From 12 April, more lockdown restrictions are being eased in England, including the long-awaited reopening of pubs.
Here are some of your latest questions on this, and other Covid-related matters:
Questions and answers
When pubs and restaurants open outside in England on 12 April, can I only go with people I live with or does the rule of six apply? From Jim Conibear, Sheffield
The rule of six will apply at cafes, pubs and restaurants in England from 12 April. So you can meet up outside with five other people, and you don’t have to live with any of them. Or you can meet up with any number of people from two households.
If the venue serves alcohol, you will have to order, eat and drink while seated at your table outside. If the venue does not serve alcohol, you can order at a counter.
When you are not seated, you must wear a face mask, follow one-way systems at the venue and observe social distancing.
It’s hoped hospitality will be able to open outdoors in Wales – and both indoors and outdoors in Scotland – on 26 April. In Northern Ireland, no dates have been set for pub and restaurant reopening.
With outdoor hospitality about to reopen, can Covid-19 be transmitted through someone’s exhaled cigarette smoke/vaping? From Michael, Chichester, West Sussex
Yes. It is possible to become infected by breathing in somebody else’s second-hand smoke or exhaled vapour – both of which can transport coronavirus particles on microscopic droplets of water vapour exhaled from the lungs.
In fact, the risk could even be heightened – with some scientists believing the virus might travel considerably further this way than when exhaled in normal breath.
However, a study found that the increased risk of virus transmission for the majority of vapers was much less than the increased risk from talking or coughing.
Government guidance for smokers says it’s difficult to gauge the risk to individuals – and, in the absence of specific evidence, recommends that vapers err on the side of caution and avoid breathing out clouds of vapour in the presence of others.
When venues reopen in England, they will be prohibited from providing smoking equipment – such as shisha pipes – for use on the premises.
Can I travel to Wales from England to have a holiday from 12 April? From Susan Piper, London
Yes you can, because travel between Wales and England will be allowed from that date.
Self-contained holiday accommodation in Wales – including hotels with en-suite facilities and room service – can open to people from the same household or support bubble.
You will be able to holiday with other members of your household, or bubble, but staying with friends or relatives is not allowed (unless you are part of the same support bubble) because rules preventing indoor mixing are still in force in Wales and England.
Domestic holidays can also restart in England. Members of the same household can stay in self-contained accommodation.
When pubs open, will bar staff have to wear face masks and or visors when serving? From Frank Shaw, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
Yes they will. By law, staff working in venues that provide food and drink are required to wear face coverings (similar to masks), unless they have an exemption.
The government guidance for the hospitality sector in England says a face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering – but not instead of one. This is because face visors or shields “do not adequately cover the nose and mouth, and do not filter airborne particles”.
The owners of pubs, restaurants and cafes are also being urged to put other measures in place when they reopen – including completing Covid risk assessments, cleaning more often and providing adequate ventilation.
End of The latest easing of lockdown restrictions
Is it worth taking a low dose of aspirin to thin the blood at the time of vaccination to reduce the risk of blood clots? From Ranmali Fernando, Enfield
For anyone not already prescribed aspirin by a doctor, Professor Beverly Hunt, medical director of Thrombosis UK, strongly advises against this.
“We know if you take aspirin and you don’t need to take aspirin, the benefits aren’t very good,” she told the BBC.
However, anyone who has already been prescribed aspirin by a doctor should continue to take it before their jab, says blood specialist Prof Adrian Newland.
Anyone on anti-coagulant medicines (such as Warfarin) – or people who have clotting disorders – should speak to their doctors before having the jab, he says. They should also let vaccinators know about any blood thinning medications.
What are the signs you may be developing a blood clot? From Lindsey Handley, Caterham, Surrey
Doctors are focusing on several types of blood clots regarding the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
One that has attracted particular attention is a clot on the brain called Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CSVT).
It forms in large veins in the head – stopping blood from draining out of the brain. As a result, blood cells may break and leak into brain tissue – ultimately leading to a stroke.
CVSTs are more common, but still very rare, in younger women.
If you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke, you should call 999.
