The rules around Christmas bubbles have changed around the UK, while a new tier four has been introduced in parts of England.
Here are some of your questions about these and other related topics.
Questions and answers
If a student stayed at university past the student travel window, can they still travel home this week using previously booked train tickets? Are they allowed to use London stations on their journey between different tier two areas? From Clare
The government says that people should not travel into or out of a tier four area in England unless it’s for unavoidable work, education, caring responsibilities or healthcare reasons.
However, students in England and Wales can still travel home despite the travel window (which was 3-9 December) now being closed. They can temporarily move to a “vacation household” – such as their family home – until 7 February and then return to university.
Separately, the government has said it will provide cash refunds for domestic rail and coach tickets bought on or after 24 November for the previous Christmas travel window, which was planned to run between 23 and 27 December.
In Scotland, students can travel home if they have two negative test results taken five days apart.
I live in Dumfries in Scotland where level four restrictions will begin on Boxing Day. My partner lives in Carlisle. Do I have to spend Christmas alone? From Chloe Jones, Dumfries
Dumfries is currently under level one restrictions, but will move to level four from Boxing Day, along with the rest of mainland Scotland, for a period of three weeks. Under level four rules, there can’t be any non-essential cross-border travel between Scotland and England.
In addition, the Scottish government has said that Christmas bubbles can only be formed with two other households in Scotland on Christmas Day itself.
However, if you and your partner have formed an extended household, then you are exempt from these restrictions, and will be able to travel between and stay in either home throughout this period.
My washing machine has broken and I have managed to order a new one that is due for delivery and installation on Christmas Eve. As we are now under tier four, is this still allowed? From Robin Whittaker
People are still allowed to travel for work inside tier four areas, including jobs that involve going into people’s homes.
However, companies may have different polices when it comes to delivering items inside a home or dropping them off at the doorstep.
The government has issued guidelines on how to stay Covid-safe in these situations, and advises that you minimise contact during deliveries – for example, by using electronic payment and receipt methods.
I’m a staff nurse working a 13-hour shift on Christmas Day. Can people in my situation in England change the day they see their family to Boxing Day? From Lynne Jones, West Yorkshire
Plans to allow Christmas bubbles over the festive period have changed. The new rules for areas in tiers one to three – including West Yorkshire – only allow up to three households to celebrate indoors together on Christmas Day itself.
People in Northern Ireland can choose which day to bubble with their family between 23 and 27 December. But this is not the case in England, Wales or Scotland. Unfortunately this means that unless you have an existing support bubble arrangement with other members of your family, you will not be able to celebrate indoors with them.
However, in a tier three area, you are still allowed to meet in a group of six in outdoor spaces such as parks, beaches or countryside areas. So, you may be able to see some relatives in this way.
In tier four, you are only allowed to mix with members of your household or support bubble indoors.
We were due to have a small family meal on Christmas Day but are now in tier four. Can we deliver the meals to the other households if we do not enter their houses or have physical contact with them? From Marcus Richardson
Under the new rules about mixing, people in tier four areas will only be able to celebrate Christmas with members of their own household or support bubble.
People in tier four areas are asked to stay at home unless they have a “reasonable excuse” to leave it, such as work, education, medical appointments, exercise or to provide care for vulnerable people. Residents are only allowed to travel outside tier four in very limited circumstances.
Within tier four, one person can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place, but must stay 2m (6ft) apart or take extra precautions like wearing a face covering.
Assuming your relatives also live in tier four, there is nothing in the rules to prohibit you delivering food to them, on a no-contact basis. However, people who are over 70 or who are considered clinically vulnerable are advised to minimise their contact with other people. They should take extra precautions such as more regular hand-washing and cleaning of surfaces. They should not share crockery or cutlery with other households.
I live alone in Peterborough, tier 4, and my partner lives alone in March, tier 2. We have been “bubbled” since the first lockdown ended. Am I allowed to spend Christmas with her in her home? From Colin Dooley, Peterborough
How will the new rules for London and the south-east affect care home visiting? From Lynn, Kent
The government has provided more than a million “lateral flow” Covid-19 testing kits to care homes in England, so that people who test negative would be able to have close contact visits with their relatives. These handheld kits give a result in about 20 minutes.
However, it has now updated its guidance on care home visits to make it clear that such visits can only take place in tiers one, two and three.
It is not possible to have close contact visits in tier four areas, with the exception of end of life visits which should be possible in all tiers.
