We know you have many questions about Covid-19 and how it's impacting your life - so ITV News has been putting your questions to the experts in a special weekly programme, called Coronavirus: Q&A.
The final episode in the series aired on Monday at 8pm on ITV.
In this last programme, Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt answered some of the many questions ITV News' viewers and readers sent in about how the outbreak is affecting your work, holidays and general day-to-day life.
These are the answers to the questions Daniel answered on the programme, plus other questions we didn't have time to include on air.
John Sherratt: My daughter and son-in-law are both doctors and live in Barrow-in-Furness. They have two children aged five and three and have just been told that the children’s school will close on the 10th July and that there will be no facility available over the summer break period.
My wife and I live in Northwich, Cheshire and have abided by Government advice not to look after grandchildren. What proposals are to be put in place for key workers’ childcare during the summer holidays?
The Government said last week that schools will not be open over the summer holidays – which may cause difficulties for some key workers. Many parents might usually rely on grandparents to care for children while schools are closed, but as you said, the Government guidance is still that grandparents shouldn’t be carrying out childcare duties at this point because older people are often at increased risk from coronavirus.
The Department for Education told us today that they are working on a ‘catch-up programme’ which will run both during and after the summer holidays to help to make up for the school children have missed. There is a possibility that this might involve some form of face-to-face schooling, but this is just a suggestion at the moment, and we won’t know whether or not it will involve any form of in-person teaching - or even which children will be able to take part - until more details are released.
Childminders are allowed to work, and some private nurseries offer holiday clubs for children to go to while schools are closed, so these may be options to consider if there is no face-to-face school provision for children over the summer.
Some grandparents who live alone may have chosen their grandchildren’s household as their ‘support bubble’ – and if that’s the case they might be able to help with childcare as they are allowed to spend time with their ‘support bubble’ without social distancing. However, sadly this won’t help your daughter and son-in-law, as you and your wife live together so you can’t form a ‘support bubble’ at this time.
Alex: I am a year 12 sixth form student. From this week, we are allowed to go into school for one day a week for face-to-face support. This may be a temporary improvement, but how can I be reassured that my education will resume once again in September? All of this has affected me mentally. I have struggled teaching myself A-Level work.
Sadly, the short answer is that there is no guarantee that your education will resume again in September. The Government says that is its intention, and we’re likely to hear more about plans on how it could be achieved this week. Right now, the Government is saying that exams will go ahead next year for GCSE and A-Level students in England.
However, the Association of School and College Leaders is pushing for a couple of things which may help. One suggestion is a rota system, where - if schools are unable to fully reopen in September - small groups of students attend school for a few days each week, then groups change over to ensure that the students get plenty of face-to-face time with teachers when they are in school. They have also suggested that GCSE and A-Level results shouldn’t be judged just on exams, but on a mixture of exams and assessments of your overall work - to account for the time lost. These are all just suggestions though, and we’ll have to wait for an official announcement about the Government’s plans for schools in England.
The plan for year 10 and 12 pupils in Northern Ireland and Wales at this stage is that they will take their and A2 exams next year, and will be able to choose whether or not to take this year’s exams next year as well. Scotland is still reviewing its plans for exams next year.
Sam Baxter: I've been furloughed since March, but I've noticed today that I haven't been paying into my workplace pension since the furlough scheme has started. Is this allowed?
The 80% pay that I have been paid through the furlough scheme is above the £120 per week threshold and I haven't opted out of the scheme.
If you haven’t opted out of making pension contributions, you should still be paying the percentage of your earnings that you usually pay into your pension scheme. So, if you usually pay 5% of your earnings into your pension pot, you should be paying in 5% of your furloughed wage now. Obviously these contributions are likely to be worth less than usual if your pay has gone down, but you’ll still be adding to your pension, which you could be pleased about in the future!Your employer should also have been contributing the percentage of your salary that they usually do to your pension pot, but similarly this will be less than usual if you’re on 80% of your usual pay.
Until 1st August, your employer can claim their mandatory pension contribution back from the Government. If they pay in more than the legal minimum, they have to top this up. After 1st August, the Government grant will no longer cover pension contributions at all, so employers will have to pay these in full themselves – even if you’re still on furlough by then.
Patricia: My husband and I live in Norfolk. Under new rules, could my daughter-in-law, our son and our two little grandaughters - who live in London - visit us? They would need to stay overnight as it’s too far for them to come just for the day.
Sorry, Patricia – although there are many, many people like you who are desperate to see their children and grandchildren after all this time apart, sadly your son and his family still aren’t able to come and stay overnight.
