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Coronavirus - what it means for you

This advice applies to England

This page is regularly updated as government advice becomes available.

There are things you can do to help you avoid getting coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. There are also things you can do to stop the virus spreading if you think you have it.

You can read more about the symptoms of coronavirus and how to avoid it on the NHS website.

You can also watch British Sign Language versions of government advice on the SignHealth website. 

Check if something is a scam

Make sure you only use trusted sources of information about coronavirus.

If you see emails about coronavirus from someone you don't know, don't click on any links or buy anything.

Don’t give money or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust – for example, if someone knocks on your door and offers to help.

You can check if something is a scam.

Staying home

The government has said you must stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact with other people. They’ll review this situation in mid-April 2020.

You could be told to return home by the police or be fined if you go out without a good reason. 

Good reasons for going out include:

  • getting money, for example from a cash machine, credit union or pawnbroker

  • shopping for basic things like food, medicine and pet supplies - this must be as infrequent as possible

  • taking a child to school

  • daily exercise, for example a run, walk or bike ride - this can be alone or with members of your household

  • any medical need - but contact your GP, dentist or health service by phone first, if you can

  • caring for a vulnerable person - for example they need help to stay safe, wash or eat 

You can also travel to and from work if it’s ‘not reasonably possible’ for you to work from home. This includes if you work as a volunteer or for a charity.

If you have children under 18

If you’re separated from their other parent, you can still see your children under your usual arrangements. Find out how to change child arrangements if you’re self-isolating.

You’ll also be responsible for making sure your children follow government guidance - this includes being told to return home by the police.


If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened

You can still get help during this time. Contact a domestic abuse organisation to check what services are available.

Situations where you can leave home and gather with others

The government has said there are a few situations where you can gather with more than 1 other person.

The situations where you can gather include: 

  • going to a funeral - this can be for someone you lived with, close family or a friend with no close family
  • helping someone in an emergency
  • helping others care for a vulnerable person
  • attending a court or tribunal hearing - but check your hearing is still taking place in person

It's fine to gather with more than 1 person if you all live together.

You should read the latest guidance on what you can and can’t do on GOV.UK. This guidance from the government is updated regularly.

Help you can get

The government has also announced other ways they’re helping people. 

We’ll publish new advice to help you understand any changes when they’re announced. We’ll also update our existing advice.

 Advice so far includes things like:

  • getting essential items and care if you’re ‘extremely vulnerable’
  • paying bills, including your rent
  • getting paid if you can’t work because of coronavirus
  • getting an online isolation note if you need to prove you’re sick
  • taking your children to school if you’re a key worker, for example if you work in the NHS, the police or do food deliveries
  • postponing or cancelling travel arrangements

If you’re extremely vulnerable because of a medical condition

You’re ‘extremely vulnerable’ if you have certain medical conditions – for example, severe asthma or cancer.

The NHS will contact you by Sunday 29 March with advice on how to avoid coming into contact with coronavirus. This is called ‘shielding’. They’ll ask you to:

  • avoid face to face contact with other people

  • stay at home for 12 weeks  

If you think you’re extremely vulnerable but the NHS hasn’t contacted you, contact your GP or hospital clinician. 

Find out more about shielding and if you’re classed as extremely vulnerable on GOV.UK.

If you need help to get care or essential supplies like food

You should register to get help - you don’t need to have been contacted by the NHS. If you’re not sure if you’re extremely vulnerable, register anyway.

You can register yourself or someone else on GOV.UK.

If you’ve got less money because of coronavirus

You can check what help you can get if you’re struggling to pay your bills or are worried about being evicted. This includes things like your rent, mortgage, energy bills, council tax or court fines.

Getting benefits

You might be able to claim benefits or get more money if you’re already getting benefits. This includes any ‘statutory sick pay’ your employer might give you.

Check what benefits you can get.

If you’re already getting benefits, check if the government has made any changes to your benefits.

If you have no money for food

You might be able get help from a food bank. You’ll need to be referred to a food bank. If you have a referral, you’re still allowed to travel to a food bank - either for yourself or someone who’s vulnerable. 

Find out more about getting referred to a food bank.

Going to work 

The government has said you should only go to work if your work can ‘absolutely not be done from home’.

If your employer tells you not to work because of coronavirus

If your place of work has shut down or there’s no work for you because of coronavirus, you can carry on getting paid. 

Your employer can use the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to pay you while there’s no work to do.

Find out how the scheme works.

If you’re off sick

You can get an ‘isolation note’ online to prove to your employer you need to stay off work. 

You can:

If you’re worried about going to work because of coronavirus

If you don’t go to work, your employer usually doesn’t have to pay you. They might decide to dismiss you from your job. You can challenge the decision to dismiss you if you think it wasn’t fair – check if your dismissal was unfair.

If you’re worried about getting coronavirus at work, ask your employer if you can:

  • work from home
  • change how you work so you have less contact with other people
  • change your working hours so you don’t have to travel when it’s busy

Your employer should do what they can to keep you safe from coronavirus.

If you’re pregnant, your employer has to make sure it’s safe for you to keep working. This is called doing a ‘risk assessment’ – ask your employer if they’ve done this. If the risk assessment shows your work’s not safe, check what changes your employer could make.

If you’re disabled, your employer might have to make changes to your work to help you do your job. For example, they might let you work from home or change how you work. This is called making ‘reasonable adjustments’ – check how to ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments.

Taking your children to school

Schools, nurseries and sixth form colleges have closed for most children. 

You can still take your children to school if you’re a ‘critical worker’. This means your job keeps an important service running, like the NHS, police or food deliveries. Check if you’re a critical worker on GOV.UK.

You should also still take your children to school if they’re considered vulnerable, for example they have:

  • a social worker
  • an Education, Health and Care Plan

If you’re not sure, check if your child’s considered vulnerable on GOV.UK.

The school will tell you if your children need to go to a different school. If the school has closed, contact your local council – find your local council on GOV.UK.

Check the government’s advice on school closures on GOV.UK.

If you need to take time off to look after your children

Speak to your employer. Read more about taking time off work to look after your children on GOV.UK.

If you're renting your home

There are things you can do if you can’t pay your rent or you’re worried about being evicted.

You can find out what to do if you're struggling to pay your bills because of coronavirus.

If you're planning on travelling abroad

Government advice is not to travel right now unless you really have to - you can read more about if you have to travel on GOV.UK.

If you really have to travel abroad you should check up-to-date travel guidance on GOV.UK. It'll tell you which countries you shouldn't go to because of coronavirus. You should also contact your insurer and make sure you’re covered to travel - get the details of your cover in writing.

If you already have a holiday booked it’s worth checking guidance from your travel agent, airline or other holiday provider. You might be able to rebook your holiday and go later in the year.

If you need to cancel your holiday because you’re ill or you’re following government advice, get in touch with your travel insurer to see if you’re covered for cancelling. 

You can also find out what to do if your package holiday is cancelled. If you need more help, you can get advice from the consumer service.

If you think shops aren’t acting fairly 

Shops and businesses can put up their prices if they want to. If you’ve noticed that things cost more than usual, you’ll need to decide if you want to pay for the item or not. 

If you’re worried a business isn’t being fair with their prices or is acting illegally, you can report them to Trading Standards. Trading Standards might not reply to your complaint. 

If you think a shop is open when it shouldn’t be, you can check which businesses should be closed on GOV.UK.

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