Covid-19 FAQs

This page will be updated as frequently as possible (last update: 15:45, 18 March 2020).

If you have a question that isn't below, please email me at [email protected].

I own a business - where can I find information on financial support?

  • HMRC has established a helpline for the self-employed and businesses worried about the consequences of COVID-19: 0300 456 3565 or 0800 0159 559
  • The government is to set up 2 schemes starting next week to provide government-backed and guaranteed loans worth £33 billion to secure access to credit. One of the schemes is for small businesses offering a loan of up to £5 million.  The other will provide a lending facility through the Bank of England for large corporations.
  • The government is also offering £25bn package of tax cuts and grants for businesses.
  • The Bank of England has announced interest rate cuts from 0.25% to O.1%.
  • The government have announced their action will be sufficient for all businesses with a pandemic-covered policy to make an insurance claim.
  • Smaller businesses, with a rateable value of under £51k, will be eligible for a cash grant of £25,000.
  • On the 19th March, the Prime Minister told business: “Stand by your employees, stand by your workers…we will stand by you”. More information on financial measures and support will be announced by the Chancellor on the 20th

I work in the retail, travel and leisure sectors – what support is available?

  • All shops and pubs (irrespective of their rateable value) will now receive a 12 month ‘business rates holiday.
  • Local authorities are going to co-ordinate grants for the retail, travel and leisure sectors. Local authorities will provide the grant and claim it back from central government.  The Treasury is due to issue guidance to local authorities soon and local authorities will write to businesses who qualify for a grant with instructions on how to claim.
  • The loans guaranteed by the government are for all sectors of the economy and you should contact your bank for further information.
  • Planning legislation is to be relaxed to allow restaurant and pubs to provide a hot food takeaway service – more details expected soon.

I’m self-employed - where can I find information on financial support?

  • HMRC has established a helpline for the self-employed and businesses worried about the consequences of COVID-19: 0300 456 3565 or 0800 0159 559
  • The introduction of the dreaded IR35 rules has been postponed

I am on a zero-hour contract – what support is available for me?

You are entitled to statutory sick-pay but be aware that to eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you had to be earning £118 per week on average.  You might also need to have worked at the place for 3 months.

I work in a school -  will I still get paid?


I am a childminder – should I keep working?

Childminders look after fewer children than a nursery so the guidance is different.  Schools were advised last week that if you think a child is becoming unwell, you should take their temperature.  If you are concerned, put them into a separate room from any other children and have them picked up.  Schools were advised to open windows to aid ventilation.

I must stay at home to look after my children – will I still get paid?

  • The general advice is that, by law, a person is allowed time off to look after a dependent but it will usually be unpaid leave.
  • Some employers may offer paid time of in response to the current situation but it will depend on their policy
  • You might be able to take paid leave.
  • If you have any questions about coronavirus related to schools/educational establishments, you can call the Department for Education’s coronavirus hotline: 0800 046 8687, open Monday – Friday, 8am-8pm.

My child is in receipt of a free school meal – can I get any help?

  • Children in receipt of a free school meal will receive vouchers they can spend in local shops.
  • Some schools may continue to provide a hot meal at lunchtime. Please contact your school or local authority for details.

What if I lose my job?

  • You may be eligible for Universal Credit. If you ask for an advance payment, you can receive money from day one but be aware it can take a few days to come through.  You will need to pay back the advance.
  • Charities are urging the government to stop the repayment of advances. It would be worth checking to see if you are entitled to any benefits/further benefits – you might be eligible to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit.
  • The government has been in talks with trade unions and further measures of support for anyone losing their job are expected imminently.

I can’t pay my mortgage/credit card – what do I do?

The Chancellor announced he has agreement from most banks and lenders to allow a 3 month mortgage holiday and credit card forbearance if you are struggling to pay.

I can’t pay my rent – what do I do?

  • There have been no announcements yet on this but measures are expected soon.
  • If you are struggling to pay your rent, talk to your landlord and try to agree a suitable repayment plan. Check to see if you are entitled to any benefits, including Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.
  • The Government has announced landlords are unable to evict for at least the next 3 months.

I have a pre-payment meter – what do I do if I can’t get out to top up?

