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Coronavirus (COVID-19) - FAQs

With the current situation regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), we are living in unprecedented times.

As of Friday 24 July, some of the COVID-19 restrictions enforced by the government have changed as lockdown measures lift.

We know and understand that there is significant public concern as the guidance and restrictions continue to change, and we want to answer as many of your questions as possible and help to put you at ease. With this in mind, we have pulled together some of the more commonly asked questions you may have.

Please make sure you continue to visit gov.uk/coronavirus for the latest official guidance and announcements.

The information here is subject to review and change as and when further information is released by the government.


Do I still need to stay at home where possible?
When am I required to wear face coverings?
Should I call the police if I see someone without a face covering?
Do I still need to work from home?
What am I not permitted to do?
Which businesses are still required to be closed?
What are police doing if businesses refuse to close?
What is the one metre plus rule?
Will police still be giving out Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs)?
Could I get fined for not social distancing?
What kind of scenarios would still require you to issue a fine?
Are we allowed to exercise multiple times a day?
Are there restrictions on how far I can travel for my exercise or outdoor activity?
Are we allowed to meet up with family and friends?
What is a local lockdown?
What is the test and trace system?
Can I go abroad on holiday?
If I am separated, can I take my children to my ex-partner’s house?
Should we still report a group of people for breaking the government coronavirus regulations, such as a large group gathering in a certain area, or my neighbour inviting their friends round?
Do we need to wear personal protective equipment?
Are day trips and holidays OK?  Can people stay in second homes?
Has the advice changed for older people, those who are in the vulnerable categories or those who are shielding?
Can I go to a place of worship under the new rules?
Am I allowed to relocate to stay with a vulnerable relative?
Is there a heightened risk of fraud and scams?
Can we volunteer to help the police as people have volunteered to help the NHS?
What crimes have you stopped responding to? Will you stop arresting people?
I called 101 and received a text message asking to participate in a survey – is this legitimate?
How can I provide feedback and suggestions on what my local policing unit should be focusing on?
How are you protecting officers?
Can I still report crime to the police?
How will you deal with under 18s not adhering to the government regulations?
I am interested in applying to become a police officer.  Can I still do that?
Can I still apply for a firearms or explosives licence?

 

Do I still need to stay at home where possible?

We are no longer required to stay at home. When you do leave your home, you need to ensure you are following the government guidelines by social distancing and following the appropriate hygiene measures.

As businesses open and people begin socialising regularly, it is even more important that we continue to maintain social distancing from people who do not live in our household. It goes without saying that the more people you interact with, the more chance the virus has to spread, so please be sensible and limit the number of people you see where possible.

If you or someone in your household or support bubble shows coronavirus symptoms, everyone needs to self-isolate, stay at home and get a test as soon as possible. If you or a member of your household is contacted as part of the NHS Test and Trace, the individual contacted should self-isolate. If the individual becomes symptomatic, everyone in the household must isolate.


When am I required to wear face coverings?

Face coverings are now mandatory while using public transport and in shops and supermarkets. Wearing a face covering will provide you with additional protection when you are not able to adhere to the two-metre social distancing guidelines. The responsibility for wearing a face mask lies with individuals – however, should you not wear a face covering, shops and supermarkets can refuse you entry. Under new legislation, people who do not wear a face covering may face a fine of up to £100. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities are exempt. For more information, visit the Gov.UK website. As well as shops and supermarkets, face coverings must be worn in banks, building societies and post offices. Wearing a face covering will not be made mandatory in other venues that have measures in place to protect staff and the public from COVID-19. These include:

  • Eat-in restaurants and pubs;
  • Hairdressers and other treatment salons;
  • Gyms and leisure centres;
  • Cinemas, concert halls and theatres; For transport hubs in England, the requirements mean face coverings must be worn in indoor train stations and terminals, airports, maritime ports, and indoor bus and coach stations or terminals.

Anyone who doesn’t abide by the regulations - and is not exempt under one of the categories set out in the regulations - could face a fine by the police of up to £100, as is currently the case on public transport. The police have been very clear throughout the pandemic that they will “engage, explain, encourage and finally enforce as a last resort”.

