Coronavirus - FAQs for Families and Communities

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What are the symptoms?

  • A high temperature (37.8C or higher) – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal


I have symptoms, what do I do?

If you have symptoms and live with other people, you and your entire household need to stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days. If you live alone, you need to stay at home for 7 days. This is because you are most contagious in the first four days.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, and testing for coronavirus is not needed if you are staying at home.

You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home, and the Government is asking you to refrain from calling 111 or 999 unless you are seriously unwell. This is to ensure that the NHS’ resources can be focused on the people who need it most.

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service HERE if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home.
  • Your condition gets worse.
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 7 days.

Further advice about social distancing can be found HERE

If you live in a residential care setting, more advice can be found HERE


What does self-isolating mean?

It means staying away from contact with people outside of your household. If you do not have symptoms but are self-isolating for your own protection, you can still leave the house to exercise.

You should not go out, if possible, to situations where you mix with other people, even to buy food or essentials, other than for exercise which can be done at a safe distance from others.

It is likely that you will need to rely on friends and others to do your food and essential shopping. At this time, it is ever more important that our communities come together and support friends and neighbours who may be self-isolating.


What if I have no symptoms, do I still need to stay at home?

Even if you and your entire household do not have symptoms, the Government still needs you to help our communities make the most effective response to the outbreak.

Unfortunately, now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others. It is also the time to avoid all unnecessary travel and to work from home if you possibly can.

The Prime Minister has now put in place a lockdown to push down the curve of transmission. To ensure this measure helps save as many lives as possible, the police will enforce the lockdown through fines and dispersal orders.

You must stay at home, only leaving for the following very limited purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day – for example, a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your immediate household.
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

If you go out for one of these reasons, try to stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times.

You may not gather publicly in groups of more than two except for households. This means you should not be meeting friends and family members anywhere.

I understand that these measures are difficult and disruptive, but the Government is clear that such extreme action is only to be taken as and when it will make the biggest difference and save the most lives. That time is now.

I know that social distancing is very difficult to maintain, but I cannot emphasise enough how each of us doing our part will help bring down the peak of this wave of infection and make it easier for the NHS to cope with the continuing outbreak and save lives.

To put it simply, if too many people become seriously unwell at one time, the NHS will be unable to handle it - meaning more people are likely to die. So, it is vital to slow the spread of the disease.


I’m over 70, what do I need to know? 

The Government strongly advises you to use social distancing measures as steps to reduce social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are to:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible.
  • Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is practicable.

This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.

Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home. It is important to speak to others and ask them to help you to make arrangements for the delivery of food, medicines and essential services and supplies, and look after your physical and mental health and wellbeing.

If you receive support from health and social care organisations, for example, if you have care provided for you through the local authority or health care system, this will continue as normal. Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you are protected. The advice for formal carers is included in the home care provision


What is shielding?

Shielding is a practice used to protect extremely vulnerable people from coming into contact with coronavirus.

You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you receive the recommendation. You will be contacted again if the advice is updated.

Anyone in this highest risk category who has not received a letter from the NHS by Sunday 29 March 2020 or been contacted by their doctor should get in touch with their GP or hospital doctor by phone or online.

This does not include all elderly people, although they are strongly advised to practice social distancing and only go out if really necessary.

You should not go out for a walk in public places - it is fine to go into your garden if you have one.

Avoid going out for food and medicine. Ask a friend, neighbour or family member to bring your supplies where possible.

From Tuesday 24 March, you can register for support with food, shopping and deliveries and additional care.

The Government is also delivering free parcels of food, containing essential supplies to those at highest risk from coronavirus via community hubs.

You should also avoid any face-to-face contact, so that means no visitors.

Visits from people who provide you essential healthcare and personal support are fine. Carers and care workers should stay away if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus and anyone coming into your home should keep their hands clean by washing with soap and water. You may find this guidance on home care provision useful.

You should have an alternative list of people who can help you with your care if your main carer becomes unwell. You can also contact your local council for advice on how to access care.

If you think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 such as a new, continuous cough or fever, seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

If you have someone else living with you, do not need to shield themselves but must make sure they follow recommendations to shield you. They should also stringently follow the guidance on social distancing.

They should also keep some physical distance (2 metres) from you and keep to a minimum the time spent in shared spaces such as the kitchen, bathroom and lounge. Shared spaces should be kept well ventilated - open a window.

If you can, use a separate bathroom and bedroom from the rest of the household, and also make sure you use separate towels.

If you share a toilet and bathroom, make sure they are cleaned after every use. Consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first.

Use the kitchen when others are not in there and take your meals back to your room to eat. Coronavirus is spread through droplets (from coughs and sneezes), so do not share cutlery or crockery, unless it is clean. Use a dishwasher if you have one. Soap or washing up liquid and water gets rid of the virus too.

Keep surfaces that are frequently touched clean - door handles, taps and handrails.

If you develop a persistent cough or fever, it does not mean that you definitely have coronavirus but you should contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111 or your doctor. Do this as soon as you get symptoms. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or hospital.

In an emergency, call 999 if you are seriously ill.

Get more information on shielding HERE


Who should shield?

The following people should shield: 

  • Solid organ transplant recipients.
  • People with specific cancers.
  • People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer. 
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment.
  • People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer.
  • People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors. 
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell disease).
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  • Women who are pregnant and who also have significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
  • If this applies to you, shielding is for your personal protection - it is your choice to decide whether to follow the recommendations.