The UK’s medicines regulator – the MHRA – says anyone who has the following symptoms four or more days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine should seek prompt medical advice: severe or persistent headache, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, swollen legs, persistent abdominal pain, unusual skin bruising, pinpoint spots (not including the injection site).
How long after a vaccine can the rare blood clot develop? If it is three weeks since my jab, am I definitely in the clear? From Rushda Khan, Cambridge
Most cases have been seen between four days and a few weeks after people have had their jab.
Medical experts in the UK suggest doctors should consider this rare condition as a possible diagnosis for anyone who has matching symptoms up to a month after they have had the vaccine.
If you had your vaccine three weeks ago, you should seek medical advice if you experience any of the symptoms listed above in the next week or so.
What if an under-30 year old has already had a first dose of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine? Is it safe to have a different type of second vaccine? From Martin Hughes
All three vaccines which have been approved for use in the UK require two doses to provide the best protection against Covid. The official guidance says everyone should get the same vaccine for both doses wherever possible.
Given the concerns about a possible risk of clots, the regulator has said that under-30s who do not have any underlying health conditions or whose circumstances do not put them at greater risk of catching or spreading Covid, should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first dose.
However, government advice is that everyone who has already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be offered the second dose, irrespective of age.
Only someone who experienced clotting after the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine – or who has a history of blood disorders which puts them at greater risk of clotting – should not have the second dose as planned. If you are in doubt about your own circumstances, you should talk to your GP.
One UK trial is already separately investigating whether mixing vaccines could offer better protection than two doses of the same one, but it has not yet concluded.
Is the risk of clotting higher in young women currently taking the birth control pill? From Karen, Gateshead
Pregnancy, the combined pill and some fertility treatments have been known to put people at higher risk of clots in general. Some of these clots can be treated more easily than CVSTs.
The European Medicines Agency estimates that for every 10,000 women using combined hormonal contraception for a year, between five and 12 will develop clots in veins (such as deep vein thrombosis or clots to the lungs).
This compares to around two per 10,000 among people not using these types of contraception.
Experts recommend that otherwise well people should not stop taking the pill when having a vaccine.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is seeking further guidance from regulators about pregnant women and those starting fertility treatment. In the meantime, pregnant women are advised to discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their doctors.
I’m 22 years old and have had both my AstraZeneca vaccinations. What does this mean for me? From Kieran, Scotland
Since you have already had both your vaccines, you will not be affected by the decision to offer under-30s an alternative vaccine in the future.
If you have already received both doses, you might be in one of the priority groups for whom getting or spreading Covid could be especially dangerous.
People in the highest priority groups might be offered an extra booster Covid vaccine later in the year – similar to the annual flu jab which medically vulnerable patients are advised to have.
It is possible under-30s might not be offered an Astra-Zeneca booster if one is available, but we don’t know enough at this stage to be certain.
End of The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and clots
If I’ve had two vaccinations will I still need to take advantage of the free lateral flow tests being made available? From Elizabeth Woodward, Poole, Dorset
Yes. All the available data suggests the main vaccines currently in use are very effective at protecting people from becoming seriously ill – and in the majority of cases stopping people from developing symptoms at all.
However, no vaccine works for everybody who takes it, and so people should not think that just because they have had two doses of vaccine they are 100% safe – either from developing symptoms, or spreading the virus to other people they come into contact with.
From 9 April everyone in England will be able to get two lateral flow rests per week from testing sites, pharmacies, or through the post.
The government hopes that widening access to testing for people who don’t have symptoms will help stop outbreaks as lockdown is lifted.
There is very little guidance about dating. What is allowed, when? From Ed Cochran, Wiltshire
Under the current roadmap to ease lockdown in England, you are already allowed to meet up outside with someone who is not in your household. You can have a takeaway drink with them, but you must maintain social distancing, which means no hugging or kissing.
From 12 April, you will be able to go to a restaurant or pub with someone from a different household as long as you sit outside, but you will probably still have to maintain social distancing, which again means keeping two metres apart.
From 17 May at the earliest, you will be able to spend time indoors with people from another household, or sit with them inside a pub or restaurant. Overnight stays should be allowed with people not in your household or support bubble.
