Coronavirus FAQs

12 April 2021

Some of the rules about what you can and can't do changed on 12 April 2021 but some restrictions still remain in place.  We understand this is a worrying time for many residents in our city and that you may have lots of questions on a variety of different topics. You'll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below. Information on this page will be updated as changes are introduced.

Businesses 

Does my business need to close?

To reduce social contact some business must remain closed or follow restrictions on how they deliver goods and services.  From 12 April 2021 some businesses can reopen but there may be restrictions in place.  Businesses that can reopen include:

  • Non-essential retail such as clothes shops 
  • Personal care services such as hairdressers and nail salons
  • Libraries and community centres
  • Outdoor hospitality venues, including outdoor areas of cafes, restaurants and bars, for table service only
  • Most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks and drive-in performance venues
  • indoor leisure and sports facilities for individual exercise or exercise with your household or support bubble
  • Supervised indoor childcare for all children
  • Parent and child groups for up to 15 people - children under 5 are not included in the number
  • Self-contained accommodation including caravan and campsites can reopen for people from one household or support bubble. 

Businesses most follow COVID-19 restrictions and and social distancing.  You can find out more here.  

What help or advice is available for businesses? 

There is a range of advice and help available for businesses including grants, loans and business rate holidays.  The support you are eligible for will depend on the size and type of your business. You can find full details of help and advice available for business here.

What happens if I can’t afford to pay my staff because of coronavirus? 

The government has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (known as furlough) has been extended until 30 September 2021 to help businesses pay their employee’s salaries if their businesses are affected by coronavirus.  You can find out more here

Where can I find out more about support for businesses? 

You can find out more information on the advice and support available for businesses, employers and self-employed people here

Citylife Line 

What is Citylife Line? 

CityLife Line is a service that helps residents link up with services across Newcastle that can provide them with support and advice – including helping with your shopping, food packages and general information.  You can find out more here 

How do I get help from Citylife Line? 

Citylife Line is supported by our Welfare and Wellbeing Team  which is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday 8am to 3pm.  For urgent help call 0800 170 7001 or 0191 277 8000.  Or complete this online form

 Employment and benefits 

I can’t go to work because of Coronavirus can I claim any benefits? 

You can find information on benefits that may be available here

I have a Job Seekers Allowance interview or appointment.  Do I still need to attend? 

You can find the latest Government advice on whether to attend benefits related appointments here

Should I be going to work during the coronavirus pandemic? 

Government guidance states that employees should work from home wherever possible but there are some jobs where this is not possible.  You should speak to your employer to find out if you are required to continue to go to work or return to work following the changes.  People who have been told they are clinically extremely vulnerable should not go to work.

Is there any help available for self-employed people? 

You can find more information about the governments Self-employment Income Support Scheme here

Can my employer force me to return to work? 

Government guidance says that you should continue to work from home if you are able to do so.  If it is not possible to do your job from home, for example if you operate machinery or work in the construction industry, you should return to work if it is safe to do so unless you work in one of the industries that must remain closed.   People who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not go to work.

What can I do if I don’t think my workplace is safe? 

If you are concerned that your employer is not taking all practical steps to promote social distancing or make your workplace safe then you can report this to your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive who can take a range of action, including where appropriate requiring your employer to take additional steps.  You can find more information here.   

I've been told I'm Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. Can I get any help?

Shielding ended on 31 March 2021 but if you are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable  you should still take extra precautions.  This means  you should work at home if this is possible.  If you do need to go to work your employer must take extra precautions to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19 and they should explain these measures to you before you return to work.  Some employers may require regular testing to help reduce the spread.  You should also consider how you travel  to and from work.  Full details on latest guidance and support for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people can be found here

Leaving the house

Do I have to stay at home?

No.  The 'Stay at Home' restriction were lifted on 29 March 2021 as part of the second stage of Step One of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown. While people are now allowed to leave home, you should continue to minimise travel, work from home where possible, and continue to follow the Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air guidance at all times.  You can find out more about the roadmap out of lockdown here

Can I meet friends and family?

From 12 April 2021 you can meet up with friends and family you do not live with in either

  • a group of up to six people from any number of households including children
  • a group of any size from up to two households including existing support bubbles

Does my support bubble count towards the two households rule

You and your support bubble count as one household for the two household limit.  This means that you and your support bubble can meet with one other household even if the group is more than six people.  

