Coronavirus: your questions answered
With our services busier than ever, we've decided to answer some of the questions we're being asked the most all in one place.
What is the new tier guidance from the government?
The new guidance announced by the government to reduce the transmission of coronavirus is based on a tiered system. This means areas will have different restrictions depending on which tier they are categorised into.
here.You can see more information on what the different tiers mean
I’m over 70, do the new Government guidelines (from 1 June) apply to me?
Yes. Government guidance related to the COVID alert levels applies to everyone. If you’re considered clinically extremely vulnerable and were previously advised to shield there is some additional advice that you should consider to keep yourself safe. You can find this here.
Can I still visit older loved ones?
This depends on the area you live in and what risk category it has been placed into. We have outlined this below:
- If your local COVID alert level is medium you can meet indoors and outdoors with members of other households but you must follow the rule of six.
- If your local COVID alert level is high you can only be inside with those in your household or support bubble. You can, however, meet outdoors with members of other households as long as you obey the rule of six.
- If your local COVID alert level is very high you can only be inside with those in your household or support bubble. You can also only be outdoors in gardens or venues with those in your household or support bubble. However, mixed households can meet outdoors at the park or the beach.
If you live in an area where you can visit people you don’t live with, it’s important to remember:
- To try to maintain social distance wherever possible. If you’re visiting older loved ones in their home, you should make sure you wash your hands frequently and the room you’re in is well ventilated.
- If you or anyone in your household or support bubble has symptoms of coronavirus you must not meet with other people and must self-isolate. You also can’t visit a loved one if you’ve been told by the test and trace service that you need to self-isolate.
- If you’re visiting an older relative or friend who lives alone, you may want to consider forming a support bubble. This means you can see each other indoors and outdoors and don’t need to socially distance from one another. Although you may still wish to take these precautions. It’s important to remember you can only be part of one support bubble though and once you have formed a bubble you cannot change who is in it.
Where it is simply not possible to visit a loved one you may wish to think about other ways you can communicate with each other if you have not done so already. This could be over the phone, by text or by letter. You might even want to send a card or gift to your loved one in the post to show them you are thinking of them.
Can I still visit a loved one in a care home?
Each COVID alert level has guidance on visiting care homes, but it’s best to check with individual care homes what their policy is. This includes policies on allowing a carer to provide additional care to a loved one.
If your local are is in either tiers 2 or 3, it’s advised that visits should only take place in exceptional circumstances, such as where someone is at the end of their life.
Where visits are allowed it’s likely they’ll differ from what may have been in place before the coronavirus pandemic, as care homes will likely take steps to limit the risk of infection. This will probably mean that you’ll be unable to provide care in the same way as you have in the past.
If a care home experiences an outbreak of coronavirus, or is in an area experiencing higher levels of restrictions, it’s likely that the care home will put a no visitor policy in place, which the guidance encourages care homes to do. If this does happen, care homes should ensure there are alternative ways of communicating between residents and families and they provide regular updates to resident’s loved ones of their mental and physical health and how they’re coping.
The care home should make its visiting policy available to residents and families and communicate this clearly with you. It’s likely that you’ve already done so, but if you’re unsure of whether you can visit a loved one, we recommend contacting the care home for information about visiting arrangements, or the local authority.
The guidance is available here.
Do the new rules mean I can’t spend time with or look after my grandchildren?
You should follow the guidance on meeting with friends and family depending on what COVID alert level you are in.
If you provide informal care for your grandchildren then the rules are different depending on the risk level in your area.
- If your local area is in tier 1 – medium risk: you can provide informal childcare as long as the rule of six is followed. Where possible you should keep your distance from those not in your household.
- If your local area is in tier 2 or tier 3 – high risk and very high risk: you can form a childcare bubble. This is where someone in a different household provides informal childcare to a child under the age of 13. This bubble must always be between the same 2 houses. Outside of a childcare bubble, support bubble friends and family shouldn’t be visiting other households.
How can I prepare for my local area being classed as a very high risk area?
Although there's no need to stockpile, you should try and make sure you keep on top of any medication you need and don’t leave it to the last minute to reorder prescriptions. You should also try to reduce the number of trips to the shops, so make sure you have enough food in.
