Lockdown Q&A: All your questions answered

Everybody is having to make changes after the PM imposes strict conditions, but what exactly can we do and what is prohibited?

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Life in lockdown: Can I walk my dog and how will supermarkets keep order? Your questions answered
Cressida Dick (left), Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, and some of her officers patrol the streets of London on Tuesday, just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new measures Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Work – 'Can staff refuse to go to work?'

By Christopher Hope

Going to work is one of only four reasons why people can leave home under the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of movement unveiled by Boris Johnson on Monday.

However, the Prime Minister made clear in his address to the nation from 10 Downing Street that people should not travel to work unless it was absolutely necessary.

Allied to this the Government published a list of businesses which legally had to close "due to the threat to public health" including all pubs, bars, nightclubs, hotels, cafés, restaurants and workplace canteens apart from takeaways or cafes in hospitals and other institutions.

Only supermarkets and other food shops, health shops, chemists including non-dispensing pharmacies, petrol stations, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, launderettes and dry cleaners, bicycle shops, garages, car rentals, pet shops, corner shops, newsagents, post offices, and banks were allowed to stay open.

Any business opening or operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence.

However questions remained about whether staff could refuse to work if their employer was on the list of businesses which can remain open and whether staff had to work from home or could be asked to come to their workplace.

Q: Who decides who can work from home?
A:
People should use their common sense in deciding whether they should leave home to go to work.

Matt Hancock, the Health secretary said that "the advice is crystal clear – you should stay at home" unless you had one of the key reasons to go out: exercise, shopping, for medical need or to do work that work cannot be done at home.

Q: What should staff do if they have to go to work?
A:
The Government wants company managers to think of different ways to encourage staff to do their work by minimising social distancing.

Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, said people should try to practice "safe distancing at work" if they are required to be in the office, describing it as a "common sense principle".

She said: "We are encouraging our employers to think really carefully about how they can innovate in the way their staff are working and if they do need to be in the office just to spread people around."

A Number 10 spokesman said: “Guidance in relation to anybody who fears that they may have symptoms or anybody in their house might have symptoms – they should remain at home. We need people to stay at home as ultimately that will save lives."

Q: Should staff refuse to go to work if they are worried about coronavirus?
A: The advice from the Government is to raise any concerns about their place of work  with managers. Ms Harries said: "If people don't feel safe in their work environment they should always raise those concerns.

"The majority of employers are being really sensible and supportive and there has been huge support for staff and the population in general."

Ms Harries said that the Government could "not individually cover every single scenario whether it is in the workplace or in the family. It is back to applying the principles. If individuals can work safely they can keep a distance apart."

Q: Can I leave home to find a job?
A:
The guidance is silent on whether people can leave home to look for a job. However a Downing Street source said that people should try to look for a job online rather than head outside.

The source said that employers should be "flexible wherever possible and be prepared to conduct an interview online, over the phone or via Skype". The key issue was to adhere to the rule to stay two metres or six feet apart.

Q: Why are construction workers still allowed to go to work?
A:
The Government's position is that building sites should remain open if workers can stay six feet apart. Fresh guidance was also issued by the Construction Industry Council on Tuesday.

Number 10 said on Tuesday construction sites “should continue where it can happen in a way that follows Public Health England and industry guidance.

"We urge employers to use their commonsense when managing live projects and ensuring that employees can follow government guidance and practice safe social distancing on site."

However there was some confusion with Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First minister, has told buildings sites to close.

Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, claimed on Tuesday that he was "overruled by the Prime Minister who doesn’t believe that construction workers should be at home" when he asked to close sites.

Q: Why are London Underground trains in the capital running with overcrowded carriages?
A:
Transport for London has cut the number of London Underground trains running through the capital due to staff shortages.

However as we can see in the below video congestion has been caused by builders heading to work at the same time as health workers and other key workers are heading to work, just when there are fewer trains.

One idea could be for building sites to start work later to avoid the early morning overcrowding.

Number 10 said Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, pressed Mr Khan  who chairs Transport for London – on Tuesday the issue of “reduced services on the Tube and its impact on people trying to get to work”.

Further talks were held on Tuesday between Mr Khan and Grant Shapps, the Transport secretary, to make sure “appropriate timetabling is in place to ensure that it is safe for those who need to get to work because they cannot do this from home”, 10 Downing Street said.

Exercise – 'Can I still walk my dog?'

By Tom Morgan

As we can see in the below video, the Prime Minister says people can now go out to exercise  for example, on a run, walk or cycle – just once a day. Parks will remain open, subject to the approval of local authorities, but gyms, including outdoor gyms, play-parks and kiosks, will close. Police will have power to issue on the spot fines of £30 for meeting without good reason.