Can I meet people from outside my household in my garden?

Yes, you can meet in a group of six or in a group of any size from up to two households outdoors including in private gardens, at parks and beaches or at outdoor attractions and hospitality venues.

Can I meet people from outside my household indoors?

No, you must not meet indoors with anyone from outside your household unless you have formed a support bubble or another legal exemption such as a childcare bubble applies.  

Remember! You must follow social distancing and COVID-19 guidance whenever you go out or meet with other people outdoors.  You can find more information on what you can do here

Can I move home? 

The government has amended the coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations to make clear that people who wish to move home can do so but you must stick to social distancing rules.  You can find more information here

Libraries, parks and leisure  

Are libraries staying open? 

Libraries in Newcastle will begin to reopen from Monday 12 April 2012.  You can find more information on when libraries will be open and other library services here.

The City Library will also continue to offer Visa application services.  To find out more about applying for a visa or to book an appointment please visit  https://www.ukvcas.co.uk/home-internal.

Will I be charged if my library books are late? 

No one will be charged for library books that are overdue because of coronavirus. If you want to you can renew them here

Are museums open? 

Museums will remain closed until 17 May 2021 at the earliest. While they are closed you can enjoy exhibition and collections content and activities on our website and social media or by joining our mailing list at mustseemuseums.org.uk

Can I go to the park? 

You can go to your local park with people from your household, support bubble or childcare bubble or in groups of up to six people or groups of any size from two households outdoors.  You must adhere to social distancing guidelines when you are outside you home.  You can find more guidance on staying safe outside your home here.   

Are playgrounds closed?

Outdoor playgrounds can open.  You can visit outdoor playgrounds with your household, support bubble or childcare bubble or in groups of up to six people or groups of any size from two households.  You should must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Parking  

Are car parks open and are opening times changing?  

We have not made any changes to our car park opening times, but this is being kept under review.  You can find the most up to date information on our car parks here

Are there any car parks where NHS staff can park free of charge?

The council is currently providing free parking for NHS workers in line with national arrangements.  You can find more information here.

Registration and Bereavement Services  

How do I register a death?  

All deaths and still births are currently being registered by telephone.  To make an appointment to register a death please call 0191 2787878 and ask for Registration Service.  We will explain the process when making the appointment.    

Are there any changes to funerals?  

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people depending on the size of the venue.  Linked ceremonial events such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 15 people in attendance. Those working at the venues are not included in the numbers

Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble. 

Are cemeteries still open?  

All cemeteries in the city remain open subject to visitors following strict government guidance on social distancing.  

How do I register the birth of my baby?  

Registrations are strictly by appointment only and parents can contact the Register Office to make an appointment by calling 0191 2787878 and asking for registrars or by emailing registrars@newcastle.gov.uk.   

If a wedding or civil partnership is already booked will it go ahead?   

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can take place with no more than 15 people, including children, in attendance.  Anyone working at the wedding is not counted in the number.  

Couples with ceremony bookings affected by national lockdown restrictions can re-schedule free of charge or cancel and receive a full refund of any fees they have paid.  Please contact the Register Office to discuss your options. 

Couples should direct any queries about their reception arrangements to their venue. 

You can find more information here.

Can I get documents verified for my EU Settlement Scheme application?  

The EU Settlement Scheme ID Verification Service has been suspended until further notice.    You can find out more about the EU Settlement Scheme here.

Rent and Council Tax 

What if I can’t afford the rent on my council home due to coronavirus?   

The council and Your Homes Newcastle understand that this is a difficult time and that some tenants may be suffering financially.  We are following Government guidance on the potential financial impact that the outbreak may have on our customers.  You can find out more here.  

Will the council cancel or suspend council tax payments to help hard up families who need to self-isolate? 

It’s important to remember that council tax pays for essential services that are delivered to all residents in the city. If your circumstance have not changed due to the impact of coronavirus it is especially important that you continue to pay your council tax.   

We understand that this is a difficult time and some of our residents many be struggling financially.  If you’re finding difficult to pay your Council Tax because of coronavirus you can find out about the support available here

Retail, leisure and hospitality  

Can shops still open?

Non-essential retail can reopen from 12 April 2021.  You can find more information here

Can restaurants and bars open?

Outdoor hospitality venues including outside areas at cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs can open from 12 April 2021 for table service only.   You can meet other people at these venues in groups of up to six people or in groups of any size from two households. 