However, outdoor visits can continue in all tier areas including tier four, as can indoor visits as long as people are behind substantial screens or in visiting pods.
What is the rule for somebody who lives in a tier four area but works in a tier two area? From Sarah Lycett
If you live in tier four, you are being asked to stay at home unless you have a “reasonable excuse”.
The reasons allowed include going to work if you cannot work effectively from home,. If you need to leave tier four to get to your place of work, that is allowed.
If you have to travel, the advice is to walk or cycle if possible, or if you have to use public transport, plan ahead to avoid busy routes and times to make it easier to practise social distancing.
Can you explain how the new variant of the Covid virus is more transmissible? What does this mean exactly? From Kevin Waite
Health online editor
The new variant is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus 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.
Why is this virus spreading so quickly if we are washing our hands endlessly? From Christine Byman
Health online editor
This new variant does appear to be spreading more easily and becoming the dominant type of coronavirus in some parts of the UK.
But human behaviour is extremely important too. Following social distancing rules can help stop the spread. The new variant can still be destroyed with soap and water.
If you are with your family all day on Christmas Day, what is the problem or additional risk of staying overnight? From Ross Ricketts, Bransgore
Coronavirus is transmitted by personal contact, so the longer you meet with others the greater the risk that an infected person could pass on the virus to someone else.
Other tips to reduce the risk are not to hug elderly relatives, keep the noise down (because shouting over loud music releases greater amounts of the virus), try to keep rooms ventilated by opening windows, and avoid people from different households sitting opposite each other round a table.
Also try to reduce the number of people you come into contact with in the days before you enter the Christmas bubble.
We live in tier two, my mother lives about 90 miles away in tier three. As a support bubble can we pick her up and drive to a restaurant in tier two? From Giles
You can meet your mother if she is part of your support bubble but you cannot go to a restaurant together. This is because people who live in “very high” tier three areas still have to follow the rules for that tier, which include not going to pubs and restaurants.
People who are eligible to form support bubbles are encouraged to do so locally, while those living in tier three areas of England are also advised to minimise travel in or out of the area.
But you are still allowed to form support bubbles across tiers, and can travel to meet with each other and behave as one household.
If your mother or anyone else in your support bubble is clinically extremely vulnerable they should minimise social contact. But this is a personal choice and the government advises that the benefits from seeing people should be balanced against the increased risk of infection.
End of Christmas bubbles and the latest tier changes
My 95-year-old mother has a pacemaker. Can she cope with a full-strength dose or should she wait for the half-strength first dose Oxford vaccine (subject to approval)? From Phil Hemingway
During the Pfizer vaccine trials, people of all ages were vaccinated to make sure it was safe and effective in older age groups who are most at risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19.
In fact, the vaccine was found to be 94% effective in the over-65s. There is no evidence that the over-90s are not able to cope with two full-strength doses.
The first primes the body’s defences against the virus, while the second dose is a booster which offers full protection after a week.
Prof Van-Tam said he is “hopeful” the Oxford vaccine will be approved by Christmas, but said: “That’s entirely out of my hands. It’s down to the MHRA, the UK regulatory body. If it takes them a few weeks, or a few months, that’s fine, they have to get it right.”
Is it likely that we will be given proof of vaccination, eg: a stamped form or card with a name on it? From Valerie Holmes, Cambridge
It’s not clear yet how people will be able to prove they have a Covid vaccine if they need permission to travel, for example.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said there would be a digital record of which vaccine people were given and how many doses, but added there was, as yet, “no firm information on vaccine certificates”.
This suggests that vaccine certificates or passports are being thought about, but there’s no final decision so far. Prof Van-Tam said it was important to keep a very good list of who is getting a vaccine and who has had it.
How do staff know that the vaccine they are giving you has not expired because of incorrect storage? From Keith, Loughborough
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.
Is it safe for pregnant women and their babies to take the vaccine? From Abbie Rankin, Dumfries
At present, women are not advised to have a Covid vaccine during pregnancy, or if they are planning to get pregnant in the next three months.
There are no safety concerns from any of the data but, as in most trials, the vaccine has not yet been tested on pregnant women.
As a result, the official advice is that women should postpone being vaccinated until they have given birth.
NHS guidance says that if a woman finds out she is pregnant after having the first dose, she should not have the second dose until after the pregnancy has ended.
The vaccine distribution will be largely prioritised by age, so the majority of pregnant women would be low down on the list to receive it in any case.
