19th June. I will be living with my parents and younger brother - none of whom are high risk. How much will they need to isolate with me? Will they be able to walk the dog or go to the supermarket - or do we all have to stay inside for the 14 days?

From next Monday, if you’re travelling to the UK for any reason, you’ll need to isolate for 14 days after you arrive. You’ll have to fill in an online form before you travel giving your travel plans and the details of exactly whereabouts you’ll be isolating. The form will be on the Government website when it’s available.

If you’re isolating with friends and family at a private home, others from the household are allowed to go out – following the rules of the part of the UK you’re in - while you’re isolating. However, you should avoid contact as much as possible with the people you’re living with while you’re in the house. This may seem difficult – particularly after a long time away, but the advice is to minimise contact with them and to spend as little time as possible in communal areas for those two weeks.

Anyone isolating in a hotel or guest house - when that option is available - must avoid shared areas like bars, restaurants and gyms.

Sarah: When will members of the public who do not drive or have access to a car be able to legally and safely travel by public transport for leisure or 'non-essential' journeys again?

Throughout the UK at this point, public transport should only be used for essential travel (which could include shopping for necessities, travel to work or medical need). It’s not against the law to use public transport for non-essential travel, but the guidance is strongly against it.

Government advice also says that if you can, you should stay local. It will only be possible to use buses for leisure travel when those guidelines change, but exactly when that happens depends on scientific advice and data such as infection rates.

While social distancing remains necessary, there will be far less capacity on buses, so priority remains for those essential journeys only.

Public transport should only be used for essential travel. Credit: PA

Lisa Britton: What happened to the talk about bringing forward the legalisation of E-scooters so that we don't have to use public transport? Since it was mentioned at a daily briefing, there's been no mention of it - and I would rather not have to use public transport because there is a high level of infection in our area.

Three weeks ago, the government announced that official E-scooter trials are being fast-tracked and that they will start this month. Some E-scooter trips will soon be legal as part that consultation, which will involve rental schemes. However, it won’t be a free-for-all, and people won’t legally be able to use their own vehicles. Safety remains a big concern with E-scooters, so the consultation will consider things like the minimum age of riders and design standards. MPs have also started an inquiry looking into experience elsewhere in the world. Any date for possible new E-scooter legislation will depend on the outcome of the trials.

Sue: Clothing and shoe shops are opening soon, but how safe will be really be? I've heard that you won't be able to try on outfits and that any returned items will be put aside for up to 72 hours before being put back out on the shelves, but what about the items hanging up and on shelves that hundreds of customers will handle, cough & sneeze on all day? This doesn't make any sense!

June 15th is the expected date for non-essential stores to open in England, and in Wales, retailers were told prepare for possible re-opening around the 19th of June.

Scotland and Northern Ireland will be reviewing the situation. But how will shops look? One shoe retailer says it will quarantine shoes for 24 hours after they have been tried on.

Some changing rooms are likely to be closed initially, and it is possible that some stores will steam garments after people try them on. Some charity shops plan to quarantine donated clothes for 72 hours. Guidelines suggest that customers should be discouraged from handling products while browsing and that customer cafes should remain closed except for take away. So, re-opening does not mean business as usual.

Non-essential stores are expected to reopen on June 15. Credit: PA

Bernard Roberts, Brighton: Can you tell me when veterinary surgeries will be allowed to open for general surgery such as neutering? If this does not happen soon, there will be accidental pregnancies - with an outbreak of unwanted puppies and kittens.

During the first three weeks of lockdown, routine neutering was suspended. However, for the sake of animal welfare - and because of the risk of crisis at animal rescue charities – that has now changed. Surgical or chemical procedures can go ahead where there is a risk to animal welfare, but this can only happen after careful assessment by the senior vet in any particular practice.

Kath Vickery: Could you raise awareness of the importance of social distancing from visually impaired people when out and about?When I'm out with my guide dog, people often don't social distance from us and I can't see them until it's too late. Many of my visually impaired friends are finding the same.

The RNIB has had thousands of queries from blind and partially sighted people who have struggled with shopping during this crisis. Store layouts have changed and road and street alterations have taken place. The two metre floor markings and one way signs in supermarkets are of little use to those who can’t see them.

Touch is an important sense for the visually impaired, but in this pandemic that’s fraught with risk. There have been reports of blind people being shouted at in the street for not social distancing. Some charities such as Deafblind UK have been providing volunteers to help with shopping and at many of the stores, staff will assist themselves. Primarily this is something we can all help with just by being more aware.