Can I go to the hairdressers

Hairdressers and other close contact services can reopen from 12 April 2021 but must follow COVID-19 guidance.

Can I take my dog to the grooming parlour

You can have your pet groomed if this is for the health and wellbeing of the animal rather than for aesthetic purposes.

What should I do if a business is open when it shouldn’t be?  

If you see or know of a businesses or premises that is open that you believe shouldn’t be please report this in confidence be emailing psr@newcastle.gov.uk.    

Schools, colleges and universities 

Are schools open? 

Schools and colleges resumed face-to-face teaching from Monday 8 March 2021.  Rapid lateral flow testing in available free for everyone in England and is recommended for all secondary school pupils, college students and staff and their families.

More information is available on the Government website here.

Will my child have to sit their exams this year? 

The government have announced that GCSE and A Level exams will not go ahead this year.  We are still waiting for more information on what will replace these exams.  The government have also confirmed that Year 6 SATs tests will not take place this year.  You can find more information on schools in Newcastle here

Can my child still attend nursery?

Nurseries including those attached to schools and other early year and childcare settings currently remain open.

Are universities open?

The government has announced university students on practical courses who need to access specialist facilities and equipment can return to in-person teaching from 8 March. Contact your university for more information.   You can find more information on attending university here.

Social care  

Are the Welford Day Centre and Resource Centres open or closed? 

Welford Day Centre and all our Resource Centres (Connie Lewcock, Byker Lodge, Scrogg Road and Castledene) are open.  There is currently no respite care available at Castledene.  All Resource Centres are closed to visitors.  

Can I visit my relative in a care home?

Visits to care homes can take place in line with the government guidance on visiting care homes.  Close contact indoor visits are not allowed.  Please contact the care home where your relative lives before visiting.

What provisions are being made for homeless people? 

You can find information on the support we are offering to homeless people during the pandemic here

Social distancing and self-isolation

Can I meet friends and family from outside my household?

Outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households will once again be allowed  You can find more information on staying safe outside your home here.  

Can I visit family members in their home?

It is possible to spend time with up to 6 people or another household in private gardens.  You cannot meet with anyone from outside your household or support bubble indoors unless an exemption applies. This won't change until 17 May at the earliest.

When do I need to self-isolate?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms you should self-isolate for 10 days and should only leave the house to get a test or to seek medical help.  You are legally required to self-isolate if you have been told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.  You are also required to self-isolate or quarantine for 10 days after returning from abroad. Pupils who are notified by their school that they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive must also self-isolate for 10 days.

Can I be fined if I don't self-isolate?

If you have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace you will be issued with a £1,000 fine for a first offence and up to £10,000 for multiple breaches.  There is also a legal obligation on employers to not knowingly enable or encourage their employees to break the law on self-isolation. 

What support is available to me if I have been instructed to self-isolate? 

If you have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and are on a low income you may be entitled to £500 financial support.   The government have asked local authorities to administer these payments.  To be eligible for the £500 lump-sum test and trace support payment, you must: 

  • have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because you’ve tested positive, are a close contact of someone who is positive or have been identified as a close contact by the NHS COVID-19 App;
  • be employed or self-employed; 
  • be unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating; and 
  • currently receive Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and or Pension Credit 

You can find more information here.  

What should I do if someone breaks social distancing or self-isolation rules? 

If you believe someone is breaking social distancing rules or not self-isolating when they have been told to you can report this to the police using the form here.

Do I need to wear a face mask if I leave my house? 

It is compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport, including in taxis, and in public indoor settings, unless you have an exemption. 

You may be fined if you do not wear a face covering where required. The police have powers to issue a £200 fine for a first offence (reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days. For repeat offences, the fine will double up to a maximum of £6,400. There is no early payment discount for repeat offence fines. 

Those exempt from wearing a face covering include children under the age of 11, those unable to wear a face covering due to a disability or impairment, or you are communicating who relies on lip reading. For safety reasons, children under the age of three should not wear face coverings.  You can find the full list of exemptions here.   

A face covering is not the same as the surgical masks used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers.  These need to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace such as health and care workers. 

Support and childcare bubbles

What is a support bubble?