The government says it will review all social distancing measures ahead of step four of its roadmap out of lockdown (which is due to come into force on 21 June at the earliest).
If two adults both live alone, then they can choose to form an exclusive support bubble with each other, which would mean they would not have to socially distance and could spend time in each other’s homes, including overnight.
An adult who lives with other adults can form a bubble, but only if their housemates have not already formed their own bubbles with other people.
You can only be in one bubble at a time. If you decide to change your support bubble, you should wait a minimum of 10 days before forming a new bubble with someone else.
When are mobile hairdressers allowed to resume? From Anne Winfield, Leeds
In England, hairdressers and nail salons – along with non-essential retail and libraries – will be allowed to open on 12 April.
People who offer close-contact services in the home – such as mobile hairdressers and massage therapists – will also be able to return to work on 12 April, but must follow government guidance about working safely in other people’s homes.
Can our under-14 grandson stay overnight with us for a week during his Easter school holidays, once his teacher parent has gone back to work? From Kevin Delaney in Bromley, Kent
Under the government’s roadmap to ease lockdown in England, people will not be allowed to stay away overnight from their home until 17 May at the earliest. At that point you will only be able to stay away with members of your own household or support bubble. People in England will not be able to stay overnight with someone from a different household until all restrictions are lifted, which will happen on 21 June at the earliest.
However, if your grandson lives with one parent, then you can form a support bubble with his household. This would mean that you can stay in each other’s houses immediately, regardless of how far apart you live.
Even if your grandson lives with more than one parent, because he is under 14, you can form a childcare bubble with his household for the provision of informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare. This bubble can only operate between the same two households, and childcare can be provided in either or both of the two homes, so he would be allowed to stay with you.
Are children under five years old included in the “rule of six”? From Lorraine Johnson, Surrey
The simple answer is yes.
Government guidance for England states that you can now meet up outdoors with friends and family you do not live with, “in a group of up to six from any number of households (children of all ages count towards the limit of six)”. However, any number of adults and children can meet as long as they are from just two households.
The rules are different elsewhere in the UK. In Wales, where six people from two different households can meet outdoors (including in private gardens), children under 11 do not count towards the total.
In Scotland, up to four people can meet from a maximum of two households – plus any children under 12.
From 1 April in Northern Ireland, up to six people from no more than two households can meet up outdoors in a private garden – this total includes children. From 10 April, the number of people allowed to mix outdoors rises to 10 people from two households.
Can you travel for a day out from 29 March? For example can two people drive 15 miles to go for a walk on a beach? Neill Maguire
The government guidance for people in England says simply that people should “minimise travel wherever possible”. So, the question of how close to home you should be is one of personal judgement.
Another factor to bear in mind is that unless you are in the same household or support bubble, you are still not allowed to share a car with a friend, so you would have to drive to your destination in separate vehicles.
Trips further afield are limited by the fact that overnight stays away from home are still not allowed. What’s more, you can’t travel from England to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland without a reasonable excuse.
The situation in England is different from that in Scotland, where new rules from 2 April ask people to “stay local” – by which it means within their local authority area. In Wales a similar “stay local” rule has now been dropped, allowing people to travel as far as they like within the country’s borders. In Northern Ireland a “stay at home” rule is still in force.
I’m confused by the new rules for meeting up. Can you explain? From Trevor McBean
In England, you can now meet up to five other people outside (including in private gardens). Everyone can be from different households – it’s the so-called rule of six.
Children, no matter how old they are, are included in the count. Professional carers are not – as long as they are working.
At the same time, to make it easier for larger families to meet up, two households of any size can also get together. So, for example, one family of five could meet another family of four in a park or back garden. A support bubble counts as one household.
You must remember to socially distance from people you don’t live or bubble with.
When can we resume indoor carpet bowls with 24 members? From Roy Tucker, England
Indoor group exercise classes – and all types of indoor adult group sports, including short mat bowls – should restart in England from Monday 17 May. But gyms and other types of indoor leisure in England will open from 12 April.
Meanwhile, social distancing rules are under review and may not have changed by this point. Until this happens, you should maintain a two-metre distance from people you don’t live with.