A Government spokesperson said: "Every citizen must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. The police already have an array of powers available to them to maintain public order, and will be granted additional powers to enforce social distancing and protect the public."

Confusion surrounds where the public are still allowed to exercise, and how the police will check whether citizens are complying with the rules.

Q: Exercise can only be with a member of the same household. But what if they bump into a friend on the walk? Can they then stay together?
A: 
No. The PM’s instructions are that we must only exercise alone or with members of your household. Should we see a friend, we must maintain a minimum two metres’ gap and prolonged social contact is strictly in breach of current orders.

Q: The guidance says people must keep only two metres (six feet) apart. But what if a child holds a parent's hand?
A:
Children can hold any member of their own household’s hand under the Government’s rules, but Public Health England is urging increased hand washing.

Q: Can people ride horses on public carriageways?
A:
As it stands, yes, the public can still ride horses as part of their once-daily outing. Casual riding has been stopped in France but not in the UK, Germany or Spain. Rupert Arnold, of the National Trainers Federation, says every single country is still exercising racehorses, however, even in Italy. Racehorses need exercise every day and the National Association of Racing Staff's chief executive George McGrath says racing staff and work-riders should keep going to work if they feel comfortable to do so.

Q: Will all public venues be closed? For example, tennis courts – you can easily stay two metres apart playing that. Will golf courses stay open?
A:
All golf courses have been ordered shut by England Golf. Public tennis courts have been closed by most local authorities and clubs, but for any still open, citizens would only be allowed to play against members of their own household.

Q: If we want to go for a run, can we run across any public green space? Must we stick to quiet roads or can we run through town?
A:
The Government is keen for the public to avoid any areas that could become well-populated, so is advising runners to carefully plan their routes. Bristol has closed public parks, but other cities have yet to introduce restrictions.

Q: What do you do if your dog needs more than one walk a day?
A:
For households with more than one occupier, dog walking duties can be split. But the Government is only allowing exercise once a day per person. To ensure social distancing is adhered to Michael Gove has added that ideally we should not take somebody else's dog out.

Q: What if my dog touches someone else?
A:
There is no strong evidence to suggest that humans can catch the virus from dogs, but greeting animals is said to be inadvisable, and those who come into contact with animals should immediately wash their hands.

Q: Can I drive somewhere to exercise?A: No. The Government is advising "to exercise locally" and that "no non-essential travel should be made".

Q: Can I play football with children?
A: 
Playing football with your own children in the garden at home is fine, but police are likely to intervene if they spot any kickabouts in public parks.

Q: What sports can I play?
A:
Social distancing rules out almost all competitive sport that does not take place between members of a household. No definitive list has been drawn up by Government, but golf courses, swimming pools and gyms have all been closed. The Prime Minister suggested running, cycling and walking.

Q: How will the government know when I exercise?
A:
They won’t, which is why many police believe the rule will be unenforceable.

Q: As a keen gardener can I still visit our allotment to take some exercise. We will of course ensure that we stay at least two metres apart at all times.
A:
Inadvisable. While allotments are not specifically cited, the Government says "outdoor leisure facilities and communal places within parks, including playgrounds must not be used".

Home and family – 'Can my cleaner still come round'

By Anita Singh

Home is now the “frontline” in the fight against coronavirus, the Health Secretary has said, as all but the nation’s key workers are instructed to stay inside except for essential trips out of the house.

Confinement is especially testing for the elderly, who cannot receive visitors. Families with children now have to find ways of entertaining them, often while working from home, as nurseries and childminders are shut to all but the children of key workers. But many parents remain confused about whether playing in the park, playdates or time in the care of nannies is allowed.

Many situations are not explicitly covered by government guidance, including visits from tradesmen, building work or house moves.

Q: The guidance says people should not be meeting friends or non-family members. But what if the boiler breaks down?
A: 
British Gas, along with other utility companies, are cancelling all routine appointments such as annual service visits. But they will continue to deal with emergencies and will prioritise vulnerable customers, including the elderly and those with young children.

You must tell them if you are self-isolating or suspect you have Covid-19. Engineers have been advised to take precautions including hand-washing before, during and after the appointment, and to keep a safe distance from customers.

Q: My partner and I are separated – can our children move between households?
A: 
Parents can still share custody of their children during the lockdown. The official Government guidance states: "Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents' homes." For handovers, it is best to follow Government protocols and practice social distancing while travelling and transfer the children in open spaces or between cars without any other interaction.

