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Staying safe - FAQs

We understand that this is a difficult and uncertain time, particularly when you’re responsible for the welfare of others. 

Below we have answers to some common questions about how to stay safe.

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Last updated: 23 September 2020 15:14

What are the latest Covid rules (September)?

On the 22 September, a number of new changes were introduced in response to the increasing infection rate across the UK. These rules differ across the nations. For example, if you live in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, you are not allowed to mix with other households indoors.

An exception of course is if you are providing essential care to someone. In addition, a support bubble or extended household counts as one household. In England, only six people can meet indoors. In England, Wales and Scotland, pubs and restaurants will now close at 10pm.

Click on the relevant nation below for more details about changes where you live:

 England      Scotland      Wales      Northern Ireland

Note that if you are living in a local lockdown area, further restrictions may apply. Check here: Has the advice changed in my area?

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What's the latest guidance on face coverings?

Across the UK, use of face coverings is compulsory on public transport (including school transport in Scotland). Additionally, you should wear a mask if you are visiting someone in a hospital or care home or attending an appointment. 

It is also compulsory to wear face coverings in shops and in many other public places. See this page for more guidance on when to wear a face covering - noting that some different rules apply across the nations. Further guidance is available here.

In schools

In Scotland, young people at secondary school have been required to wear face coverings in communal areas where social distancing is difficult since 31 August. Since 1 September, this measure has also applied in secondary schools in England in local lockdown areas.

What happens if I can't wear a face covering or the person I care for can't because of their age, a disability or medical reason?

Exemptions for the use of face coverings do apply if you have certain health conditions or disabilities, where wearing one causes problems. There are exemption cards available to help, such as those found via the link on this page or recommended on the Hidden Disabilities site: Here are some other printable options on the site.

The age range of children who are exempt differs across the UK. For more guidance about exemptions in different parts of the UK, please refer to the following pages: EnglandNorthern IrelandScotland and Wales. (Note – you are not required to carry medical evidence to prove why you are exempt, but you may find it helpful to carry a note to help explain.)

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With shielding now paused, what support is available for us?

In England, if you are at higher risk from COVID-19 and need support or you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, the NHS Responder Scheme can continue to provide support. Call 0808 196 3646 to make a referral for anyone you care for or to seek support for yourself. The scheme can help arrange collections of prescriptions, and other medication and food and there are volunteers who can be contacted for a chat over the phone if you or someone you care for is feeling lonely. If you have been affected by coronavirus, you can also visit

In Scotland, you can continue to receive key updates through the SMS Shielding Service. The service will carry on for as long as it’s needed as will the national helpline. You can call the National Helpline on 0800 111 4000 if you are vulnerable and do not have a network of family or friends to turn to or community support. Both practical assistance and emotional support are available. Read more on If you have been affected by coronavirus, you can also visit

In Wales priority slots for online supermarket shopping remain in place, despite shielding being paused on 16 August. The prescriptions delivery service for those who have been shielding will also continue until the end of September. Any health or social care services you're already receiving, through you local authority, will continue. If you have been affected by coronavirus, you can also visit

In Northern Ireland, you can continue to access advice, help and guidance by contacting the Covid-19 Community Helpline by calling 0808 802 0020, emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or texting: ACTION to 81025. If you have been affected by coronavirus, you can also visit

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Has the advice on staying safe changed in my area?

With some local lockdowns coming into effect due to a rise in cases of COVID-19 in certain areas, there may be different rules in the city or area where you live or work.

Find out if the advice on staying safe has changed in your area: EnglandWalesScotland or Northern Ireland.

You could also check your local council’s or trust’s (in Northern Ireland) website to find out about the rules where you are. Our local directory may be a helpful starting point.

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Can I be prioritised for COVID-19 testing as a carer?

Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus is eligible for a test and this can be requested through the NHS website, whether you're in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. You can apply on someone else's behalf online, with their permission, if they are not able to.

The government has included unpaid carers in their latest list of essential workers who can be prioritised for COVID-19 testing in England and Scotland. You do not need to bring identification to prove you are an unpaid carer. If you book a specific slot at a regional testing site or mobile testing unit, you will receive an email and text confirmation with a QR code. You will need to bring the QR code, either on your smartphone or on the print-out of the email, to the coronavirus test appointment.

Find out more about about how to get tested, the process and what types of test are available on this page.

'Trace and test' systems have been launched across the UK to help contain the spread of the virus – read more


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How do I contact my GP if the person I care for is unwell or if I need medical advice?

It's vital to still seek medical advice when needed for other medical issues too. You can call your GP surgery or contact them via their website. They can then arrange for you to have a phone consultation with your GP who will be happy to advise you on next steps. It's important not to wait if you have any doubts at all about your health or the health of someone you care for.

You should only visit a surgery if advised to by your doctor. However, do not hesitate to call 999 in an emergency. The NHS website also has some useful guidance on taking care of yourself and others. 

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Is the person I care for at particular risk from coronavirus?

If you think the person you care for is at high risk, it is worth contacting their GP (if they are unable to) to verify whether they should be taking additional protective measures. It is best to take precautions if you have any doubts in the meantime, and follow the NHS advice

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What is a support bubble or extended household?

If you live alone or alone with dependent children (aged under 18), you can form what has been termed as a ‘support bubble’ ('extended household' in Scotland) with one other household which can be of any size. 

This means that you can spend time in each other’s households for company and support – including overnight – and do not need to follow the social distancing rule with each other.

Once you've formed your 'support bubble'/ 'extended household', you can't change who is part of it. The website has more details, covering the extra measures you would need to take, here. Refer to this guidance if you live in Scotland. 

Note that you can continue to visit a clinically vulnerable person inside if you are providing care or assistance to them, ensuring you are following extra precautions, such as regularly washing your hands, cleaning surfaces frequently, and minimising contact as much as possible.

What if someone in the ‘support bubble’/'extended household' shows symptoms of coronavirus?

If anyone from either household displays any symptoms of coronavirus, everyone in each of the households would need to stay at home and follow this guidance. If someone within a ‘support bubble’/ 'extended household' is contacted by the test and trace system or test and protect system, they would need to stay at home and if they then become symptomatic, again all included in the group would need to isolate to stay safe and save lives.

Does this change the social distancing guidance in general?

No. This does not affect the general guidance advising all to stay at home as much as possible, especially if you are very vulnerable to the coronavirus. It's important to bear in mind that there are different rules that apply in different nations as explained here.

Understandably, it may not be possible to follow the rules around strict social distancing if you are providing essential care to someone. This page provides further guidance.

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What guidance is there about those who are at most risk?

The government has issued guidance about who is at increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). You need to be particularly careful about staying away from others (social distancing) if you are 70 or older (with or without medical conditions) or if you are younger than 70 and have underlying health conditions, including long-term respiratory diseases and long-term heart disease, such as heart failure. See the full list on the website. 

You – or the person you care for – will have received a letter from the NHS if you are at particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus, giving you specific advice as shielding measures come to an end. 

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