A support bubble is a network of two households where one of the households meets certain eligibility criteria.  Once you have formed your support bubble the two households can behave as if they were one household.  You can go into each other's homes including to stay overnight and do not need to socially distance.  You can only form one support bubble.  You can find more information on support bubbles here

Who can form a support bubble?

On 2 December the government changed the rules to allow more people to form support bubbles.  You can form a support bubble with another household of any size if you meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • You live by yourself;
  • You are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability;
  • Your household includes a child who is under the age of one or was that age on 2 December 2020;
  • Your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5 or was on 2 December 2020;
  • You are aged 16 or 17 and live with others of the same age without any adults; or
  • You are a single adult living with one or more children under 18 or who were under that age on 12 June 2020

Can I change my support bubble?

You should try not to change your support bubble as this will help prevent the virus spreading between households.  If you must change your support bubble as a result of a change of circumstances you can do this as long as:

  • your household or the one you intend to form the new support bubble with meets the eligibility criteria;
  • the other household is not already part of a support bubble which they intend to remain part of; and
  • you treat your previous support bubble as a separate household for 10 days before forming a new support bubble.

What is a childcare bubble?

A childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to anyone under 14. All adults in both households must agree to this arrangement. ‘Informal’ childcare means it is unpaid and unregistered.  Members of either household can provide childcare in a home or public place. This includes overnight care.  You can only have a childcare bubble with one other household. This means no household should be part of more than one childcare bubble.  You can find out more about childcare bubbles here

Can I change my childcare bubble?

Where possible you should not change your childcare bubble.  If you need to change your childcare bubble due to a change of circumstances you can do this as long as: 

  • at least one person in the proposed new childcare bubble is under the age of 14;
  • neither household is part of a separate childcare bubble which they intend to remain part of; and 
  • you treat your previous bubble as a separate household for 10 days before forming a new bubble. You should not provide childcare as if you are in a bubble during this period.

Can I form a support bubble and a childcare bubble?

Being in a childcare bubble does not stop you from forming a support bubble with another household as long as one of the households in the support bubble meets the eligibility criteria.  If you are a member of a childcare bubble and a support bubble you should not see members of both bubbles at the same time. 

Can my child visit if they don't live with me?

If you share custody of a child with someone you don't live with the child can move freely between both parents households.  You can also mix with the other parent indoors if it is necessary to allow the child to move between homes.  You do not need to form a bubble to do this and this is not counted as a childcare bubble.  This means both you and the other parent can also form a childcare bubble with one other household.

Travel

Can I travel outside of my local area?

The government have said you should continue to minimise the amount you travel where possible.  This means you should avoid making unnecessary trips and should combine trips where possible.  You can find more information on travelling in England here.

Can I stay away from home overnight?

You can stay overnight in a campsite, caravan, second home or other self-contained accommodation with people from your own household or support bubble.  You can find more information here.

Can I travel to Northern Ireland?

It is currently against the law to leave home in Northern Ireland without a reasonable excuse and anyone arriving in Northern Ireland may be asked to self-isolate on arrival for 10 days.  You can find more information here.

Can I travel to Scotland?

Non-essential travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK remains restricted.  You can find more information here

Can I travel to Wales?

Non-essential travel between Wales and the rest of the UK remains restricted.  You can find more information here

Can I travel abroad?

You can only travel internationally for a legally permitted reason to leave home.  If you must travel abroad for a permitted reason you must take into account the public health advice in the country you are travelling to as well as Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice.  You must not travel internationally or within the UK for holiday.  You can find more information on international travel here.

Can I travel to England from abroad?

All visitors to the England are subject to restrictions which could include being required to provide proof of negative tests, self-isolate for 10 days or quarantining in a managed quarantine hotel for up to 10 days.  You can find more information here

Vaccination

A full Q&A on vaccinations is available on this page, the below explains what to expect when you are contacted about making your vaccination appointment.

How will I know when to go for a vaccine?

If you are registered with a GP in Newcastle, you will be called by a member of staff from a number that starts 0191 or directly by your GP Practice who will arrange an appointment when for you to get your vaccine. If you live in Newcastle but are registered with a practice outside the city, you will be contacted by representatives from that local authority area.  Remember if your GP practice call you it may be from their usual number or from a number that shows as no caller ID.  If you are not sure who is calling, end the call and contact your surgery directly.

What will happen when I receive a call about the vaccine?