Even pregnant women who are at higher risk of coronavirus – with underlying heart conditions, for example – should wait until after their pregnancy and then have the jab as soon as possible afterwards.
Could there be a delay having the second vaccination due to low stock or supply delivery problems? If so how would that affect the immunisation process? From Paul, Wakefield
The Pfizer vaccine consists of two doses, given about 21 days apart, and full protection from Covid-19 only starts a week after the second dose.
The 800,000 doses being sent to the UK in the first batch is therefore enough for 400,000 people – and they are likely to be NHS staff and patients.
Because these will be carried out in regional hospital hubs, there is no danger of low supply, and when the next, larger batch arrives all of the doses will also be earmarked for priority groups.
How can we be sure the vaccine is safe with such a short testing period? From Maddie M
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.
When the rollout of the vaccine begins with the priority 1 group, will those in that group who have had Covid already, be vaccinated? From Neil, Croydon
People will be vaccinated whether or not they’ve had Covid.
We don’t yet know how long natural immunity lasts, and vaccination can offer better protection than immunity from the disease itself.
Are you protected after the first dose of the vaccine? From Lynne Wait, Poole
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to be fully effective.
According to Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chairman of the Commission on Human Medicine Expert Working Group, the first jab provides only partial immunity, from about 12 days after the injection.
People will be given a second dose of the vaccine 21 days after the first, and they should be fully immune seven days after that.
Is the vaccine compulsory? From Kim, North Yorkshire
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.
How long will immunity last once vaccinated? From Seth Harris, Norfolk
Scientists don’t know the exact answer to that at the moment.
The volunteers in the vaccine trials who were given the jab will be followed up for many months to come to check how long they are protected for.
Natural immunity to the virus, once someone has been infected, appears to last at least six months so it’s likely a vaccine will offer this length of protection and hopefully a lot more.
End of Approval for the Pfizer vaccine
Is the Oxford vaccine suitable for people whose immune systems are not strong, such as transplant recipients? From Carol Olley, Newcastle
Health online editor
If your immune system is suppressed and not working as well as it might, some “live” vaccines are not recommended. This is because the weakened virus they are made from could cause problems.
The Oxford vaccine is not a “live” vaccine. Scientists are testing which patients could benefit from it and whether this might include people with certain health conditions, or who are taking particular medication or undergoing treatment for something else, such as cancer or HIV.
There are lots of different Covid vaccines in development and some may be more suitable for different groups than others.
Is the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine any safer or more traditional than Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines? From Tom Haslam, Leicester
Health online editor
These three different Covid vaccines all appear to be safe and effective in trials. It will be up to regulators to check the data and decide whether to approve the jabs for widespread use.
The Oxford vaccine is based on a more traditional method for making vaccines than the Pfizer and Moderna ones. It uses a modified, harmless cold virus to carry the genetic information on Covid into the body to get the immune system to mount a response. The Oxford team has already used this technology to make vaccines for other diseases, including flu. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a brand new method for making a vaccine.
They contain a small amount of genetic code, made in the lab, to match the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic virus. This does not alter the genetics of human cells though, but triggers the immune system to make antibodies that can fight Covid.
Can the vaccine cause harm to a pregnant woman and their unborn child? From Jenny, Derbyshire
Health online editor
A vaccine will only be approved for use if regulators are satisfied that it is safe. Should a vaccine become available, it is not clear whether pregnant women would be offered it.
There is no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus, but they are included in the “clinically vulnerable” list as a precaution.
Some vaccines, such as the flu jab, are recommended during pregnancy.
My husband is allergic to eggs and cannot have a flu jab because they use egg to culture the vaccine. Is it the same with COVID-19 vaccines? From Yvone, Albury
Health online editor
Neither the Pfizer jab nor the Covid vaccines that could soon be approved for use – Moderna or Oxford/Astrazeneca – are made using eggs so there should be no issue for people with egg allergies.
Is there any point taking the Oxford vaccine as it is not effective enough? From A Frost
Health online editor
No vaccine is 100% effective for everyone. And 70% is still very good, particularly for a disease as serious as Covid-19.
US regulators had said they would accept 50% protection as worth pursuing for Covid. Flu jabs are between 40% and 60% effective.
Will I be able to choose which vaccine I receive? From Sarah, Oadby
Health online editor
Only one vaccine has been approved so far.
If more than one gets the green light from regulators, then the priority will be getting doses out to the people who need it the most, as quickly as possible.
These steps will determine which vaccines are available first and can be offered to patients. It is unlikely that people will be able to pick and choose.