People wearing face coverings are still strongly advised to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before putting one on or taking it off, avoid taking it off and putting it back on again a lot in quick succession, store it in a plastic bag in between washes or wearing, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing one.

Please remember that wearing a face covering does not mean you can be lax with social distancing or hygiene measures. While they offer you additional protection, they do not mean you are fully protected. Please continue to keep adhering to the social distancing policies, and following the appropriate hygiene measures to help stop the spread of the virus.


Should I call the police if I see someone without a face covering?

Shop staff may challenge individuals not wearing face coverings and it will be their responsibility to contact police if necessary. It is worth noting that there are several exemptions, so individuals may be permitted not to wear a mask.


Do I still need to work from home?

As of 1 August, employers will have more discretion as to whether their employees are able to return to work, provided they are able to do so safely and in COVID-secure conditions.

Government guidance relating to returning to work safely is available on the Gov.UK website.


What am I not permitted to do?

You should not:

  • Socialise indoors in groups of more than two households (this includes when visiting restaurants, pubs and cafes);
  • Socialise outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households;
  • Hold or attend celebrations or social events where it is difficult to maintain social distancing;
  • Stay overnight away from your home with members of more than one other household.

Which businesses are still required to be closed?

Some businesses are still required to remain closed by law. These are:

  • Nightclubs
  • Dance halls
  • Indoor play areas

What are police doing if businesses refuse to close?

Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers, with police support if appropriate and/or necessary, are responsible for enforcing regulations requiring businesses to close.

Environmental Health and Trading Standards can issue prohibition notices where businesses do not follow these restrictions. In addition, businesses who fail to comply can also receive fines. Continued non-compliance could then lead to the loss of alcohol licenses.

Under the Business Closure regulations introduced on 21 March 2020, officers will have powers to prosecute for breach of regulations.

The local authority environmental health and trading standards officers are responsible for enforcing the regulations requiring certain businesses to remain closed.

You can report businesses that are not complying with the government guidance to Trading Standards.


What is the one metre plus rule?

The government’s social distancing policy ‘one metre-plus’ now recommends that you should make sure you are a minimum of a metre away from those who do not live in your household, but that it’s still advisable to maintain the two-metre distance where possible.


Will police still be giving out Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs)?

Our policing strategy in response to COVID-19 remains the same: in the first instance our officers will always apply their common sense and discretion and seek to engage, explain and encourage. Where individuals refuse to comply, or repeatedly breach the regulations, our officers are ready to enforce the regulations as the public would expect us to do. Not complying with the government legislation – such as refusing to wear a face covering in a shop or supermarket, or while using public transport – could result in being issued an FPN.


Could I get fined for not social distancing?

No, we will not be enforcing the two-metre social distancing rule as that is government guidance not regulations. People need to take individual responsibility for following the guidance and helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.


What kind of scenarios would still require you to issue a fine?

Police will enforce according to the law and officers have been expected to apply their own discretion and judgement based on the circumstances they are confronted with at the time.


Are we allowed to exercise multiple times a day?

There is no longer a limit on how often you can exercise (previously it was once per day). You are also allowed to spend time outdoors without exercising – such as sunbathing, picnicking or sitting in the park – as long as you are adhering to the social distancing guidelines by staying a minimum of two metres apart from anyone who doesn’t live in your household.

As of Saturday 25 July, sports facilities and venues, including gyms, fitness and dance studios, indoor pools and water parks are permitted to open. 


Are there restrictions on how far I can travel for my exercise or outdoor activity?

No. You can travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance. You shouldn’t travel with someone from outside your household unless you can safely practice social distancing - for example by cycling.


 

Are we allowed to meet up with family and friends?

You can meet up with people from outside of your household in an open, public setting (e.g. a park or garden) as long as you are adhering to social distancing rules by keeping a minimum of two metres apart. You can meet with up to five other people at a time, but large gatherings of more than six are not permitted, unless the group is made up of members of your household or linked household.

You can also meet up with people from outside your household in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants. You must continue to adhere to social distancing by following the Government’s ‘one metre plus’ rule. When eating or drinking out with people you do not live with, you should only meet one other household if you are seating indoors. If you are eating or drinking outdoors, you can meet in a group of up to six people from different households.

