The outbreak of the Covid-19 (a coronavirus) in the UK means a rocky and uncertain time for many of us, particularly if you have a long-term health condition or disability. To ensure you have the right information to help stay healthy and happy – and avoid being overwhelmed by the unrelenting news – we’ve collated practical advice you can rely on. We’ll be updating it as things progress.
Last update: 6 pm Sunday 29th March.
Click on the links below to go down to the section you want:
- How coronavirus spreads and what you can do to minimise it
- Coronavirus lockdown UK
- Using carers/PAs during the coronavirus outbreak
- Coronavirus ‘clinically vulnerable’ groups
- Coronavirus ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ groups
- Covid-19 symptoms
- Coronavirus treatment and when to get help
- Covid-19 quarantine rules
- Coronavirus self-isolation: how to do it
- Your working rights and financial help
- Coronavirus map and cases in your area
- Which shops are closed and which will be open?
- Food shopping during Covid-19 outbreak
Disability Horizons is a community magazine built to enable our readers to connect with each other and offer support. This has never been more important than now.
The Disability Horizons team and wider community are here to offer support, advice and a listening ear. None of us are alone. Join us on DHorizons Tribe to connect with others.
How coronavirus spreads and what you can do to minimise it
Covid-19 (part of the coronavirus family, along with SARS) is a new virus, so there isn’t yet a full picture of how it spreads. However, it’s believed that to be transmitted through droplets, say from someone coughing or sneezing.
Research is being done around the world to understand how long these droplets can remain on surfaces and in the air.
Studies published by the New England Journal of Medicine and the New Institute of Health demonstrate that the virus could survive for up to three days on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces, 24 hours on cardboard and three hours in the air.
This is why it’s particularly important for everyone to do the following:
- Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing happy birthday twice) using soap and water or hand sanitiser if you’re out – the NHS video below shows how to do this properly.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean, particularly if you’re not at home.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw it away or, if a tissue isn’t available, do it into your upper sleeve/elbow.
- Keep away from anyone who is unwell and displaying the symptoms of Covid-19 – they should also self-isolate (more on this below).
- Keep 2 metres (6 feet) apart from people when out and about or if someone in your house is unwell.
- Don’t visit your GP in person but instead get over-the-phone appointments.
These measures are called ‘social distancing’ and apply to everyone. If you’re in a ‘clinically vulnerable’ group (more on this below), they are even more important.
Coronavirus lockdown UK
On 23rd March Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK was in lockdown, making it mandatory for everyone should stay at home where possible. On the 16h April, this was extended for another three weeks.
People should only leave their homes to:
- travel to and from work if they absolutely cannot work from home
- shop for essentials, such as food and medicine – these should be as infrequent as possible
- to exercise once a day but to keep your distance from others you don’t live with
- to fulfil any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
All stores selling non-essentials will be closed. It is also now compulsory that people limit their interaction with others, even family and friends, and avoid gatherings, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues. Any meetings of more than two people will be disbanded.
If anyone is seen breaking these measures, the police have the power to fine people.
If you’re in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable‘ group (see more on this below) and need help isolating, register on the government website for support: gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable. You may be able to get help if you’re in a ‘clinically vulnerable‘ group too.
Using carers/PAs during the coronavirus outbreak
If you use carers/PAs, ask them to wash their hands thoroughly when they enter your home and regularly when performing tasks for you.
As coronavirus can live on surfaces for some time, carers should clean surfaces they have touched, such as door handles and worktops, before they leave.
You might want to consider them wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when doing things that bring them in close contact with you, such as bathing and changing.
PPE means disposable plastic gloves, a plastic apron, fluid repellent surgical mask and eye protection when there is a risk of splashing.
These, along with waste from cleaning surfaces they have touched, should be put in a rubbish bag after use and left for 72 hours away from anything else before being thrown into the normal bin.
However, it’s worth noting that the government guidelines only stipulate the use of them when the person they are caring for has symptoms.
If you would like your carer to use PPE, if you use carers through the council or company, ask them about providing PPE.
If you employ carers yourself, you may need to purchase it yourself or see if your carer can. We’ve just started selling PPE on the Disability Horizons Shop.
It might also be worth calling your local GP, district nurse, healthcare worker or council to find out if they can help with this.