Does the Moderna vaccine have storage and distribution constraints similar to the Pfizer vaccine? From Colin Hayes
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.
If the vaccine is successful and vaccination begins, how will I know if the people around me in a public place have been vaccinated? From David Rowe, Crawley
Health online editor
Initially, only a small proportion of society will be offered a vaccine. The first stocks reaching the UK will be offered to those who need protecting from coronavirus the most in terms of disease severity – the elderly living in care homes and the health staff who work there.
Medical notes will say if an individual has been given the vaccine, but these are private records. There is no suggestion yet that people will need to carry proof of immunisation.
What is the difference between a recovery with a small chance of reinfection, and a vaccine that is only 90% effective? From Clark, Kidderminster
Health online editor
People can get immunity to coronavirus either naturally – when they have been infected – or via a vaccine.
A vaccine that is 90% effective means that most people (nine in every 10) who are immunised will get some protection against the disease.
The big question is how long does this protection last? Scientists do not know the answer, either for natural immunity or vaccine-induced immunity.
I have been waiting for two months for a skin cancer biopsy. Will the Covid 19 vaccination programme mean I wait longer? From Bill Singleton, Bristol
Health online editor
The NHS has been planning how best to roll out the vaccine. It will be a large-scale immunisation programme, requiring lots of trained staff to administer the jabs.
Pharmacists, nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals will be able to vaccinate people in a range of settings – including care homes, hospitals and GP clinics as well as pop-up centres, such as sports stadiums and conference buildings.
It could mean some delays to some non-Covid NHS services, but urgent and essential care will be prioritised. The aim is to keep usual services running whenever possible. You could contact your GP to discuss any concerns you have.
Whilst the vaccine will not be mandatory, is it possible that establishments could make proof of vaccination a condition of entry? From Will Ho, London
Health online editor
Some countries require proof of vaccination for other diseases – for example, for polio. It will be up to individual countries to decide their own vaccination policy for Covid and whether an immunisation certificate is necessary in the future for travellers.
There was also a suggestion when Prime Minister Boris Johnson talked about his “Moonshot” plan for mass rapid testing, that a negative on-the-day result would allow people to go to the theatre or a football match.
Given that the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-low temperature, would there be any major logistical challenges in that respect? From Jack
Health online editor
The ingredients in the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine are not very stable and need to be kept at below -70C until before use.
That means it must be transported carefully. But it must be thawed before it is given to a patient and Pfizer says the jab remains viable for up to five days kept in a normal fridge before it is administered.
Will the new vaccine protect against mink-mutated Covid? From Daemon Griffiths
Health online editor
Experts have recently discovered mutations in the genetic code of coronavirus that appear to have happened when mink caught the disease from humans and then passed it back to people.
Scientists are studying these alterations to see if they have significantly changed the behaviour and threat of the virus to mankind. So far, there is no evidence that the mutations pose an increased danger to people or that they will undermine the effectiveness of any Covid-19 vaccines.
All viruses mutate to some extent over time. Some changes can make a virus less lethal or contagious. Flu – a different virus to Covid – changes frequently, which is why the annual flu vaccine changes too, to keep pace.
End of More questions about vaccines
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 new 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 new 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
What is the coronavirus? from Caitlin in Leeds Most asked
Coronavirus is an infectious disease discovered in China in December 2019. Its more precise name is Covid-19.
There are actually hundreds of coronaviruses – most of which circulate among animals, including pigs, camels, bats and cats. But there are a few – such as Covid-19 – that infect humans.
Some coronaviruses cause mild to moderate illnesses, such as the common cold. Covid-19 is among those that can lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia.
Most infected people will have only mild symptoms – perhaps a fever, aching limbs a cough, and loss of taste or smell – and will recover without special treatment.
But some older people, and those with underlying medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer are at greater risk of becoming seriously unwell.
The NHS has more about symptoms.
Once you’ve had coronavirus will you then be immune? from Denise Mitchell in Bicester Most asked
When people recover from an infection, their body is left with some memory of how to fight it should they encounter it again. This immunity is not always long-lasting or totally efficient, however, and can decrease over time.
It is unclear, though, if people who have recovered from coronavirus will be able to get it again.
Hong Kong scientists have reported the first case of a man who was reinfected with coronavirus, although the World Health Organization has warned against jumping to conclusions on the basis of one case.
