The UK government has introduced strict new measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Here are the answers to some of the most common readers’ questions.
Is there a time limit on how long we can be outside for once-a-day exercise, and are we allowed to get in our car to travel to go for a walk? – Sam Fearn, York
The current government guidance is to take “one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your household”.
No mention is given to the length of exercise, although Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday that “people can go for the standard length of run or walk that they ordinarily would have done. But… the important thing is, once a day”.
You should be extremely careful that you will be able to maintain a social distance of more than 2m (6ft) from other people wherever you go.
Following scenes where tourist attractions such as Snowdonia and the Peak District attracted larger than usual crowds, and with them, the risk of spreading the virus, police have told car owners not to drive further afield to go for a walk. The RAC has also advised drivers only to make essential journeys.
I lost my sense of taste and smell over seven days ago. Is this a symptom? – Liz Clarke, Manchester
Ear, nose and throat specialists in the UK have also noticed rising reports of anosmia – the term for loss of smell.
And increasing numbers of people on social media have been reporting a lost sense of smell and taste. Some have tested positive for coronavirus.
However, the evidence so far is only anecdotal and viruses behind the common cold often lead to lost senses of smell and/or taste.
My car is due its MOT. Are garages still open and doing this service? – Stewart Oxley, Coulby Newham
The government has granted a temporary six-month MOT extension to all cars, motorcycles and light vans which have an MOT due from 30 March. However, it says that all vehicles need to be kept in a roadworthy condition, and taken to a garage if they need repairs (garages are allowed to remain open under the new restrictions).
Vehicles due for an MOT before 30 March should still be taken in for testing, unless their owner is self-isolating.
MOTs have been suspended for lorries, buses and trailers for up to three months.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has also suspended driving and motorcycle tests in England, Scotland and Wales for up to three months from 21 March, except for critical workers.
All practical driving tests are also currently suspended in Northern Ireland until 22 June.
I’m a vulnerable person and social interaction is needed with my carer. Is he allowed to visit me? – Lee Thompson, Barrow-in-Furness
If your carer is providing essential support, the government says that this should continue as normal, as long as the carer doesn’t have symptoms of coronavirus.
It’s advised that any visitors to your home should wash their hands for 20 seconds with water and soap before and regularly during their visit, and keep a distance of 2m (6ft) away from you.
Additionally, it’s important to keep a list of alternative people who can help you if your carer becomes ill.
What do I need to know about the coronavirus?
If somebody develops any symptoms of Covid-19, what action should someone pregnant in the house take regarding isolation? – Billy, Suffolk
If someone in your home develops symptoms of coronavirus, the government advises vulnerable people – like those who are pregnant or over 70 years old – to stay with friends or family if they can during the isolation period of 14 days.
If this is not possible, stay away from the individual with symptoms as much as possible. There is no evidence yet that pregnant women (and their babies) are at greater risk if they catch coronavirus, but the government says that they should be extra cautious for now.
I work for the NHS and am divorced. My daughter needs to see her father. How can I assure I’m not spreading the virus around the two families? – Lisa Bishop, Godalming
If neither parent nor child is showing symptoms of the virus or self-isolating, children of separated parents are still allowed to stay with either of them.
Government guidance on staying at home says: “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.”
However, the Family Division of the High Court has said that, in England and Wales, if one parent is worried that moving their child would be going against public health advice, they may “exercise their parental responsibility and vary the arrangement to one that they consider to be safe”, even if the other parent does not agree.
Where this is the case, family courts will expect parents to allow contact by video chat or phone.
Cats and dogs in urban areas are being stroked by strangers. Can coronavirus be carried on their fur and infect other people who stroke them? – Barbara Whittaker, Okehampton, England
Even without the risk of coronavirus, you should always wash your hands after stroking, or otherwise handling animals.
But while it’s thought that Covid-19 was originally passed to humans from animals, it is still not known how, and there are no recorded instances of humans catching it from their pets.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) says that it doesn’t appear that pets are responsible for spreading the virus. However, further tests are being carried out to understand if and how animals are affected.
The OIE also recommends that people who are sick or receiving medical treatment for Covid-19, should avoid close contact with their pets, and have someone else care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible.
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