If they are displaying any symptoms, they shouldn’t come to work and should self-isolate at home – see more on this below.
If possible, it would be worth having a list of back-up staff who you can call on if one of our carers becomes unwell. If this isn’t an option, or you would like more advice on this, contact your local council for more information.
Coronavirus ‘clinically vulnerable’ and ‘extremely vulnerable’ groups
Some people’s bodies may find it harder to fight Covid-19 and recover.
This includes those with a long-term health condition, weakened immune system and older people over 70.
Some situations, such as if you have a specific type of cancer or a severe respiratory condition, would put you in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group.
From Monday 23rd March 2020, the NHS contacted people in this group with a recommendation to self-isolate for 12 weeks and shield.
Other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, put you in a ‘clinically vulnerable’ group (this group used to be called ‘high risk’). In these circumstances, the ‘social distance’ measures mentioned above are particularly important.
Visit our full guide ‘How to self-isolate and get help: a practical guide if you’re disabled‘ for all you need to know.
Coronavirus affects people in different ways and the symptoms might be mild for some. But the main three symptoms people experience are:
- a fever/high temperature (above 37.8°C)
- dry cough
- shortness of breath
Some also experience tiredness, muscle pain and a headache, similar to how you would with flu. Some people have also reported a loss of a sense of smell as a possible symptom.
Coronavirus treatment and when to get help
There currently isn’t medication to help cure coronavirus, or a vaccine to guard against it. If you become ill, drink plenty of water (so that your urine is clear) and eat as healthily as possible. Take paracetamol as prescribed to help with some of your symptoms.
For now, until more research has been done, experts suggest using paracetamol over ibuprofen. However, if you are already taking ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) on the advice of a doctor, do not stop taking it without checking first.
The NHS recommends that you seek help with your symptoms if:
- you feel you cannot cope at home
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms do not get better after 7 days.
Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital as this will risk spreading the virus.
The NHS website has a coronavirus tool that can help you to decide what you should do next. If that doesn’t help, call 111 for more information.
If it is a medical emergency, for example the person is unconscious, call 999. Make them aware that it may or is likely to be someone with coronavirus.
Coronavirus quarantine rules
There are a few circumstances where the government has advised you to fully self-isolate, and not just ‘socially distance’.
- If you have a new continuous cough and/or high temperature and live alone you should stay at home for 7 days from when you first display symptoms. This is regardless of whether you have had a test for coronavirus.
For clarity, a continuous cough means that you have started coughing repeatedly. It also relates to a dry cough.
- If you live with others and one person has a new continuous cough and/or high temperature they should stay at home for 7 days, and anyone else in the house for 14 days from when they first display symptoms. This is regardless of whether they have had a test for coronavirus. If someone else in the house then gets these symptoms, the whole house should self-isolate again for 14 days from that point.
- As mentioned above, if you are in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable group‘ you will be asked to self-isolate for 12 weeks and ‘shield’, regardless of whether you have symptoms. You should have received notice from the NHS or your GP, as a letter or call/text.
- If you’re in the ‘high-risk group’, as listed above, but not the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable group’, you’re only being asked to ‘socially distance’ at the moment.
If you’re in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ or ‘clinically vulnerable’ group, or believe you might be at particular risk if you get the virus, visit our full guide to what self-isolation and shielding means. It also includes information on how to isolate yourself and family, and on how to get help.
You don’t need to inform the authorities, such as GP or NHS if you’re self-isolating. Also, because tests for coronavirus are being prioritised for those in hospital, the government isn’t currently testing those who self-isolate.
What to do in households where someone is ‘vulnerable’ or ‘extremely vulnerable’
If you are more at risk or live with someone who is and you or they are displaying symptoms, ideally see if the infected person can stay elsewhere for the time period.
If that isn’t possible, there are a number of measures you can put in place to try and avoid spreading the virus. These include using common spaces at different times, cleaning surfaces after use, using separate cutlery and towels (hand and bathing).
At the moment, if you’ve been asked to self-isolate for 12 weeks, the government is not requiring anyone else in your household to do the same. However, if you’re able to, you and your family might want to do that anyway.
If not, they should practise social distancing measures though, at home and when out. That includes avoiding gatherings and non-essential contact, staying 2 metres away from others and good hygiene.