University of Oxford’s Prof Sarah Gilbert, who is working on creating a vaccine for Covid-19, says that it “probably is likely” that an infected person will be able to be reinfected in the future.
What is the incubation period for the coronavirus? from Gillian Gibs
Health online editor
Scientists have said that the “incubation period” – the time between catching the virus and starting to show symptoms – is five days on average. However, some people can have symptoms earlier or much later than this.
The World Health Organization advises that the incubation period can last up to 14 days. But some researchers say it may be up to 24 days.
Knowing and understanding the incubation period is very important. It allows doctors and health authorities to introduce more effective ways to control the spread of the virus.
Is coronavirus more infectious than flu? from Merry Fitzpatrick in Sydney
Health online editor
Both viruses are highly contagious.
On average, it’s thought people with the coronavirus infect two to three other people, while those with flu pass it on to about one other person.
There are simple steps you can take to stop the spread of flu and coronavirus:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
If you have returned from holiday abroad and have to self-isolate in quarantine, you will not automatically qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), so it’s possible you might have to make arrangements with your employer if you cannot work from home.
- Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and then put it in the bin
How long can you be ill? from Nita in Maidstone
For four out of five people Covid-19 will be a mild disease, a bit like flu.
Symptoms include [fever, a dry cough or loss of smell and taste(https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51048366)
If the virus gets well established in the lungs it can cause breathing difficulties and pneumonia. About one in seven people may need hospital treatment.
Recovery time will depend on how sick you became in the first place. Some people shrug off the illness quickly, but for others the path to full health can take months, and leave lasting problems.
Asymptomatic people are regarded as “silent spreaders” – what proportion of the population are they estimated to be and how do you find them? From Val Holland in Worcester
This is the subject of ongoing research, but little is still known about how many people are carrying the virus without knowing it.
Different studies currently suggest a huge range of possibilities for how many “silent spreaders” there are – ranging from 5% to 80% of cases. That was the conclusion of an analysis by Prof Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford and colleagues who looked at 21 research projects.
The upshot, they said, was that “there is not a single reliable study to determine the number of asymptomatics”. And they said that if the screening for Covid-19 is only carried out on people with symptoms – which has been the main focus of UK testing policy – then cases will be missed, “perhaps a lot of cases”.
Some scientists believe that asymptomatic cases may be the main force driving the pandemic, and there have been calls for increased testing to establish how many “silent carriers” there may be.
Why are diabetics not included in the clinically extremely vulnerable patients, and will the list be refreshed? from Derek Roberts in Hornchurch, Essex
Health online editor
Diabetics are not included in the list of people at highest risk. However, some may be advised to take extra precautions if they suffer from a combination of factors, such as heart disease or obesity, as well as diabetes – which put them at much higher risk of complications.
A third of virus deaths in England from 1 March to 11 May were linked to diabetes, but research suggests the threat for those under 40 with type 1 (insulin-dependent) or type 2 diabetes is still very low.
Age remains the strongest risk factor for becoming severely or fatally ill with coronavirus, say experts.
Diabetes UK advises anyone with diabetes to try their best to manage their condition carefully, keeping their blood sugar in range as much as possible, as well as following social distancing measures.
How dangerous is coronavirus for people with asthma? from Lesley-Anne in Falkirk
Health online editor
Asthma UK’s advice is to keep taking your daily preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed. This will help cut the risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.
Carry your blue reliever inhaler with you every day, in case you feel your asthma symptoms flaring up. If your asthma is getting worse and there is a risk you might have coronavirus, contact the online NHS 111 coronavirus service.
Are otherwise healthy disabled people more at risk from coronavirus? from Abigail Ireland in Stockport
Coronavirus can be more severe in older people and those with pre-existing conditions such as heart and lung illnesses, or diabetes.
There is no evidence that disabled people who are otherwise healthy – and who don’t, for instance, have respiratory problems – are at greater risk from coronavirus.
Will people who’ve have had pneumonia experience milder coronavirus symptoms? from Marje in Montreal
Covid-19 can, in a small number of cases, lead to pneumonia, most notably in people with pre-existing lung conditions.
But as this is a new virus, no-one will have any immunity to it, whether they have previously had pneumonia, or any other form of coronavirus such as Sars.
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.
Many of the experimental coronavirus jabs currently being tested contain the genetic instructions for the surface spike protein that coronavirus uses to attach to and infect human cells. Reassuringly, scientists have not seen any substantial mutations to this part of the virus yet that would render these vaccines useless.