A friend and I have booked a self-catering holiday cottage in Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull in western Scotland, from 8-15 May. We intend to travel from London to Glasgow by train, and then pick up a hire car to drive the rest of the journey. Can we go? From Derek O’Meara, south-east London
At the moment we can’t say for sure. It all depends on several things changing in the coming weeks in both Scotland and England.
From 12 April in England, members of the same household or bubble will be permitted to holiday in self-contained accommodation. But it will be 21 June at the earliest before people from different households can go away together. So, if you are travelling with someone you do not live (or are in a support bubble) with, you can’t go.
Another factor is that self-catering venues in Scotland aren’t due to reopen until 26 April – and it’s not yet known if people from other parts of the UK will be allowed to visit. All non-essential travel, including holidays, is currently banned.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said island communities will be consulted to allow them to determine “what arrangements they consider will work best for their circumstances”.
End of More on easing lockdown restrictions
How safe is the vaccine for young adults with Down’s syndrome? Jane Chatfield
The vaccines available for Covid are considered extremely safe and there are no reports of serious side-effects.
People over the age of 18 with Down’s syndrome were among the first to be vaccinated as they are on the list of those considered to be extremely clinically vulnerable.
The list was amended in November, after studies suggested people with Down’s syndrome were at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they caught Covid.
The vast majority of children and teenagers with Down’s syndrome are considered to be at less risk than adults, although teenagers aged 16-18 will be offered the vaccine during the second phase of the roll-out, planned for between the end of February and April.
My 89-year-old father had the vaccine a week ago. Is it safe to hug him now? From Cheryle Locke
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
Lots of people are wondering whether having the vaccine will stop them spreading coronavirus.
We know the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus. But it is unclear whether it stops people from catching it or passing it on to others.
So it is really important that people continue with social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands, even if they have been immunised.
It’s also worth remembering that it takes a few weeks after vaccination before you are protected. For the Covid vaccines currently available in the UK, two doses, spaced weeks apart, are recommended to give the best protection.
However if you have already formed a support bubble with your father, you can have close physical contact with him.
Can I have the vaccine safely if I am allergic to penicillin? From James, Bristol
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
Yes. Allergy to penicillin is not listed as a clinical reason to avoid having either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine.
However, when you are invited for your Covid vaccine, you should discuss your allergies with healthcare staff to make sure there is no other reason to avoid it.
Will vaccination teams have regular coronavirus testing, so they don’t infect the people they are protecting? From Ivan Young, Romsey, Hants
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
The people giving the vaccines will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent the spread of virus.
Some will also have already been vaccinated themselves, due to their occupation as healthcare providers.
How do staff know that the vaccine they are giving you has not expired because of incorrect storage? From Keith, Loughborough
Philippa Roxby Health reporter
Every vial, which contains several vaccine doses, is stored frozen and has to be thawed and then diluted before people are vaccinated.
Healthcare staff will be given detailed information on exactly how long the vials can be stored in a fridge (five days) and when they should be discarded after being taken out.
Prof Jonathan Van Tam says these considerations make this “delicate” vaccine more complicated to get to people in care homes and to the elderly in their own homes.
But this won’t be as much of an issue in hospitals where vaccine doses can be stored in bulk and used quickly on staff and patients.
How can we be sure the vaccine is safe with such a short testing period? From Maddie M
Rachel Schraer Health reporter
Although it’s been done quickly, this vaccine trial hasn’t skipped any of the usual steps.
The only difference is that some of the stages overlapped so, for example, phase three of the trial – when tens of thousands of people are given the vaccine – started while phase two, involving a few hundred people, was still going on.
Side effects usually show up quite quickly after vaccination and longer-term effects are extremely rare – much, much rarer than long-term side effects of the virus.
Usually vaccine trials are slowed down by long periods of waiting around, applying for permission, funding and resources.
It’s those elements that were sped up, because of the huge global interest in doing so.
End of Vaccine safety
Will the vaccine last for the rest of your life, or will you have to have a vaccine every 12 months, like the flu jab? From Robert Parker, Warwickshire
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
It’s not clear yet how long immunity might last after vaccination.
It is possible that people will need to be vaccinated annually or every few years to have protection.