If the area you live in is classed as very high risk, you may feel frustrated, disappointed, or concerned, so if you're feeling worried about the changes to the guidelines take a look at some tips on looking after your mental wellbeing.
I am over 70, am I more at risk from the effects of coronavirus?
Anyone can catch coronavirus, but we do know that some people are more likely than others to become seriously unwell. This includes people over the age of 70, even if you're otherwise fit and well and people of any age living with long-term health conditions which mean you'd normally be offered the flu jab.
This doesn’t mean that you would definitely become severely unwell if you caught coronavirus, but your risk is higher.
At the start of the pandemic NHS England and the government categorised some people at particularly high risk because of certain health conditions and these people were advised to shield. We have lots more information on this here.
Other charities have put together helpful information specific to health conditions which you may wish to read:
I am over 70 or living with a long-term condition, should I be leaving my home to go to work?
This question is for those over 70 or under 70 with underlying health conditions that don’t fall into the extremely clinically vulnerable group who were advised to shield during lockdown.
Currently everyone is advised to work from home where they can, however, if you can’t work from home the government has published guidance about how employers can make work environments safer for workers and minimise the risk of Coronavirus infections.
Workers aged 70 or over, people with long-term health conditions, and pregnant women are considered to be ‘clinically vulnerable’, which means they’re more likely to have a severe illness if they become infected with the coronavirus.
For this reason, workers aged 70 or over should be helped to work from home, either in their current role or in an alternative role.
If they can’t work from, they should be offered the option of the ‘safest available on-site roles’, this means they should be offered roles which enable workers to stay 2-metres away from others.
If workers aged 70 or over have to spend time within 2-metres of others, employers have been advised to carefully assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk. Guidance acknowledges that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment, and particular attention should also be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
If you do have to go into your place of work, the government has advised that you should try to cycle, walk or drive wherever possible, only using public transport if absolutely necessary.
It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household or support bubble where someone has symptoms, they shouldn’t leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate.
Things you should know as a worker:
- Employers have a duty to consult their people on health and safety.
- Employers must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers. Employers cannot decide who the representative will be.
- Employers must consider actions which mitigate risks such as
- increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
- keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
- using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
- using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
- reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).
If you're a worker and you’re concerned about your ability to work safely then you can raise a concern with you employee representative, contact your trade union if you have one, or contact Health and Safety Executive (HSE) online or by phone on 0300 003 1647.
I live with an older relative, should I still being going out or going to work?
Yes, it is really important for us to spend time outside of the home in a safe way, and in line with government guidance and regulation. The pandemic has been a difficult and lonely experience for many people and being able to leave the house more is a good thing.
If you live with an older relative you may be feeling particular anxious about doing this, which is understandable.
It’s a good idea to take extra care when going out and meeting up with other people. Make sure you’re strict about washing and sanitising your hands and where possible you should stay 2-metres away from those not in your household or support bubble. If 2-metres really isn’t possible then you should follow the 1-metre plus rule. This means taking additional precautions such as wearing a face covering or meeting outside.
You might also want to think about limiting the number of people you meet as the more people you meet up with the higher the risk of transmission.
You may prefer to see people in outdoor spaces, where the risk of coronavirus spreading is lower. If you’re able to meet with people in an inside space, it’s best to go to places which are spacious, have fewer people there, and are well-ventilated. If people from outside of your household or support bubble come to your house, open the windows and doors to let fresh air in.
If you’re visiting attractions and restaurants, you might want to avoid places you know will be busy and where it will be harder to socially distance. Or ring ahead and find out when the quieter times are to visit.
If you’re working, the government has advised that if you can, you should work from home. However, for some people this isn’t possible. Your workplace must make sure it is COVID-19 secure and follow guidance specific to the work setting. This is to make sure you minimise the risk of catching and spreading coronavirus in the work place.
How can I get my shopping and medication if I’m self-isolating?
If you or someone in your household or support bubble develops symptoms of coronavirus or receives a positive coronavirus test, then you will need to self-isolate. You must also self-isolate if you’re advised to do so by the test and trace service or have returned to the UK from certain locations.
If you’re self-isolating then you shouldn’t be leaving the house, including to buy essentials, get medical supplies, or for exercise. You should speak to friends, family and trusted neighbours to see if they can support you to get the supplies you need during this time, whether prescriptions or food. When doing this they should leave any supplies on your doorstep to avoid spreading the virus.