Q: My nursery/childminder is continuing to charge me even though I am keeping my children at home. Are they allowed to do this?
A:
This is at the discretion of the childcare provider. The Government has urged nurseries and childminders to be "reasonable and balanced" over fees and many are offering reduced rates or freezing payments, but they also have running costs and staff to pay.

Q: Can my nanny come to look after the children while I work from home?
A:
Childcare workers, including nursery staff, are classed as key workers but only if they care for the children of key workers or vulnerable children. Nannies are a grey area - the Department for Education was unable to say when asked by The Daily Telegraph if they are included in the government's definition of childcare, so you may not be able to use them even if you are a key worker. The official advice is that if parents can stay at home and look after their own children, they should do so.

Q: Can my cleaner still come?
A:
No, cleaners are not on the list of essential workers. If you pay your cleaner cash in hand and they are not registered with HMRC as self-employed, they will not be entitled to financial assistance from the government. Many people are choosing to pay their cleaners even though they are not coming to work.

Q: Can my child have a playdate?
A: 
No. Your child should not be going to another family’s home. If they encounter a friend while out with you in a park or on the street, they must keep their distance. Playgrounds are now out of bounds.

Q: Can I see my boyfriend or girlfriend during lockdown?
A:
The official – and rather drastic – advice is: either move in together or stay apart. Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said this is the time to test your relationship and decide if it’s serious: "Test really carefully your strength of feeling. Stay within your household, either together or apart, but keep it that way." Meeting up for dates then returning to separate households risks spreading the virus.

Q: Can we see family members who live in another house? Can I visit my brother and his children?
A:
No. The government guidelines state that you cannot meet family members who do not share your home.

Q: I need to attend an urgent GP/hospital/dentist appointment. Do I take the children with me? Or ask a friend/neighbour to look after them?
A:
The government is advising a "common sense" approach. The risk of leaving children with one friend or neighbour as babysitter is lower than taking them to a surgery or hospital where they will encounter more people. If you have no one with whom to leave young children, then you must take them with you. Try to avoid public transport if you can.

Q: I am having building work at home and we are half-way through a loft extension – does this work have to stop?
A:
The advice on this is unclear. Building work on construction sites can continue, according to Robert Jenrick, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary. But the Federation of Master Builders said no clear advice has been given for builders working on small-scale domestic projects, and the organisation has been inundated with calls from members and homeowners asking what to do.

Q: Can I move house during lockdown?
A:
There is no specific government advice on this. If you have exchanged contracts or terminated your lease then contact your solicitor and estate agent. House hunting, other than viewing properties online, is now on hold.

Q: I’m elderly and don’t have any neighbours who can bring food, but there are no supermarket delivery slots for at least three weeks and I don’t have enough food to last. What do I do?
A:
Elderly and vulnerable people who form part of the at-risk group are still able to travel to supermarkets to purchase food and other essentials. Many retailers have now introduced a 'designated' silver hour reserve for elderly customers to ensure they are not mixing with the wider population. A number of supermarkets have also begun prioritising customers aged over 70 for online delivery slots. Click and collect services are also being expanded. These services require customers to spend less time in-store.

The Government is currently working to establish local hubs to help get supplies to the clinically vulnerable who have been asked to stay in their homes for 12 weeks. Local authorities will assist with the delivery of groceries, while pharmacists will be asked to deliver medicines.

Q: Can someone collect furniture they have bought from my house during lockdown?
A:
Gumtree, the UK’s largest second-hand marketplace, is advising customers only to collect essential items. As an alternative, courier companies are available, with delivery drivers advised to obey social distancing rules and place parcels on the doorstep after ringing the bell.

Shopping – 'How will order be kept at supermarkets?'

By Harry Yorke 

As part of the nationwide lockdown Boris Johnson has ordered all retailers selling non-essential goods to shut up shop.

However, the publication of a comprehensive list of which stores can remain open for business has failed to dispel the confusion.

That uncertainty was made plain on Tuesday when Michael Gove was forced to clarify that Sports Direct stores could not remain open, despite its owner Mike Ashley arguing that providing sports equipment made it a vital asset.

While the Government has urged the public to go to the supermarket only when necessary, the advice remains ambiguous and there is no defined limit on the number of visits that people can pay to their local store.

 

Without such guidance, it is unclear how this advice is supposed to be enforced by either supermarkets or the relevant authorities.

The guidance says shopping should only be for "basic necessities" and should be as infrequent as possible. How many times is this?

Ultimately this is a judgment call for individual households. Officials at the Department for Food, Energy and Rural Affairs (Defra) have pointed out that the requirements of a large family will be different to a couple with no children.

However, it is hoped the guidance will encourage people to plan for the week rather than picking up items on a daily basis.