It’s also recommended that you use separate areas of the house, utensils etc, as mentioned above.
Your working rights and financial help during the Covid-19 outbreak
Everyone has been advised to work from home where possible, so employers should enable you to do so if you can. However, some businesses are now closing, putting some staff out of work.
Here we list a number of scenarios and what help is available.
If you are employed
- You are employed but unwell with coronavirus or unable to work due to coronavirus, for example, because you have had to self-isolate or your job doesn’t allow you to work from home. In this situation, you will receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of your time off, assuming you’re usually entitled to SSP.
If you’re ill, you won’t need a sick note for the first 7 days, but your employer may ask for one afterwards. If they do, use the NHS 111 service instead of your GP.
If you’re self-isolating and your employer requires a letter, you can get a self-isolation note on the NHS website.
It’s also worth checking your contract as you may be entitled to more than SSP, particularly if you’re self-isolating or unable to work from home.
If you are self-employed
- You are self-employed but have lost work due to coronavirus. If this is the case, you can get help through the Income Support Scheme of up to 80% of your trading profits.
To claim, you will need to have submitted your Self Assessment Tax return for 2018-2019, and traded in the year 2019-2020. You can’t apply online, but HMRC will be contacting those that are eligible.
Read the government’s full guide to the Income Support Scheme understand all of the stipulations.
If you are on other benefits
If you’re already getting ESA, your mandatory work search and work availability requirements will be removed while you are affected.
The government will not be conducting face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits for three months from 17th March.
It includes Personal Independence Payment (PIP), those on ESA, some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. Payments of these will continue to be made until the assessment is possible.
Please be aware that scammers are taking advantage of this situation, so make sure you use reputable sources of information. Which? has a video on the coronavirus scams to look out for and Citizens Advice has tips on how to spot a coronavirus scam.
If you’re not sure any of the above applies to you or you are concerned about paying bills, the Citizens Advice has a page dedicated to help if you can’t pay your bills.
Time off to look after children
As schools are now closed, you’ll need to look after your child at home, ensuring they stick to the new ‘social distancing’ rules. However, school support is available if you are a critical worker, such as a nurse, or your child needs specialist support.
Under current rules, you’re are allowed a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off to look after dependants in an emergency, such as your child being ill.
The length of time is decided by you and your employer, so speak to them as soon as possible about difficulties. Your employer also isn’t obliged to pay you for the time.
Coronavirus map and cases in your area
The BBC has a useful tool that helps you to see how many confirmed cases of coronavirus there are in your area.
The government website also has a map of coronavirus cases, where you can also view the counties in order of most affected.
Which shops are closed and which will remain open?
Any non-essential stores and places are now closed, such as clothing, technology and home retailers, hairdressers and places of worship.
Playground and outdoor gyms are closed, but parks will remain open for exercise, although people cannot gather in groups, even with their own family.
The only shops staying open are:
- supermarkets and stores selling food, including market stalls
- pharmacies and health shops
- corner shops, such as newsagents and post offices
- food outlets offering food delivery and takeaway services
- petrol stations, garages and car rental businesses
- bicycle shops
- home and hardware shops
- launderettes and dry cleaners
- pet shops and veterinary services
Community centres can remain open, but only for the purpose of “hosting essential voluntary or public services” such as food banks or service for homeless people, the guidance says.
Food shopping during the coronavirus outbreak
Most of the big supermarkets are only allowing a certain number of customers into stores at once so that they can be socially distant from each other. Those waiting outside are being told to stand two metres apart.
A lot of the supermarkets have designated shopping hours for ‘vulnerable’ and older people, and are prioritising them online.
Many of the restrictions on how many items people can buy at once have loosened, expect for on popular foods, such as pasta and toilet roll.
Find out more about shopping during the pandemic, including the measures in place for each supermarket, as well as alternatives. You can also find out how the Sunflower lanyard scheme can help at this time.
Get support and advice
We’re going to be running regular virtual meetups in our closed DHorizons Tribe Facebook group so that you can connect with others, share tips, get advice and support each other.
Find out when the next one will be and keep up-to-date with the latest information by visiting the group and signing up to our newsletter.
We will also continue to bring you our usual positive, entertaining and interesting articles as a welcome break from the negativity.