Is the vaccine compulsory? From Kim, North Yorkshire
Philippa Roxby Health correspondent
No, people in the UK are not being told they must have the vaccine.
However, those in the most at-risk groups (over-70s and care home residents), and people who work in care homes and for the NHS will be expected to have it – to protect themselves and the people they care for.
Making a vaccine mandatory is not usually recommended because it can lower confidence in the jab.
What must people do after receiving a coronavirus vaccine? Carry on life as normal, wear a mask, adhere to distancing rules? From Mary Mullens
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
The vaccine significantly reduces the risk of getting seriously ill with coronavirus. But it is unclear whether it stops people from catching the virus or passing it on to others.
So it is really important that people continue with social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands, even if they have been immunised.
Does the Moderna vaccine have storage and distribution constraints similar to the Pfizer vaccine? From Colin Hayes
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
Both vaccines need to be stored at below freezing temperatures when they are transported from the factory out to clinics.
The Pfizer jab needs to be kept at around -70C, which is somewhat challenging, while the Moderna one can be kept in a normal freezer temperature of -20C.
Both can be thawed and kept in a fridge once they arrive at the clinic, but the Pfizer one then has a short shelf life of five days compared to four weeks for the Moderna vaccine.
Will the vaccine protect against the original and the new variants of Covid-19? From Juliana Hartley, Sheffield
Rachel Schraer Health reporter
So far the vaccines seem to provide equally good protection against the UK variant – which emerged in the autumn and has now become the main strain of the virus in circulation.
There are signs the vaccine could be slightly less effective against another mutation found in the South Africa variant, but nevertheless the jab will still give very good protection.
And while the virus will keep mutating, vaccine developers are poised to update their jabs at relatively short notice.
End of More vaccine questions
Will I be able to take a cruise from the UK this summer? From Anna, Derby
At this point in time, it’s simply too early to say. For the present, though, non-essential international travel is not allowed.
The government has set up a Global Travel Taskforce, which will report on 12 April, with recommendations for how international travel could resume without allowing new Covid variants being brought in from other countries.
Following this, the Government will decide when international travel should resume, but this will be no earlier than 17 May.
However, this is not entirely up to the UK – other countries will be easing their own lockdowns at different speeds, which may affect travellers’ ability to visit.
There is also the possibility that an international vaccination certificate could yet be agreed, allowing those who have had the jab greater freedom to travel.
Will face masks and social distancing still be needed as lockdown eases? James Cookson, Bolton
As part of the government’s four-step plan to end lockdown in England, it has said it will update the advice about social distancing between friends and family “as soon as possible”, but before step three, which is not expected to happen before 17 May.
It has also said it will carry out a review of all current social distancing rules before step four, which is not expected before 21 June.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the health secretary Matt Hancock said he wanted to get in a position where distancing was a “matter of personal responsibility and social norms” – so people might chose to wear a mask on public transport, but it wouldn’t be compulsory in law.
However, the government has also said that when secondary schools and further education colleges in England return on 8 March, face masks will be recommended “indoors, including classrooms” where social distancing of 2m (6ft) cannot be maintained, at least for the rest of this term.
What are the rules for churches opening? From Veda Royle, Macclesfield
There is no specific reference to churches or places of worship in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Churches in England and England are already open for communal services, although they are subject to strict social distancing and hygiene rules. Churches in Scotland and Northern Ireland will reopen on 26 March and 2 April respectively.
These restrictions – which prevent any mixing between households, and limit aspects of the service such as communion – are likely to stay in place until general rules on indoor mixing start to be relaxed.
The earliest date for this will be 17 May when “a broader range of stand-alone life events” including christenings, may also be allowed.
The government says it wants to bring an end to limiting social contact by 21 June, which suggests the possibility of a return to normal for places of worship.
End of Beyond lockdown
What does it mean that the the new variant of the Covid virus is more transmissible? From Kevin Waite
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
The new variant is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus in circulation in the UK, and passes more quickly from person to person.
Experts are studying the virus to understand what the changes might mean.
It is possible that the mutations make it easier for the virus to enter cells.