The RNIB has received thousands of queries from blind people who are struggling during the pandemic. Credit: PA

Carole: I am a social housing tenant and have been informed that a gas engineer will be calling at my property to carry out the yearly gas service. Can I refuse this? Why should I allow workmen into my property when I am not allowed to have a family member to visit?

The Government is encouraging routine gas inspections to continue in order to protect people - especially as people are spending more time in their homes at the moment. If anyone in the household is clinically vulnerable, self-isolating or shielding, tell the landlord - who can delay the check. During an inspection, social distancing and hygiene are vital. If you have any doubts about whether surfaces are being wiped down properly, make sure the engineer is doing it, or do it yourself and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.

Tania Smith: I am classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and work in a primary school as a Teaching Assistant - where I work one-to-one with a child in year one. The child needs human contact all the time and cannot social distance. My school isn't using PPE. Where do I stand with my job in terms of the school keeping me on and paying my wages? How long will I be off work and when will it be safe to go back?

Some who are at extremely high risk will have been told to shield and can’t consider a return to work yet. Others who can return should follow strict social distancing measures. Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety at work, so it is important that you raise these concerns as early as possible.

If your GP or health practitioner decides that it is too dangerous for you to go to work and there is no way that you can work from home, you should be able to receive pay while you are at home shielding.

Exactly what pay you're entitled to will depend on what school you work at and how it's funded, but speak to your employer about this as soon as you can.

Employers have a duty to protect your health and safety at work. Credit: PA

Kate: I have a holiday to Portugal booked for June 28th. I am a Type 1 Diabetic, so I really don't want to go. The current guidelines give an indefinite date for travel restrictions. What are my options? Is it likely that the travel restrictions will still be in place at the end of June?

There is no way to know how long travel restrictions will be in place. The current advice from the Foreign Office is to avoid all non-essential international travel.

If government travel restrictions are still in place - or if your holiday is cancelled by the airline or tour operator – you’ll be entitled to a full refund.

Unfortunately, lots of people are experiencing long delays receiving these at the moment as companies are inundated with requests. Many airlines and holiday companies are offering the option of vouchers instead of refunds if holidays have to be cancelled – so that customers can re-book a holiday of the same value when they’re able to travel again. Whether or not you accept this is up to you in these circumstances – it is just an option, and you can insist on a refund if you want to.

If the restrictions are lifted by the 28th of June and you make the decision to cancel, whether or not you’re entitled to a refund is likely to depend on the terms of your booking or – if you have travel insurance - on your individual policy.

Some travel companies and airlines are offering the option to amend bookings for free for holidays that are scheduled up until a certain date, so it could be worth looking at that if you want to postpone your holiday now. Of course, you won’t get any of the money you’ve already paid back if you choose to change the booking before it's cancelled.

Raymond: Our son is due to be released from prison on June 17th after serving a three year sentence. Whilst in open prison, he has been allowed out for work purposes but of course not for home visits. My wife and I are both 73. His release address is our home and while we look forward to him coming home, we need to be sure it is safe for him to do so considering Covid-19 outbreak.

It’s very sensible to think carefully about this – as anyone entering your home from outside will carry a risk, and obviously your son has been going out and about while he’s been at work.

All prisoners are being given a health screening before they’re released from prison, but this isn’t guaranteed to identify coronavirus – particularly in those who aren’t showing symptoms. If you’re concerned about your son returning to the family home straight after leaving prison, speak to the resettlement team at his prison or to his probation officer. They can look into whether any alternative accommodation could be arranged – even if it's somewhere for your son to self-isolate temporarily until he's sure he is not carrying the virus. This isn’t a guarantee though and there is no overall policy, so whether or not there are other options available will come down to the support that individual prisons are able to offer.

Justice charity Nacro have a designated advice line for help prisoners who are approaching release, so it’s worth getting in touch to see whether they can offer any help. The number to call from prison is 0800 0181 259 - or family members can contact Nacro on 0300 123 1999.

How can prisoners be released safely back into society? Credit: PA

Anonymous: Now that lockdown is easing, am I able to stay at my second home in Cornwall? It is isolated and detached and in need of some maintenance. I haven't been there since lockdown began and have been following strict guidelines. If I drive in my own car to my property to do the maintenance and only the people from my household stay there, why can't I stay?

Although a trip to Cornwall may be very tempting, sadly it is not allowed at the moment. If you live in England, a day trip to Cornwall is within the guidelines, but we’re still not allowed to stay overnight anywhere other than the place we are living.

This is to avoid a sudden influx of second homeowners to popular beauty spots, which would risk increasing infection rates and putting extra strain on local NHS services.

Remember that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all still have tighter restrictions on travel in place than England does, so you can’t travel to Cornwall from any of those places – even just for the day.