Government Answers To Public Questions

This is the most recent selection of questions asked by the public and answered and published by the Government on 28 May 2020.

Social distancing, and seeing your family and friends

Can you clarify the difference between social distancing in a park with strangers rather than family and friends?

Exposure to the virus is based on a number of factors including the time that you spend in close proximity to people outside of your household and the number of other people that you spend time with. We realise this is difficult for families, but need to be clear that people must not be gathering in groups of more than two with people from other households.

Why am I allowed to meet in a park, but not in my garden?

You can now see one other person from a different household in an open public space. This has to be one-on-one, outdoors in an open public space and obeying strict social distancing. You cannot visit friends and family in their homes, including in private gardens.

Can I meet more than 1 member of another household while observing social distancing?

No. You can only meet one other person from outside your household in an open, public space while obeying strict social distancing. You will be breaking the law if you meet with more than one person from outside your household.

Safe social distancing guidance

When schools are reopening

What’s the rationale behind sending reception, year 1 and year 6 students back to school?

Early childhood is the most important time for cognitive, social and emotional development. That’s why we are prioritising places for the youngest children learning the essentials of reading, writing and counting. This also helps parents return to work, or work more effectively from home, given these children need the greatest care.

Pupils in other years will continue to be educated remotely until they return to school.

How do we make sure our children keep their distance from each other at school?

Through gradually increasing the number of children and young people attending schools and colleges, we’re able to take measures to reduce transmission, such as small group and class sizes, and altering the environment such as classroom layout and staggering break times. This all helps children to keep their distance from each other.

Schools are also putting in place measures to ensure the highest standards of safety. This will include more frequent washing of hands, encouraging good respiratory hygiene (cough etiquette) and regular cleaning of surfaces that are touched frequently.

Schools will be given advice in the coming week to ensure they can adequately prepare for the next phase.

The guidance is that if a child becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature, or loss of, or change in, their normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia) they must be sent home and advised to follow the COVID-19 guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

Is it safe to send my child back to school if we’re shielding?

For the vast majority of children and young people, coronavirus is a mild illness.

However, if someone in your household is extremely clinically vulnerable, as set out in the guidance on shielding and protecting people, then your child should only go to school or a childcare setting if stringent social distancing can be followed while they are both there and at home.

This may not be possible in the case of young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing.

If social distancing rules cannot be followed, those children should be supported to learn or work at home.

Will I be fined if I choose not to send my child back to school because I don’t believe it’s safe?

No. We urge as many children in eligible groups as possible to attend. However, we will not fine parents for keeping their children at home.

What parents and carers need to know about schools

Using protective equipment in schools

Opening schools from 1 June

Rules for reopening businesses, and weddings

Can small gyms and clubs reopen if they follow social distancing and hygiene measures?

No, gyms and leisure centres remain closed, because the risk of transmission in these indoor environments is higher. You cannot exercise in an indoor fitness studio, gym, swimming pool, or other indoor leisure centres or facilities. They will reopen in phases provided it is safe to do so.

However, as of Wednesday 13 May, you can leave home to spend time in open public spaces more than once a day, with no time limit and for a wider range of reasons.

Are hairdressers and beauty salons classified as hospitality or retail? When can they reopen?

Hairdressers and beauty salons remain closed, at least until 4 July, because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher due to the indoor environment and closer physical contact. We will work with the personal care sector to develop safe ways for them to open at the earliest point at which it is safe to do so.

When will larger social gatherings and weddings be allowed?

Public gatherings are not allowed yet, because the risk of transmissions in spaces with large crowds is higher.

In phase two of the roadmap, we plan to allow slightly larger groups to meet. In specific public places, we also plan to allow for events such as small weddings. We will work with local authorities and faith groups to explore how best to achieve this safely in the coming weeks.

Cultural and sporting events will be taking place, but behind closed-doors for broadcast only.

When will other shops, such as shoe shops and shopping centres be reopened?

They will open in phases from 1 June, when and where it is safe to do so and subject to them being able to follow ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines.

Businesses and venues that cannot open yet

Plans to reopen non-essential retail

The COVID-19 alert level, blood donors and immunity

How is the COVID Alert level calculated? What is the estimated total number of infections in the UK, and what data has been used in that calculation?

Currently, Chief Medical Officers calculate the alert level taking into account infection rates and the number of confirmed cases across the country, and advise ministers.

Soon, the alert level will be set by the new Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) in consultation with Chief Medical Officers. They will determine the threat level and advise ministers. The JBC will continue to calculate the alert level using information from across the UK and abroad. This includes the number of confirmed cases, testing, environmental and workplace data, and infection rates across the country.

We do not publish figures representing estimated totals. Instead, we publish daily updates on cases confirmed by laboratories.

Find out more about how cases are confirmed and counted.

Will blood donors be tested?

No, we do not test blood donors for coronavirus because there is no evidence it is transmitted through blood donation.

However, we are asking donors with symptoms of the virus to wait 14 days after recovery before coming to a donation session. We have also put extra safety measures in place to make sure blood donation is as safe as possible.

Does having had the virus result in immunity and how long does it last?

We do not currently know if having had the virus results in immunity. COVID-19 is a new disease and the science around immunity to the virus remains uncertain. There is currently no firm evidence that the presence of antibodies means someone cannot be re-infected with the virus or will not pass it on to someone else.

If you test positive for antibodies, or think you have had the virus, you must still follow social distancing measures.

We are conducting some of the largest studies in the world to help inform our understanding.