It might be that people who are infected with the new variant have more of the virus in their nose and throat and can spread it more easily when they cough and sneeze.
How many covid patients have long covid and what is the maximum time of the illness? From Bryan Thornton
Michelle Roberts Health online editor
It’s estimated about one in 10 people who fall ill with covid remain unwell two months after being infected. Long covid can last from weeks to many months.
Some people who were infected towards the beginning of the pandemic still have long covid now. Others have since recovered.
The symptoms of long covid are varied and can fluctuate. Doctors are learning more about the condition, including the symptoms that people may experience and how long these can last for.
What should I do if someone I live with is self-isolating? from Graham Wright in London
BBC News Health team
If you’re living with someone who’s self-isolating, you should keep all contact to a minimum and, if possible, not be in the same room together.
The person self-isolating should stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, and keep away from other people in the house.
If you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll also need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started.
If you get symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days from when your symptoms start, even if it means you’re self-isolating for longer than 10 days. If you do not get symptoms, you can stop self-isolating after 10 days.
If you or your housemates develop symptoms after 00:01 GMT on Monday 14 December, you will only have to self-isolate for 10 days.
Should people stop having sex? from Martha Menschel in Las Vegas
If you live with your partner, they count as being part of your household. If neither of you is showing coronavirus symptoms and you are already in close contact, having sex won’t increase the likelihood of you catching the virus from one another. If one person does have symptoms, they should be self-isolating in a separate room.
Using contraception such as condoms won’t alter your risk of catching the virus, as having sex will bring you into close physical contact anyway.
“If you are going to touch each other’s genitals it’s likely that you will potentially be kissing at the same time – and we know the virus is passed through saliva,” Dr Alex George told the BBC’s Newsbeat.
“Essentially, any possibility of transfer of coronavirus – from your mouth to your hands, to genitals, to someone else’s nose or mouth – increases the risk of passing on coronavirus.”
Should I be washing my hair as well as my hands when I come home from outside (heavy breathing joggers passing me, supermarkets etc)? Asme Sheikh, London
On balance, this is almost certainly unnecessary.
While hand washing is very important for personal hygiene, none of the advice from the world’s leading health bodies – the World Health Organization for example, the CDC in the US or the NHS in the UK – places any importance on hair washing one way or another.
It’s theoretically possible that you could catch the virus if someone sneezed on your hair and those droplets found their way to your eyes, nose or mouth (for instance if your hair fell over your face).
However, research suggests that while virus droplets can survive for a couple of hours on some non-porous surfaces such as steel, there are few – if any – cases of Covid which can be traced back to being transmitted in this way.
I am breastfeeding my five-month-old baby – what should I do if I get coronavirus? from Maeve McGoldrick
James Gallagher Health correspondent
Mothers pass on protection from infection to their babies through their breast milk.
If your body is producing antibodies to fight the infection, these would be passed on through breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding mums should follow the same advice as anyone else over reducing risk – cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, throw away used tissues straight away and wash hands frequently, while trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
Is it possible to catch coronavirus from a pet dog or cat? from Javed
This is highly unlikely to happen, according to scientists and vets.
While there are rare cases where an animal has caught the virus from a human, there is no evidence that humans can catch the virus from animals.
It is possible that a pet’s fur could become contaminated if an infected person has previously touched or stroked the animal.
But even without the threat of coronavirus, you should always wash your hands with soap and water after handling an animal or its lead, and avoid touching your nose and mouth.
Will my flatmates have to quarantine as well because of me? From Matteo in London
Unless your flatmates were travelling with you, they do not need to self-isolate or quarantine with you.
However, you must avoid contact with them and minimise the time you spend in shared spaces like kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas.
You should stay in a well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that can be opened, separate from your flatmates, and if you can, you should use a separate bathroom from them. If you do need to share these facilities, regular cleaning will be required after each person has used them.
Make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for bathing and showering, and for washing your hands.
End of Health issues
I live in Bermuda and have been vaccinated. Can I visit my house in London and not have to self-isolate, free to see family? Lizzie Gibbons, Hamilton, Bermuda
It doesn’t make any difference whether you have been vaccinated or not. Bermuda is not currently on the “red list” of countries which require you to quarantine in a hotel on arrival in the UK. However, you will still have to follow the general quarantining rules.
