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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: 10 July 2020 17:33

I'm confused about the latest shielding guidance - can you help tell me where I stand?

Understandably there are lots of questions around the new guidance that accompanies the easing of lockdown and what this means for you if you are shielding or caring for someone who is. Click on the image or PDF below for answers to common questions ranging from decisions around visits if you're shielding, to the prospect of returning to work.

CUK 1 Red Cross Hospital 

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What is a ‘support bubble’/ '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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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.

New '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. 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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I think that the person I care for is at high risk from coronavirus but they haven't received a letter. What should we do?

If you think that 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 shielding. It is best to take precautions if you have any doubt in the meantime and follow the NHS advice around shielding. The same applies to carers who worry they may be at high risk.

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

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. For more information, see the question below: I care for someone who is considered to be in the ‘high risk’ group for coronavirus. Should I self-isolate?

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Is anyone allowed to visit, such as care workers?

Unless they are part of your support bubble (see above), let friends and family know that they should only visit if providing essential care such as washing, administering medication, dressing and preparing meals. The government has provided further guidance on this page.

  • Ensure any essential care providers entering the home wash their hands for at least 20 seconds when they arrive and frequently during the visit.
  • If you have a care worker employed by an agency, check what their policy is. Also check how the person being cared for feels about any decisions you need to make. Their welfare is of course paramount and they should be part of any decision made.
  • If in the instance a regular paid care worker was unable to come in because of contracting the virus, check whether anyone else would be able to step in temporarily if needed to provide essential support such as administering medication, obviously taking the utmost precautions. 

Also see our 'Protecting who you care for' page, which offers guidance relating to care workers and other home help.

A keyworker or volunteer, who is dropping off medication or other essential supplies, should keep their distance and deliver items to your porch or driveway rather than entering your house.

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I care for someone who is considered to be in the ‘high risk’ group for coronavirus. Should I self-isolate?

It is vital that you self-isolate if you are displaying symptoms of coronavirus or if someone in your household is displaying symptoms. You may also be contacted and asked to self-isolate if you have been in close proximity to someone with the virus, as identified through the new 'Trace and Test' systems, designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. If you are self-isolating, you need to stay indoors at all times. See this NHS website page for more details. 

If the person you are living with and caring for is at high risk from the coronavirus, they will have been advised to stay at home and avoid contact from others until the end of July or longer (depending on where you are based in the UK). The exception will be you as their carer and anyone else who provides essential care.

Governments across the UK say that you are permitted to go out if you wish to. However, you are still strongly advised to stay at home as much as possible, and limit any outings to a minimum, whilst paying particular attention to social distancing rules. 

More details can be found on this page.

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I'm worried that as lockdown restrictions are eased, vital support for us will no longer be provided. What can I do?

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. For vital food and other supplies, you can also register here before the 17 July.

In Scotland, if you have received an NHS letter and are in need of extra assistance, you will have been provided with details of your local assistance service.  You can also 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

In Wales, if you care clinically extremely vulnerable, you can contact your local authority for support (contact details will be included in the letter you should have received indicating your risk). Any health or social care services you're already receiving, through you local authority, will continue and your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure you are protected.

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.

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If I have to go out, do I have to wear a face covering?

Governments across the UK now advise that you should consider wearing a face covering in enclosed public spaces where you may be more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet. Further guidance is available here.

In England, use of face coverings has become compulsory on public transport and for all hospital staff and visitors. There are certain exemptions that apply if you have certain health conditions or a disability where wearing one causes difficulties. Children under the age of 11 are exempt.

In Scotland, use of face coverings is mandatory on public transport as well as for all hospital and care home staff and visitors. It is also now compulsory to wear face coverings in shops too. Children under 5 and people with certain health conditions are exempt. Find out more here.

In Wales, you can find the latest guidance on PPE here and in Northern Ireland, see this page for more information.

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How can I get hold of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) safely?

With the difficulty of being able to obtain items such as face masks and hand sanitiser, many people are looking online to buy these items. There have been reports of people ordering and paying for items that never arrive, are drastically overpriced or that are substandard and potentially unsafe.

Only buy items from well-known and reputable businesses that have a presence in the UK. Ask your local authority or health and social care trust (in Northern Ireland) if they can recommend trusted suppliers. In Scotland, you can request PPE through your local carers' centre – use our directory to find your nearest centre and read more on our Carers Scotland website here. In Wales, you can follow the latest government guidance on PPE here. Contact your local authority for more details on how to obtain PPE.

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