Q: Can I only order food for delivery?
A: 
This is an issue for individual supermarkets to determine. Retailers like Asda, who also sell clothing from its own fashion line George, may continue to allow people to purchase non-food items along with their weekly groceries shop.

And while high street stores deemed non-essential, such as fashion retailers and department stores, have closed, they remain open for business via online shopping and deliveries.

John Lewis, for example, is still taking online orders and will continue to deliver large items to homes where no one is self-isolating with suspected coronavirus symptoms.

The risk of spreading the virus is significantly reduced through online deliveries, which is why all retailers are allowed to keep selling.

Q: How will order be kept at supermarkets?
A:
Industry leaders in the supermarket sector have warned the Government that food shortages could lead to civil disobedience in stores and even rioting in the most extreme circumstances.

Police forces are working closely with the sector but Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has made clear that she does not want to see officers used to guard stores. Instead, they will likely be asked to respond to incidents. Supermarkets are already stepping up their security measures to deal with unruly customers.

Q: The guidance says that all pubs must close but notes that planning regulations can be changed to allow them to offer takeaway services. Which is it?
A:
Pubs and restaurants have been closed due to fears that customers dining and drinking in close proximity will accelerate the spread of the virus.

To help support businesses during a prolonged period of closure, the Government is allowing them to switch to takeaway and delivery services, enabling them to keep trading but without the additional risk.

However, concerns were raised this weekend that leisure goers using parks around London were seen congregating outside of kiosks and pubs which have already converted.

It is unclear at the moment whether the Government will introduce additional guidance to address this.

Q: What happens if other stores don’t close as instructed?
A:
The government has said that businesses that defy the lockdown risk being prosecuted by trading standards officers, who have the power to issue "potentially unlimited fines".

Q: Can I take my children to the shops?
A:
Whilst public gatherings of more than two people have been banned, the Government has made an exception for those who live together. This means that parents who are unable to leave children at home whilst they shop for essentials can take them with them to the supermarket.

Travel – 'Can I still take my car for an MoT?'

By Mike Wright

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that people should only leave their homes for 'essential' trips.

Public transport is still running across the country, but to scaled timetables. This is partly due to the huge drop in demand caused by the majority of the country now staying at home. However, the Government is helping maintain transport services so key workers can get to work. People have been told to not use public transport, unless it cannot be avoided to make an essential journey and then they are advised to practise social distancing and keep trips to a minimum.

People can use their cars to make these essential trips, but must abide by social distancing rules meaning they should only be in a vehicle by themselves or with a member of their household.

Q: Can I drive during lockdown?
A:
Under Government rules cars can be used, but only for essential journeys such as to buy food or medicine. If you are making a car journey, Public Health England says that people should drive alone or only with other members of their household. People with any symptoms of coronavirus or who are self-isolating should not be making any journeys.

Q: What transport is running?
A:
Most public transport is still running, albeit with scaled down services. This is mainly so critical workers, such as doctors and nurses, can continue to work. From Monday, train operators started running new timetables with about half the normal services running. The same is happening for buses, with operators saying they are running reduced services due to the falling demand and urging people to check revised timetables online before travelling.

Q: The guidance says car showrooms will close – but garages can stay open;  how does this affect cars with warranties that need to be serviced or need MoTs?A: The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders says that warranty policies are specific to different car manufacturers and recommends that owners contact their individual manufacturers to see how the lockdown affects their policy.

Q: I need an MoT, can I leave my house to get an MoT?
A:
Last week, the Government announced it was suspending MoTs for lorries buses and trailers for three months from March 21, due to the pandemic. In the meantime, owners will be issued with a three-month certificate of temporary exemption (CTE), but were told to ensure their vehicles were kept roadworthy.

The Department said it is currently reviewing whether to continue MoT testing for cars, motorbikes and vans and is yet to make an announcement. At the moment it is unclear as to whether getting an MoT test counts as an essential journey under the lockdown rules.

Q: Are Uber drivers key workers?
A:
The Department for Transport said that taxi drivers are not automatically considered critical workers, but can be considered for the status on a case-by-case basis. This is if they are helping other critical workers with home to school journeys for their children or driving vulnerable passengers.  

Q: Can I use the bus to get to the supermarket?
A:
Government advice is to avoid using public transport unless there is no other choice when making an essential journey. Public Health England advises that people try first to have food shops delivered to their homes.

However, if there is no other way for people to make an essential journey the advice is to practice social distancing while waiting for an on public transport like busses, to use contactless payments where possible and to wash your hands thoroughly when you get home.

Public Health England also advises that if people have no other option but to use public transport for shopping they should try to limit the number of trips they do. People with any symptoms of coronavirus or who are self-isolating should not use public transport at all.