The introduction of ‘support bubbles’ over the weekend means that people living alone – or single parents living with children under 18 - are now allowed to choose one household to join with – where they’ll be able to stay overnight, and with whom they won’t need to social distance. However, as neither you nor your son’s family fall into these categories, this doesn’t apply to you.
Up to six people from separate households are allowed to meet outside – as long as those from different households stay two metres apart from each other, so your son and his family could meet you in a park or private garden for the day. An overnight stay is not allowed at this point though, so you may have to wait a little longer if it’s too far for a day trip.
Melanie Jones: I understand that I can have family/friends to visit in my garden as long as we keep two metres apart, but can I give them any refreshments, such as a cup of tea or a piece of cake? Would it make a difference if they brought their own mugs & plates?
Good news, Melanie – tea and cake are allowed, so I’m sure the guests you have to your garden will be very pleased about that! However, the guidance is not to share plates or utensils with people from outside your own household – or from outside your ‘support bubble’ if you have one - so it’s probably a good idea to ask guests to bring their own mugs and plates if they want to enjoy those refreshments.
The guidance also says that we shouldn’t be sharing garden equipment with people from other households, so if guests want to sit on chairs in your garden, it’s a good idea for them to bring their own.
Michael: Can we get the barbers shops open in the easing of lockdown? Men are desperately in need of haircuts. Let the barber shop businesses start to contribute to the economy again. There's no way my partner is going to cut my hair - I would sooner grow a pony tail!
The current guidance from the government is that in England, barbers and hairdressers can reopen at some point from the 4th of July onwards – which will be good news for many of us when it happens! There is no indication that they could be opening before then, but you may only have a couple of weeks to wait – with or without that pony tail. The Government are still reviewing this though, so there’s no guarantee that barbers and hairdressers be opening on that date.
Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have all said they will keep hair salons and barber shops ‘under review’ as part of their plan for easing lockdown, but none of the three has yet released dates for their reopening.
Mia: I was about to book my driving test before lockdown, and am wondering when I will be able to book a driving test and restart my lessons?
All driving lessons and tests were cancelled in the middle of March – except those for critical workers who need to drive for work, and who are allowed to take an ‘emergency driving test’ and to have lessons to prepare for that test.
The Driving Vehicles and Standards Agency today said that lessons and tests will only restart when the government is confident that the assessment of risk warrants it. Check with your driving instructor or contact your local test centre for the latest advice, but no date has been given yet.
Ellen: My grandaughter is four months old and still has no date to be registered. Her father lives overseas and he has never seen his daughter. He will never get to hold her until she gets a passport to travel, and she cannot get a passport until her birth is registered. When will registrations of births open again?
The government has now said that birth registrations can go ahead when register offices are ready. However, whether or not you can do this now depends on your local register office. You can check this online or by calling your local office. As the only way that a birth can be registered is in-person, register offices have been told to make sure they are Covid-secure before restarting birth registrations. Some are operating waiting lists, and some are registering children in the order that they were born.
Josie: My sister and her partner have booked a week in a caravan at the end of August and have asked whether myself and my husband want to join them. We are live in a separate household to them, so is this allowed?
At the moment, this isn’t allowed – as households of more than one person are not allowed to stay overnight anywhere other than their own home. Unless you’re a household of one – or a single parent living with children under 18 - who has formed a ‘support bubble’ with another household, you also shouldn’t be socialising indoors with anyone from a different household.
However, it’s possible that the guidance may have changed by the end of August, so there is still a chance you’ll be able to go – if you’re able to wait a little longer before you make a decision.
Mary Hickman: We badly need to have the cistern replaced in our toilet. Is it possible to have it done now by a plumber?
Tradespeople are allowed to come and carry out work in your home – as long as nobody in the house is shielding, and nobody is showing symptoms of the virus. If anyone is shielding or showing symptoms, nobody from outside the household should be coming in at all – unless they’re dealing with an immediate safety risk.
Tradespeople should strictly observe social distancing and should stay two metres away from everyone living in the house while they’re there. If at any point this is not possible, they should wear a mask to minimise risk. The plumber should wipe down all surfaces that they’ve touched before they leave, so make sure that’s done. If you’re not satisfied, you can ask the plumber to do this – or even do it yourself after they’ve gone - but remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Jane Barrow: Can I take my friend for a walk outside the care home where he lives? He was able to walk well prior to the lockdown but now has no opportunity to do so, and I'm concerned that his mobility will decrease the longer he is unable to get out. We live near the coast and would be able to walk in quiet areas – social distancing of course. The home manager is concerned he will bring the virus into the home.
Also, what are the rules on me being able to visit him and sit outside in the home's garden – observing social distancing?
The care home has no cases of coronavirus at present.
The government is still advising that care homes should restrict all non-essential visits.