You could call your doctor to discuss this.

Please regularly check THIS WEBSITE which has the list of conditions for which the Government advises isolation.


Do I still get paid if I have to self-isolate?

If you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you can now claim from day one (rather than day four) of self-isolation.

From Friday 20th March onwards, those who are self-isolating because of COVID-19 will be able to obtain an 'isolation note' by visiting NHS 111 online and completing a form, rather than visiting a doctor.

Get more information on SSP HERE


I’m self-employed, am I entitled to sick pay if I have to self-isolate?

The Government recognises that the self-employed need support. In the Budget, the Chancellor established that self-isolating self-employed people will be able to claim Universal Credit (UC) and access advanced payments without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre.

On Friday 20th March, the Chancellor announced that the Universal Credit standard allowance has been increased by £1,000 a year and the minimum income floor suspended, ensuring self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at the same rate as Statutory Sick Pay for Employees.

Get more information on UC HERE


What other support is available to self-employed people?

On 26th March, the Chancellor announced a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.

Through this scheme, the Government will pay self-employed people across the whole UK who have been adversely affected by coronavirus a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month, for three months and will be extended for longer if necessary.

The Government will make it simple for self-employed people to get the financial support they need. Self-employed people who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC directly, asked to fill out a simple online form, and HMRC will pay the grant directly into their bank account. The Government expects people to access the scheme by the beginning of June.

The Government is ensuring that support reaches those self-employed people who are most in need of it. The scheme will be open to those with trading profits up to £50,000, ensuring 95 per cent of people who are majority self-employed are eligible for the scheme. HMRC will also ask people to demonstrate that the majority of their income comes from self-employment, and, to minimise fraud, only those who are already in self-employment, and who have a tax return for 2019, will be able to apply.

Get more information on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme HERE

Click HERE to check if you are eligible to make a claim.


What support is available to workers?

On 20th March, the Chancellor announced a plan to protect people’s jobs and income.

For the first time in our history – the Government will help pay people’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – offering grants to employers who promise to retain their staff, covering most of the cost of paying people’s wages. Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month.

Through the scheme, any employer can apply to put workers on temporary leave or 'furloughed' status, and the employer will receive a grant from HMRC.

Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts

The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.

This scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1st March 2020 and will be open to every business in the country from 20 April until the end of June. It may be extended if necessary.

Employers will be able to apply for a grant to cover the Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions on paying the lower of 80% of regular salary or £2,500 per month.

Get more information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme HERE


I am worried about being able to afford my mortgage payments during the outbreak, is there any help for me?

The Government has agreed with mortgage lenders that they will offer repayment holidays of 3 months to households in financial difficulty due to COVID-19.

If you are concerned about your current financial situation, please contact your lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss if this is a suitable option for you.

If you think you may need financial support from your local authority, you may be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund which will mainly be used to provide council tax relief. Contact your local authority for more details.

Contact Forest of Dean District Council

Contact Tewkesbury Borough Council


I am worried about being able to afford my rent payments during the outbreak, is there any help for me?

The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by COVID-19.

From 26th March 2020 landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period.

From 27th March 2020 all ongoing housing possession action is suspended – this means that neither cases currently in the system or any about to go in to it can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.

This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If you face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance you should speak to your landlord if you think you will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context the Government would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.

The Government has also put specific measures in place to help support you, including a £500 million Hardship Fund. Contact your local authority for more details about the Fund.

Contact Forest of Dean District Council

Contact Tewkesbury Borough Council

Get more information on the measures to protect renters HERE


I am worried about being able to afford personal loan/credit card repayments during the outbreak, is there any help for me?

The Financial Conduct Authority has called on lenders to use flexibility built into their rules to support consumers, taking into account customers' individual circumstances. Many major lenders have already made statements to this effect, so make sure you check your lender's website for details.

If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender directly. If you do agree on a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score.


What if I have travel plans?

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice. Many airlines are suspending flights and many airports are closing, preventing flights from leaving.

You can find the FCO travel advice HERE


What do I do if I am stuck abroad?

My office team and I have been working hard to help Forest of Dean constituents who are currently stuck overseas and are trying to return to the UK.

If you are a constituent in the Forest of Dean and in need of assistance, please email me with your details at

On 30th March, the FCO announced a new government partnership with airlines to fly back more tourists stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government is focused on getting Brits home through a twin-track approach:

  • airlines recognising their responsibility for transporting their passengers with pre-booked tickets home, through offering them alternatives where routes are cancelled, allowing them to change tickets, where permissible – including between carriers – and offering them the latest information and advice as the situation change.
  • where commercial routes do not exist, the government will provide up to £75 million financial support to enable special charter flights – operated by the airlines above and others – to fly to priority countries to bring back UK residents.

British tourists stranded abroad who want to return to the UK should first check if there are commercial routes available by visiting the airline websites, FCO travel advice pages for the country they are in and local British embassy social media.

If there are no commercial options, they should visit the travel advice pages and sign up to alerts for their location and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available, these will be advertised by the embassy and British nationals on Travel Advice Pages and Embassy social media and those who have registered for updates will be contacted via email.

As a last resort, the Foreign Office will offer an emergency loan.

Get more information HERE