End of All about coronavirus
What should I do if someone I live with is self-isolating? from Graham Wright in London
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.”
End of Protecting myself and others
I am five months pregnant and want to understand the risk to the baby if I get infected? from a BBC website reader
Pregnant women are being advised by the UK government to stay at home and keep contact with others to a minimum. However, they should attend antenatal clinics as normal.
There is no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get coronavirus. But, for a small number of women, being pregnant may change the way their body deals with a severe viral infection.
The government’s chief medical adviser says this is a precautionary measure until scientists find out more about the virus and that “infections and pregnancy are not a good combination in general”.
I am breastfeeding my five-month-old baby – what should I do if I get coronavirus? from Maeve McGoldrick
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.
What is the risk to children? from Louise in London
In general, children appear to be relatively unaffected by coronavirus, according to data from China and other countries.
This may be because they are able to shake off the infection or have no symptoms or only very mild ones similar to a cold.
However, children with underlying lung problems, such as asthma, may have to be more careful.
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I’m self-employed. Can I claim benefits if I can’t work due to the virus? from Mark Gribby in Nottingham
Personal finance correspondent
Self-employed people who have symptoms or have been told to self-isolate may apply for two benefits – universal credit or employment and support allowance.
Normally, you would be eligible after four days of being ill. However, the government has responded to the spread of coronavirus by saying that companies will temporarily pay SSP from the first day off.
But charities are worried that there is still a five-week delay before universal credit is paid.
Who is eligible for universal credit? from Mario in London
BBC Radio 4
Anyone aged 18 or above can apply for universal credit if they live in the UK and are on a low income or out of work.
Students in full-time education aren’t usually eligible for universal credit, but they can make a claim if they do not have any parental support, are responsible for a child or are in a couple with a partner who is eligible for universal credit.
People aged 16 or 17 can also apply for universal credit if they do not have any parental support, are responsible for a child, caring for a disabled person or cannot work.
You can use the government’s benefits calculator to find out how much you may be entitled to.
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.
What are my chances of getting a job in lockdown/when lockdown is over? from Jess in Essex
BBC Radio 4
Research conducted by the Resolution Foundation has found that the coronavirus pandemic could increase youth unemployment by 600,000 this year.
If you’re worried about finding a job you can head to the National Careers Service for advice on how to find job vacancies.
You can also search online for virtual job fairs. This could help you explore different job opportunities and connect with potential employers directly from home.
Experts recommend using lockdown to refresh your CV and also look for any online training opportunities which might put you in a better position when you eventually apply for a job.
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Can I travel to Ireland and then onto another country, then back to the UK via Ireland to avoid the quarantine? from Chris McCann in Sandhurst
The short answer to this is no.
It’s true that you don’t have to go into quarantine if you’re returning to the UK from what’s known as the Common Travel Area (CTA) – Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
When the government first announced its plans, there was some speculation that to avoid quarantine, travellers from other countries would be able to fly into an airport in the CTA, and then on to the UK and so avoid having to self-isolate.
However, this loophole (termed by some the “Dublin dodge”) has now been closed by the government. Travellers will only be exempt from quarantine if they have been in the CTA for 14 days or more.
You will have to show proof of when you entered the CTA, and how long you have spent there – such as a boarding pass or itinerary – when you enter the UK.
Do key workers have to quarantine? From Mateusz in London
Key workers will not necessarily be exempt.
The government has published a detailed list of who will not need to follow the quarantine rules. Among others, it includes road haulage and freight workers, medical and care professionals providing essential health care, some seasonal agricultural workers, Eurostar and Eurotunnel employees, pilots and aircrew and people working to maintain key infrastructure such as the railways.
It also depends where you are going in the UK – some employees will be exempt from quarantine in England and Wales, but not Scotland.
The government guidance details what you’ll need to show when you enter the UK to prove you are exempt. This differs between categories but typically includes proof of your name and address, the name of your employer and what work you’ll be doing.
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.
If I have to quarantine after a holiday and can’t work from home will I get paid? From Emma in Portishead, Bristol
If you have returned from holiday abroad and have to self-isolate in quarantine, you will not automatically qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), so it’s possible you might have to take the extra time off as annual leave, or else as unpaid leave.
The Department of Work and Pensions says that anyone planning to travel should do so in the knowledge that they will be required to self-isolate on their return.
It adds that employers and staff should discuss and agree any arrangements in advance, and urges employers to take socially responsible decisions.
Meanwhile, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is still advising UK nationals against taking all but essential international travel.
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