To be allowed entry into the UK, you must be able to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before travelling. On arrival, you must isolate for 10 days at the UK address you provide on your passenger locator form. You must not leave your house for any reason, not even to buy food, medicines or other essentials, or for exercise. You cannot see friends or family from another household during this period.
You must also take a coronavirus test on days two and eight of quarantine, at a cost of £210. If you test positive, you must self-isolate for a further 10 days. There is a £1,000 penalty for not taking the test, followed by a £2,000 fine for failing to take the second one, with quarantine automatically extended to 14 days.
Under the “test to release” scheme, travellers from countries not on the red list can choose to take an extra test on day five of isolation. If you test negative you can stop isolating. If you test positive you must quarantine for 10 more days after the test. Anyone using the scheme still has to take a further test on the eighth day.
Saga Cruises (and some others) say customers will need to prove they have been vaccinated in order to book with them. How can you prove it? Michael Sharman, Twickenham
Saga Cruises attracted headlines recently when it announced it would not allow any passengers to board without showing proof of full Covid vaccination.
On its website the company says that it expects all travellers to have received the vaccine at least 14 days before they embark on a cruise. It adds: “You will be required to bring the vaccination document and/or evidence with you as proof at the time of boarding.”
In terms of proof, people who have been vaccinated could show their record card, but there is no “vaccine passport” currently available, nor are there any concrete plans by the government to introduce one.
I’m an NHS worker who has been vaccinated. I have to travel to Poland to help my sister who was diagnosed with cancer over Christmas. What are the travel rules for people already vaccinated? From Daisy Kowalski
The fact that you have been vaccinated will not affect your ability to travel in or out of the UK, but you should still be allowed to travel to Poland if the purpose of your visit is to provide essential care for your sister.
Poland insists on a 10-day period of self-isolation for anyone arriving in the country by public transport.
You would not have to self-isolate if you had a negative Covid-19 test certificate issued within 48 hours before entering Poland (both PCR and lateral flow antigen tests are acceptable). You would have to pay privately for such a test.
You can also avoid self-isolation if you have been vaccinated against Covid-19 “and produce a certificate of vaccination”. However, the UK does not currently issue certificates of vaccination, and it is by no means certain that Polish border security would accept a vaccination record card as proof.
When you return to the UK, you will still have to observe the rules which currently apply to all arrivals from Poland – a negative test before travelling, a 10-day period of self-isolation at home, with two further tests taken during that period.
I am a British national currently working in Oman. Due to the pandemic, I have not been able to return home since March 2020. Will the UK government supply the embassy here with vaccine doses for expats like me? From Robert, Oman
The NHS doesn’t provide healthcare for UK nationals who live abroad, and this includes vaccinations. You’re advised to seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) says that it’s closely monitoring other countries’ plans for rolling out vaccines, and can advise British expats where to find information about local programmes.
If we have already been vaccinated, do we still have to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine on arrival from the UAE? From Anonymous, UAE
There are practically no exemptions from hotel quarantine for UK nationals arriving from the UAE – it is one of 33 red list countries where it’s feared new Covid variants might be spreading.
If you are vaccinated, you have a greatly reduced chance of catching the disease yourself, but you may still carry the disease and spread it to other people.
For that reason, you would have to obey quarantine laws or face a fine or prison sentence, just as you will have to follow the lockdown rules when you are in the UK.
End of Travelling to and from the UK
Currently the NHS tracing app requires IOS13.5 or above to install, so it is not compatible with older phones. Is there a workaround? From Taraka
If you can’t download the NHS Covid-19 tracing app, it is probably because your phone runs on an older operating system. The app will only work on a certain number of newer models.
This is because it uses technology only recently developed by Apple and Google, which will not work on earlier operating systems.
Your phone must have the IOS 13.5 operating system installed (released in May 2020), or Android 6.0 (released in 2015), as well as Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.
This excludes the iPhone 6 or any earlier models, as well as old versions of Apple’s handsets (and some newer Huawei phones).
If your smartphone is not compatible, the NHS Test and Trace Service is still the first port of call for any contact tracing issues.