Alternatively you can look at online delivery slots You can also call our advice line on 0800 678 1602 and we may be able to support you to get a supermarket delivery slot or you can contact your local Age UK to see if they’re able to support you.
You can also speak to your pharmacy about organising a medication delivery.
Anyone who is self-isolating or vulnerable for any reason can get support from the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme for shopping, medication delivery and check in and chat calls. To self-refer you can call 0808 196 3646. For more information and to see whether you are eligible for this support please see here.
How can people visit my home or how can I visit other homes safely?
Guidance on care home visits allows limited visiting where possible – though individual care homes are responsible for their own visiting policies. This has meant many people have been unable to spend face-to-face time with those they care about. This can be quite distressing, and it continues to be a priority for Age UK to see this resolved.
Even though each care home can introduce their own visiting policy, it should be based on advice from the local director of public health in line with risks associated with coronavirus, for example local infection rates. This advice should be assessed and provided regularly.
The circumstances of the individual care home should also be considered, for example, staff availability and the circumstances of residents. The benefit to residents of receiving visitors should be balanced against the coronavirus risk to the care home and wider community. This means that every care home is likely to have a different policy for visiting in place – it may be that you have two parents living in different care homes and you are experiencing different visiting rules because of this.
Where visits are allowed it is likely they will differ from what may have been in place before the coronavirus pandemic, as care homes will likely take steps to limit the risk of infection. This may include:
- Only allowing a resident to receive one constant visitor, wherever possible, this means only one member of someone’s family or friend group may be allowed to visit.
- Making arrangements for visits to be made by appointment only, meaning you cannot turn up unannounced.
- Asking visitors to wear a face covering and additional PPE where appropriate during their visit. For example, this may be if there is close personal contact between the resident and visitor.
- Asking visitors to use specific facilities to wash their hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the care home and throughout their visit.
- Facilitating face to face contact outside of a person’s bedroom, in a designated visiting room which may have plastic or glass barriers.
If a care home experiences an outbreak of coronavirus, or is in an area experiencing local lockdown restrictions, it is likely that the care home will implement a no visitor policy, which the guidance encourages care homes to do. If this does occur, guidance states that care homes should ensure there are alternative ways of communicating between residents and families and that they provide regular updates to resident’s loved ones of their mental and physical health and how they are coping.
Ultimately, the care home should make its visiting policy available to residents and families and communicate this clearly with you. It is likely that you have already done so, but if you are unsure of whether you can visit a loved one, we recommend contacting the care home for information about visiting arrangements, or the local authority.
The guidance is available here.
I’m worried about everything going on, what can I do?
It’s completely understandable to be worried during this time – many older people have told us that this is how they are feeling, so you are not alone.
There’s lot going on at the moment and lots of things are being affected. You may be feeling worried about how to stay safe or feeling down about the situation. We have lots of information and advice to help. Take a look at our guidance on managing your anxiety about restrictions easing or our advice on what to do if you’re feeling worried.
Talking about how you’re feeling can also help, and it’s likely that many of your friends and family will be feeling the same as you. If you think you need a bit more support, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for there are a couple of numbers you can call:
How can I volunteer?
We have been overwhelmed with offers of support for older people which has been amazing. For some ideas on how you can help in your area, please see our neighbourly volunteering page or you can help your Local Age UK, details can be found here.
At all 3 alert levels you can continue volunteering. If you are having to self-isolate for any reason then you should only do volunteering roles which can be conducted from home.
I'm over 70. Can I return to my volunteering now?
Yes, you can if you’d like to. The organisation you volunteer with should conduct a risk assessment with you to help you think about how suitable your role is in light of coronavirus.
You should follow social distancing guidance and where possible complete volunteer roles from home.
It’s likely that some volunteering roles come with greater risks than others. For example, volunteering in a hospital will be riskier than over-the-phone befriending. Sometimes it won’t be obvious how risky your role is. We've got some information that can help you weigh up the risks and decide how you'd like to return to your volunteering. Read more here.
If you’re considered clinically extremely vulnerable and were advised to shield, then you should volunteer from home where possible, you’re still able to volunteer outside your home but if you do, you should take extra care. If you’ve been informed you should shield again then you should only volunteer from home.