  • Talk to your energy provider - Ofgem has sought, and received, an agreement from energy companies to help customers who have a prepayment meter.
  • You should be able to top up online
  • One option is to authorise a friend to top up your energy card for you.
  • Another option is to ask your supplier to send you a card, by post, which is already topped up.
  • The government has said suppliers should be able to add credit directly to an account in urgent cases.

What are the Liberal Democrats doing to help businesses and individuals with their finances?

We are urging the government to implement the packages outlined by the Chancellor and provide immediate relief to businesses already suffering.  We are also pushing the government to:

  1. Guarantee anyone laid off receives 20 days full pay with immediate effect.
  2. Provide full council tax relief for bands A to E for at least 6 months, with councils fully compensated for this loss of income.
  3. Turn day-one Universal Credit loans into grants immediately.
  4. Ensure no renter is evicted in the coming months as a result of this crisis.
  5. As Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats, I have called for advance Universal Credit payments to be grants NOT loans.

Why aren’t more people being tested?

  • Until now there has been a shortage of efficient tests.
  • The government and Public Health England are committed to providing up to 250,000 tests to detect the virus.
  • There is a chance that an anti-body test will soon be available. Public Health England have said it is confident a test will be available but it is not confident current tests are suitable.
  • When such a test is ready, Public Health England has committed to purchasing. These tests will be able to show if a person has had the virus previously.
  • It will take some time to roll out the tests but, as more become available, priority will be given to medical key workers, other key workers and then the general public – at the moment, a number of medical key workers are having to self-isolate because they or a member of their household feels unwell. Having the virus and/or anti-body test will allow those key workers to return to work faster, thereby alleviating the stress on the medical infrastructure.

Is it true young people are at risk?

  • Chief Medical Officer *********, confirmed on the 19th March, that most people who catch the virus, regardless of age, will experience mild to moderate symptoms and make a full recovery – this is particularly true for children.
  • However, those with an underlying health condition are at risk of suffering from severe symptoms and may need further medical help. This includes younger people with an underlying health condition.
  • In some rare cases, young people without an underlying health condition will also experience severe symptoms, which is why Public Health England have asked people not to be complacent in adhering to advice, particularly involving social contact.

When will we have a vaccine?

Scientists report that definite progress has been made in their understanding of the virus.

The first randomised trial for treatment on a patient began on the 19th March and scientists are confident medical trials for treatment will begin as early as April.

What are shops doing to help their customers?

If you are a shop, or know of one that is helping the community, please email me and I will add you to the list: [email protected]

Many shops are giving priority access to the elderly and vulnerable customers:


  • First hour in every supermarket.  Check online for your local stores opening times.
  • From Monday, 23rd March customers over the age of 70 or who have a disability will have priority access to Sainsbury’s online delivery slots.


  • Introducing a call centre so people who do not shop online can order groceries over the phone. Please keep an eye out for the phone number when it launches.

John Lewis

  • moving workers from its department stores to its Waitrose stores and home delivery service, to help meet the demand for groceries.

How do I volunteer?

All volunteering in Royal Borough of Kingston is being co-ordinated by Kingston Council in partnership with Kingston Voluntary Action (KVA) and Volunteering Kingston. Those interested in signing up, should use the link below:

Is London going into a lockdown?

  • The short answer is – not at the moment.
  • TfL have advised Londoners not to travel unless you absolutely have to.
  • If you do have to travel, make sure to follow the experts’ advice.
  • Up to 40 London Underground stations will close until further notice. Details can be found on TfL’s website:
  • On the 19th March, the Prime Minister said there were no immediate plans to lockdown as long as the current measures resulted in a slowing down of the COVID-19 peak.
  • Scientists advise that science will tell us if the current measures are working to suppress the virus sufficiently to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. If the current measures are not suffice, the Prime Minister has said further measures will be introduced.
  • The government has repeated its call for everyone to play their part and join in collective and resolute action to delay the spread.

How long until we can return to normal?

  • The honest answer is no-one really knows.
  • On the 19th March, the Prime Minister said he was confident we would “turn the tide in the next 12 weeks” but only if we all take the precautions outlined.
  • Scientific advisers say it will be at least 2 weeks before we start to see any slowing of the virus caused by the precautions we are all being encouraged to take.
  • On the 19th March, the Chief Medical Officer said numbers contracting the virus will continue to rise over the next 2 weeks as time is needed for preventative measures to kick-in.
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