My wife and I currently live apart until I retire. I live in Cumbria, she lives in Fort William. Which tracing app should I use? From Nick Jowett, Burgh-on-Sands, Cumbria
Apple and Google’s framework will not allow two apps to contact trace simultaneously.
So when you cross the border from England to Scotland, you need to open the Scottish app and turn on contact tracing within it. This will bring up a prompt asking: “Switch app for exposure notifications?” When you do this, it will turn off the app you were using beforehand.
I have a bar and restaurant and I have just watched BBC news report on the NHS app and QR code. Where do we obtain the QR code? From Steve Capewell, St Columb, Cornwall
You can get your own unique QR code at this government website. All you need to enter is your email and your restaurant’s address.
Every business, place of worship, event and community organisation with a public space should create a unique QR code they can display for visitors to scan.
You can then print off a QR code poster. It’s a good idea to put the QR poster near the entrance, so that visitors can log their location by scanning the poster with the track and trace app when they arrive.
If you run more than one venue, you will need to create a separate QR code for each location.
I have hearing aids which are connected to my smartphone via Bluetooth, will this affect the operation of the app? From Richard Smith, Milton Keynes
The government says that the app “has been designed to work in the phone’s background, working alongside other Bluetooth features and devices”, so your hearing aids should be unaffected.
If you do find some interference, there is an online form to report this to them.
There have been no reports of interference between the app and medical devices in trials, but the government says it is sensible to be cautious when you rely on a medical device – in particular, it has included advice for people who use pacemakers.
End of The NHS Covid tracing app
If you have to self-isolate will you only get statutory sick pay, or will your employer pay your salary? from Laura White in Herefordshire
The government advises that people who are self-isolating should work from home wherever possible and be paid as normal.
If they can’t work from home, employers must ensure any self-isolating employee gets sick pay or is allowed to use paid leave days if they prefer.
Employees in self-isolation are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay for every day they are in isolation, worth £95.85 per week, as long as they qualify.
However, employers can choose to pay staff their full wages during this period if they wish.
Do I have to go out if work are telling me to? It’s extremely stressful. From Sarah Jennings, Southport
With key workers wearing some sort of mask, how are deaf people who lip-read supposed to understand what is being said? From Margaret Roll in Clevedon
Wearing masks presents major challenges for some deaf people who rely on lip-reading to communicate, but who also need to stay safe from catching the virus, especially if in a hospital setting.
The charity Action on Hearing Loss says there are some clinically approved see-through covered face masks that help enable lip-reading. However, they do not provide enough protection against aerosols spread by coronavirus, and wouldn’t be right for health and social care workers to use during this pandemic.
They say it might be worth using a small whiteboard to communicate. There are also some subtitling or captioning apps that may provide some help.
I am a nurse and my husband is recovering from blood cancer. Going to work means taking chances on his life. Can I be furloughed? From Lisha, Fareham
If your employer is eligible, you can ask them if you can be furloughed through the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
While on furlough you would receive 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
The government has said that workers who need to look after their dependants are eligible for the scheme.
If you work for the NHS, where most employees are not eligible for the furlough scheme, you should speak to your employer. NHS employers have been advised to be as supportive and flexible as possible towards staff with caring committments.
Must people carry on working from home? Until when? Elizabeth Brennan, London
During the national lockdown, people across the UK were told to work from home wherever possible as part of the general “stay at home” guidance.
In England, Scotland and Wales this rule ends at the end of March, but the government is still advising that people should continue to work from home where they can. They should also “stay local”, minimising the number of journeys they make and avoiding travel at the busiest times and on the busiest routes.
Where people have not been able to work from home, employers must take steps to make their workplaces Covid-19 secure. This includes supporting social distancing and carrying out enhanced cleaning. It is not yet clear how long these extra measures will need to remain in place.
End of Going to work
CORRECTION: A previous version of this piece incorrectly said it was possible to hold wedding receptions in gardens from 12 April. This is only possible for receptions with up to a total of six people from multiple households, or any number from two households. From 17 May up to 30 people will be allowed at receptions held in a garden, if Covid targets are met.
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