In the last few days, really big changes have been made to how we all live our lives.
Boris Johnson last night ordered people only to leave their homes under a list of “very limited purposes”, banned public gatherings of more than two people and ordered the closure of non-essential shops.
The Government has changed how we are supposed to access services, who can and cannot go to school and hundreds of other things in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Predictably this has led to lots and lots of questions – because real life is often complicated in a way which is difficult for even the best-intentioned civil servant to imagine.
So we asked you what questions you wanted to be answered and set about trying to get to the bottom of your query.
We didn’t get answers to them all – and no doubt people will have a lot more in the next few days.
So these answers are up to date as of 4pm on Tuesday, March 24.
But things will change in the coming days as the Government continues to review its response to the coronavirus crisis.
Can I move house?
There is no government ban on moving house, and vehicle hire services remain open. But a Cabinet minister advised to postpone it if you can. Michael Gove accepted there will be “specific circumstances” where the process is already under way, meaning people continue to buy or sell homes amid the pandemic. But he suggested a “pause” if possible adding: “If at all possible, people should stay in their current home.”
Can I still play golf?
No. “I don’t think people should be playing golf,” minister Michael Gove said. Clubhouses are likely to be shut anyway. He said people should define exercise specifically as “one walk, one run or one cycle per day”.
Can I still go to my allotment?
Yes. Michael Gove said: “I think it’s perfectly sensible for people to go to an allotment. It’s in the very nature of allotments that there’s a safe distance between people who are working on an individual allotment.”
Is there a limit on how long my daily walk can be?
No, but people are asked to use common sense. Cabinet minister Michael Gove said: “People can go for the standard length of run or walk that they ordinarily would have done. The important thing is once per day.”
Are over 75s allowed out to shop?
Yes, but try to avoid it. Over-70s may go out to buy essentials if absolutely necessary, but they are in an “at-risk” group. This means they should take even greater care to stay indoors than most people and, if they can, ask a friendly neighbour or family member to drop food at the door instead.
However, the government is not explicitly telling all over-70s to stay indoors at all times no matter what. That instruction has gone only to those who are either in a household with symptoms, or one of the 1.5million most at risk people (who have been contacted directly).
Can I still deliver food to relatives or volunteer for strangers?
Yes. Cabinet minister Michael Gove said dropping food at vulnerable people’s doors “is an appropriate activity”. He added: “Making sure the vulnerable receive the support they need is absolutely critical.”
What happens if I get ‘caught’ in a group of more than two?
People gathering in groups of more than two can be handed a £30 fixed penalty notice by police – which can rise and lead to a criminal conviction if unpaid. The exception is if you’re in the same household. It’s still unclear how this will be policed exactly.
Am I allowed to go to banks and post offices?
“Boris Johnson said pretty clearly that people are to go shopping for essential foods, medical appointments or shopping or to help or care for the vulnerable. But what about banks? They remain open, but are you allowed to go? “
Yes. People may go “infrequently” to these places if it is “essential”, for instance posting legal papers or essential financial work. A No10 spokesman told us: “The businesses that were left open were on the basis that they are providing essential services to the public. The reasons for that speak for themselves. We’ve set out that people should leave the house if they need to collect items infrequently.”
Can I get petrol and an MOT on my car?
Yes – for petrol, see above but bear in mind you shouldn’t be making any non-essential travel at all including in the UK.
For MOTs, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has said it is keeping the situation under review. But for the moment, cars, motorbikes, light vans will still need a valid MOT.
Garages were specifically excluded from those businesses that had to close, but you should check with your local mechanic about what their opening hours are.
The DVSA has suspended testing of all heavy goods vehicles (HGV), trailers and public service vehicles (PSV) for up to three months and said it is keeping testing of other vehicles under review.
Can I drive to collect someone from the airport?
There is no restriction on collecting people from the airport specifically, but everyone has been asked to avoid all non-essential travel.
Picking up someone from the airport can fall into the category of essential travel – but it might be advisable to bring proof of their flight in case you are asked about your journey.
I don’t live with my boyfriend or girlfriend – can I visit them?
It seems not. Brits should not visit their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s house if they don’t live together, Downing Street said. The government’s rules explicitly say: “You should be ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.”
Downing Street said: “The guidance was clear yesterday. Essentially, what it said was that you should stay at home, and then it just set out four very specific circumstances where you may be permitted to go outdoors. And I think those rules should be applied to all scenarios.”
The exceptions are key workers taking kids to school, or split parents with shared custody dividing time with kids.
The Deputy Chief Medical Officer today confirmed boyfriends and girlfriends who live apart should stay apart. But she did offer a silver lining – saying lovers can move in with each other full-time and stay there if they want to take the plunge.
Why are warehouse and construction workers still having to go into work?
Because the government has decided to let some people who aren’t “key workers” keep going into work.
The government says people should not go into work in person unless it is “absolutely necessary”. But unless a firm has been forcibly shut down, the definition of “necessary” is being left up to employers to work out. In these firms, bosses are free to continue asking you to come to work.
However, new rules were due to be issued on Tuesday to cover firms whose workers are still going in despite the lockdown.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the rules would include a requirement on employers to keep workers 2 metres from each other. There will be “unlimited fines for non compliance” though they start at £30, he said.