The person who calls will tell you who they are, say they are calling on behalf of your GP and that they are calling to arrange an appointment for a Coronavirus (covid-19) vaccine.   The caller may ask you, the patient, to confirm your name, date of birth and the first line of your address or postcode.  They will offer you dates and times, book your appointment and tell you where the clinic will be held  - it may not be your usual surgery. If you're not sure who is calling, end the call and ring your GP surgery to confirm the identity of the caller. 

What do I need to know about the appointment?

You must wear a face covering when you attend the appointment unless you are exempt.  If you believe you are exempt you should let the clinic know when you make the appointment. 

Please wash your hands and use hand sanitizer if you are asked to when you arrive.  Keep your distance from other people at the clinic and make sure you follow any social distancing measures that have been put in place. 

Once you have received the vaccination there will be a short period of observation.  This will usually be about 15 minutes and you will need to stay at the clinic until the time has elapsed.  

Remember:  Hands - Face - Space

Will I need a second vaccination?

Yes, the vaccine requires two doses.  You will be contacted by your GP Practice or surgery to arrange the second vaccination.   If you are receiving the Pfizer vaccination you will get the second dose between 3 and 12 weeks after you receive your first vaccine.  If you are receiving the Astra Zeneca vaccination  you will receive the second dose between 4 and 12 weeks after the first vaccine.  Most people will receive the second vaccine towards the end of the 12 period.  You will receive both doses in the same location.  

Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

The vaccine is free.  You will not be asked for money or your bank details.  Sadly, we have already been alerted to possible scams with callers asking for payments to access the vaccinations.  If someone asks you for money or for your bank details for a vaccine it could be a scam and you should report this.

How will I know if someone is a scam caller?

A scam caller might offer you a fast track vaccination or ask you for money or your bank details so you can get the vaccine sooner.  The caller may even tell you that the NHS will refund the money they ask for.  If you suspect that the call is not genuine ask the caller for contact details such as a telephone number and email address.

What should I do if I think a call is a scam?

Try to get contact details for the person who calls if you can.  You should then end the call and contact your GP's surgery to check if they call was from them.  If the call was not genuine you should report the call by calling Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report the call.  Action Fraud are the National Fraud and Cyber Crime reporting centre and they work with the police.

Is there anyone I can talk to if I've been scammed

We know that being scammed can make you feel vulnerable and impact on your mental health.  You can get support and speak to someone who will understand by calling MIND on 0300 123 3393

Waste management  

What is the council’s social distancing policy for bin collections?  

We are minimising contact between refuse collection staff and full social distancing measures are in place in the depots.  Staff wear gloves at all times when carrying out their duties.  Residents are asked to ensure they follow government advice on disposing of their waste and on social distancing which includes not approaching our refuse collection staff.  You can find more advice on cleaning and waste disposal https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/citylife-news/coronavirus-advice-cleaning-and-waste-disposal.   

Are the recycling centres open?  

Our recycling centres at Brunswick, Byker and Walbottle are open, operating their winter opening hours, with strict social distancing measures in place and a number of rules to keep staff and the public safe.   In order to ensure that visitors can access the sites in a timely fashion an “odds and evens” system, based on the last number of car licence plates and the date, is in effect. 

For more information about visiting our sites visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/hwrc 

Are bin collections being stopped?  

All bin collections are continuing as normal. Please put out your general waste, recycling and garden waste bins as normal on their usual collection day. 

Am I allowed to have a bonfire to dispose of rubbish?  

Coronavirus affects the respiratory system and smoke from a bonfire can make symptoms worse for those battling the virus putting more pressure on the NHS.   With reports of bonfires increasing significantly since the lockdown began the council is recommending local residents compost their garden waste and vegetation to help protect their own health and that of others.   

You should never burn household waste as the smoke and fumes from burning plastic and synthetic products is toxic and could lead to prosecution.  You can find more information on bonfires here

My neighbours are burning rubbish in their back garden.  What should I do?  

The burning of most waste is illegal and fines for doing so can be unlimited.   If you see a lit bonfire that you think might be unlawful please contact the fire service so that it can be extinguished. 

If you wish to report an unlit or extinguished bonfire please do so using our Your Local Services form or email psr@newcastle.gov.uk

Did you know?

COVID-19 is less likely to spread outdoors so when meeting up with family and friends you need to stay outside.

 

It's also really important that we all continue to follow social distancing guidelines when meeting people from outside our household or support bubble.

 

Remember - Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air

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