Ultimately, the rules for each individual care home are down to the management of that home, but because Coronavirus can be particularly dangerous for older people and those with underlying health conditions, many homes are being extremely cautious. In most cases, visits are only allowed in exceptional circumstances. Obviously this separation is very difficult, but staff in care homes are working very hard to keep the virus away and to keep residents safe. If it’s possible for the staff to take your friend for a walk in the garden, this may be an idea – although obviously it won’t be quite the same as the seaside walk you were hoping for.
Many friends and relatives have been finding imaginative ways to meet up with residents and maintain that contact – like sitting outside the window with a picnic.
Donna: Can you tell us when loved ones will be able to visit prisons to visit inmates?
The Government has not said at this point when the current restrictions on prison visits will be lifted. At the moment, visits to prisoners are not allowed – as prisons are working hard to keep the virus away and protect inmates.
Many prisoners already had an in-cell phone, and where this isn’t the case many prisons have given out mobile phone handsets since visits were stopped. These allow prisoners to add specific numbers to their account and to keep in touch with friends and relatives over the phone.
Prisons are still receiving post as usual, and you can also still use the ‘email a prisoner’ service – where your message will be sent to the prison, printed and delivered to the prisoner to whom it’s addressed to with the daily post delivery. These may not be the same as a face-to-face visit, but there are still ways to keep in touch.
Samantha: I have a wedding booked for August 11th in Cornwall. My venue is still saying that it is going ahead, but we have 80-100 guests coming and don't quite see how that is possible. We have sent many emails asking about cancelling the wedding, as we feel uneasy about going ahead with it. It won't be the wedding we wanted, so we would like some of our deposit back.
Is there any information about when larger weddings will be able to proceed as normal again? I should be having lovely dreams about my wedding, but instead I just have nightmares.
At the moment, we don’t have any guidance about when weddings might be able to go ahead in England, which is making things very difficult for a lot of couples who are in your position.
If the restrictions aren’t changed between now and your wedding date and it has to be cancelled, you should be able to claim back the money you’ve already paid from your venue and suppliers. The Competition and Markets Authority – which promotes competition for the benefit of consumers - has issued broad guidance to consumers to help them understand their cancellation rights during the pandemic. The wedding sector has been named as a particular area of concern.
It’s a possibility though that by August, weddings will be allowed to go ahead with limited numbers of guests - so it might be that you can get married but that you can’t welcome everyone you’d originally hoped to have had there.
If you decide you’d rather wait to get married than have a smaller wedding than you’d planned, it’s worth talking to your venue and suppliers about whether you could postpone until a later date. However, be aware that if you’re the one that cancels or postpones, whether or not you’re charged any fees depends on your venue and suppliers and the contracts you have with them. It may be that they’ve already incurred costs that they could charge back to you. Generally, the earlier you tell them you want to cancel or postpone, the less likely you are to be charged because there’s less chance in that case that the supplier will already have paid for things, so it’s best to have that conversation as early as you can.
Some wedding insurance policies are covering weddings that have had to be cancelled due to Coronavirus, but not all. Many say they’re taking claims on a case-by-case basis, so it’s worth checking your policy and speaking to your insurer about whether you can claim any costs from them if you do end up paying the venue or any suppliers.
Anna Jones: At the beginning of lockdown we were told people over 70 probably won’t be able to fly this year. Does this rule still apply?
The Foreign Office is still advising all British nationals against non-essential international travel. They say this is being kept under constant review, but we have no idea at the moment when their advice will change.There isn’t a separate hard and fast rule for over-70s when it comes to flying, so nobody will stop you if you choose to fly. Many airlines are now operating various routes again – both domestically and internationally, where destination countries are allowing travellers in - so ultimately it’s up to you whether or not you choose to travel by plane.
As we know, people who are over 70 are often at greater risk if they catch Coronavirus, and that’s why this group has been advised to take extra care. Social distancing is of course extremely difficult on planes and in busy airports, so although airlines do have safety measures in place, these environments carry extra risk.Those who have been advised to ‘shield’ are still being told to avoid all contact with other people, so flying may not be a good idea for people in that group.
Janet: When will betting shops reopen? It’s the only way I can put a bet on - I don’t do it electronically and it’s the only way I can bet.
Along with non-essential retailers, betting shops in England were allowed to open their doors again from today. Like other shops, they’ll have social distancing measures in place, so it’s possible you’ll be met with queues to get into shops when you arrive to place a bet – and with screens and hand sanitiser inside. As is the case in many retail stores, customers are being encouraged to use contactless payments where possible. Of course, as well as plenty of new safety measures, the old advice about gambling responsibly still stands.
Bookmakers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have not reopened or given a date for reopening yet.
Coronavirus: Everything you need to know