Construction firms should also use “common sense” to ensure that distance is maintained, the government said. For instance large-scale construction sites have been told to go ahead – but domestic home extensions should be put on hold.
I work for an office relocation company. We are being told that clearing a building of desks, pens, chairs etc is an essential job. I disagree. How do I find out where we stand as I feel our health is being ignored?
It seems this is a grey area. As above, firms can still ask workers to come in – even non key workers – if it is “absolutely necessary” for them to be there in person.
We asked Downing Street if workers can refuse to go in – and didn’t get a clear answer. Instead, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “I think our guidance in relation to anybody who fears they may have symptoms or anybody in their house might have symptoms is very clear. We need people to stay at home because ultimately that will save lives.”
Asked again, he said: “Well, the list of sectors in which we don’t consider to be essential was spelled out very clearly in the guidance we published last night. That was a direct instruction from the government and we would expect employers to adhere to it.”
But No10 did not say what happens for firms that haven’t been told to shut down.
I am an administrator for the NHS. I have equipment and access to systems and can easily work from home, but my manager insists I go to work. Where do I stand? Can I refuse?
See above – this is not black-and-white. We are told it would be a discussion between the individual and the employer (an individual NHS Trust). Government guidance says you should work from home if you can, so if you believe that is the case, keep pressing it with your manager. Escalate it to the HR department if needs be. There may be a good reason for you being there in person; ask what it is.
Can my separated partner and I still share custody of our kids?
Yes. Children under 18 are still allowed to travel between both of their parents’ homes, minister Michael Gove clarified – moments after he said the exact opposite. However, he said moving between households in this case should be “kept to a minimum”.
Why hasn’t everyone received a government text? I have not received one, yet my wife has
The UK’s mobile networks are sending out a Government message to their customers with details of the new shutdown measures. It reads: “GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT. New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info and exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
But not all customers have already received the message yet. That is because mobile operators are sending them out in batches – because the network can become overwhelmed. O2 told the BBC it was sending the texts in batches adding it could take until 22:00GMT to complete the task.
My 80 year old mother needs a prescription for insulin in the next few days, and can’t get through to GP surgery. What do we do?
Government guidance is clear GPs should be able to process prescriptions over the phone and they should be staying open for this purpose – but they will be busier than usual.
Check their website or social media pages for any details about when they are open or any difficulties they are experiencing.
Keep trying – and in the meantime try contacting your MP for help in getting through to the surgery.
In the meantime in an emergency pharmacists are permitted to supply insulin – but only in the only the smallest pack size available. So consider calling them if the situation doesn’t improve.
Why do renters have to accrue debt, while homeowners get a three month mortgage holiday?
The short answer is because that is the way the government has structured its support. It’s a political decision but ministers have said they keep the situation under review.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick last week said: “The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”
In short it means that private tenants will not be evicted from their homes for at least three months.
Households and families could see their Council Tax bills slashed by £150 as councils look to support those who fall into ‘vulnerable’ groups.
Anyone who receives Council Tax Support will be eligible for help.
Will employers pay the extra cost of utilities for those working from home?
There are no Government instructions to force your employer to help you pay the cost of working from home.
Meaning any arrangement would have to be struck between you and your employer.
That doesn’t mean there is no help available. If you need to pay for stuff like office chairs, desks the taxman can help ease the burden slightly.
You will need to fill out a P87 form, which you can do so long as you have spent your own money on expenses that have not been reimbursed and if your allowable employment expenses are less than £2,500 for the tax year.
HMRC guidance stipulates you can claim relief for items ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily’ in the performance of your employment role.
Important note – you can only make a P87 claim if you and your employer have agreed that you have to work from home.
All food stores’ delivery slots are taken, there is no food on shelves and I have 85- and 87-year-old housebound in-laws that need food. How do I do this?
We’ll be honest, this has been very difficult for us to answer. Most supermarkets have a ‘silver hour’ when elderly people can shop early in the day, but this is for people who come in person. Tesco and Sainsbury’s have promised to come back to us with more detail, which we will add to this story. In the meantime, it might be advisable to go to a range of shops if at all possible, such as smaller corner shops facing less demand. And set up delivery slots for a few weeks’ time, which won’t solve the problem you face now but will stop it recurring in future.
If I have already been out for a morning walk by myself, can I then take my dog out for a walk? If so, does that mean I am breaking the rules?
The rules say you should only go out for essential shopping “infrequently”, and for exercise once per day.
Downing Street said these rules should be followed in “all scenarios” so we’ve not been told of any exception. Perhaps try taking the dog as much as possible when you go out to maximise his or her walking time.
And if you live in a household with more than one person, go out separately with the dog at different times, once each. You’ll probably need a break from each other anyway.
Am I am allowed in the garden without it being counted as my outside exercise?
Yes, absolutely! As long as you’re on your property and not coming within 2 metres of people from other households, that’s fine.
I recently moved house and the DVLA require me to send my car log book to them by post to update my address as they don’t do this online. I’m 70 and staying indoors. How can I comply with this?
We have asked the DVLA and will update this as soon as we get a response. Please check back.
Where can I get more wine from?
You can buy wine from food shops, which are exempted from the closures. But you’re being asked to keep those journeys to a minimum. So maybe practise restraint. Or join the long queue for a delivery from one of the many popular online wine retailers. We’re sure you can Google them.