You must not volunteer outside your home if you or anyone you live with or are in a support bubble with have symptoms of coronavirus, are waiting for test results, or have been asked to self-isolate by the test and trace service.
I care for my parents, what happens if I get coronavirus and can’t care for them?
If you care for your parents or a loved one there's no doubt that you’ll be thinking about what will happen if you become unwell.
It’s probably the case that you have a plan B in place already, but it’s worth considering a few things:
- Think about any friends or family who could step in. Find out in advance if they’d be able to help and if the person you care for would be comfortable with this arrangement.
- Develop an emergency plan about the person you care for that includes important information such as medication, ongoing treatment, medical appointments and emergency contacts
- The person you care for may be entitled to support from the local council. You should start by contacting the person’s local council and asking for a needs assessment, which can be requested even if you’re well.
- You could look at making arrangements with a private care provider. This may be particularly relevant to people who aren’t entitled to help from their local authority. As part of planning ahead, a care provider may be able to advise whether they can put services in place if a family carer became unwell at short notice.
Someone I love lives in a care home, how will they be tested?
Care home managers are now able to apply for regular testing of the whole care home. This includes testing both residents and staff, even if they don’t have symptoms of coronavirus. This means there will be weekly testing of staff, and residents can be tested once every 28 days.
The tests available are swab tests, which involves taking a swab of someone’s nose and the back of their throat with a long cotton bud. This type of test can only tell if someone has coronavirus at the time of the swab, not if someone has previously had it.
We would recommend speaking to the care staff in your loved one’s care home to find out how they are accessing and implementing regular testing.
I want to update or make a will, how can I do it?
There are new rules for will writing and witnessing have been brought in due to the social distancing guidelines. You can find them here.
It’s usually best to get advice from a solicitor or chartered legal executive. You may wish to speak to a lawyer who specialises in wills and probate (applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions). Check they are licensed with the relevant professional body, such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority or Law Society.
For a will to be valid:
- it must be in writing and signed by you and two witnesses who will not benefit from it. Witnessing can now take play remotely – for example by video call.
- you must have the mental capacity to make the will and understand the effect it will have
- you must have made the will voluntarily and without pressure from anyone else.
The beginning of the will should state that it revokes all others. If you have an earlier will, you should destroy it.
Signing and witnessing the will
You must sign your will in the presence (either in person or remotely via video call) of two independent witnesses, who must also sign the same document in your presence. If the will is signed incorrectly, it is not valid. Beneficiaries of the will, their spouses or civil partners shouldn't act as witnesses, or they lose their right to the inheritance. Beneficiaries shouldn't even be present in the room when the will is signed. It’s also best not to ask an executor to act as a witness.
Current rules around social distancing may make in-person witnessing challenging. Consult a solicitor for their advice on what steps you can take. It may be possible for a will to be witnessed from the other side of a door, window or from at least 2m distance. It’s important to consider how everyone can be kept at a safe distance from each other, including the handling of documentation.
Making a will if you have an illness or dementia
If you can’t sign the will, it can also be signed on your behalf, as long as you’re in the room and it is signed at your direction. However, you must have the mental capacity to make the will, otherwise the will is invalid. Any will signed on your behalf must contain a clause saying you understood the contents of the will before it was signed.
If you have a serious illness or a diagnosis of dementia, you can still make a will, but you need to have the mental capacity to make sure it is valid. A solicitor should make sure of this, and you may need a medical practitioner’s statement at the time the will is signed, certifying that you understand what you are signing.
Amending a will
Any amendment to a will is subject to the same conditions as when writing the original. If you are making a minor amendment to your will, you can add a supplement, known as a codicil. This must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the will, although the witnesses don’t have to be the same as the original ones.
If anything substantial needs to be changed, you should make a new will and cancel your old one.
I rent my home. Can I be evicted?
A court ban protecting renters from eviction has ended. This means landlords can take eviction cases to court, but only if certain conditions are met. You don’t need to leave your home just because the ban has ended, and there may be steps you can take to prevent eviction.
In most cases, the eviction process has three stages. Taking the case to court is the second stage. The first stage is your landlord giving you a written notice saying they want the property back. The notice must give you a period of time (‘notice period’) before your landlord can take the case to court – six months in most cases.
For more information see our page on housing advice during coronavirus.