The linked household social bubble concept allows you to nominate one single-adult household to form a support bubble. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight, without needing to stay two metres apart – essentially, they are considered a part of your household. For further information, visit the official government guidance page.


What is a local lockdown?

If an outbreak is reported in a certain area, Public Health England will work alongside local authorities to impose local lockdowns.

Where increased local transmission of COVID-19 is identified, areas may be required to take additional measures to reduce the spread of the virus. This could involve restricting movement, as well as shutting schools, businesses and workplaces.


 

What is the test and trace system?

If you test positive for coronavirus, the NHS test and trace service will send you a text or email alert or call you with instructions of how to share details of people with whom you have had close, recent contact and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible so that we can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be told to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of our contract tracers.

You will be alerted by the NHS test and trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The alert will usually come by text, email or phone call. You should then log on to the NHS test and trace website, which is normally the easiest way for you and the service to communicate with each other – but, if not, a trained call handler will talk you through what you must do. Under-18s will get a phone call and a parent or guardian will be asked to give permission for the call to continue.

Please be aware that there have been some reports of people using the NHS test and trace as a telephone or email scam. Some fraudsters are trying to take advantage of this process by posing as contact tracers and gathering personal information by deception.  Remember to never disclose financial information, password information or further personal details to anyone over the phone. If you are concerned about the process, check the details of the scheme online.

When visiting certain businesses and organisations, such as cafes, restaurants, pubs and salons, you will be asked to leave your contact information. This is to support the test and trace system in the national effort to contain and prevent the spread of coronavirus. The records will help NHS Test and Trace to reach anyone who may at a later date be found to have potentially been in contact with a positive coronavirus case whilst at a particular venue, helping to quickly contact people at risk of the virus and prevent localised outbreaks before they occur. 


Can I go abroad on holiday?

The government has changed the travel restrictions, and there are now a number of countries you are able to travel to without having to self-isolate upon your return.

Please remember that when visiting foreign countries, you are required to comply with their coronavirus restrictions and regulations – this may include self-isolating or providing your details to the local authorities.

It is important to regularly check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) coronavirus advice and travel advice before your holiday and during your travels, for the latest information on any health measures in place.

It is also important to ensure that you have appropriate travel insurance.

Before arriving back in the UK, you must complete a passenger locator form. For more information about this and other travel advice, please consult the Gov.uk website.


If I am separated, can I take my children to my ex-partner’s house?

Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.


Should we still report a group of people for breaking the government coronavirus regulations, such as a large group gathering in a certain area, or my neighbour inviting their friends round?

If you are concerned that you have seen a gathering which you feel contravenes the government regulations, you can report it via our online webchat or our online reporting form. This will help release pressure on our emergency lines and resources and allow for a quicker response to urgent 999 calls.

However, we want the public to exercise common sense – please be aware that we will not be able to dispatch officers for minor infringements of these rules.

The right to lawful protest is a key part of any democracy. UK police have a long history of upholding this and ensuring the safety of all those exercising that right. Coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread. Gatherings of more than six are unlawful under current regulations so we will continue to encourage people to follow those regulations like we have throughout this public health crisis.


Do we need to wear personal protective equipment?

The government has advised that people wear face coverings when in enclosed spaces where social distancing cannot be observed, such as when on public transport or in shops. This refers to material face coverings as opposed to medical PPE, which is reserved for front line workers who need them to protect against risks in their workplace.

As of Monday 15 June, you must wear a face mask or facial covering when using any form of public transport. As of Friday 24 July, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in shops or supermarkets. For more information, visit the official government guidance.


Are day trips and holidays OK? Can people stay in second homes?

Day trips with members of your household to outdoor open space, in a private vehicle, are permitted. You should continue to practise social distancing from other people outside of your household, unless they form part of your support bubble. You are now also permitted to travel and stay at locations in the UK, and to visit holiday homes.


Has the advice changed for older people, those who are in the vulnerable categories or those who are shielding?

The advice for those aged 70 and over continues to be that they should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household. If they do go out more frequently, they should be careful to maintain distance from others.

We know that those aged 70 and over can be absolutely fit and healthy and it’s not the case that everybody over 70 has a chronic health condition or an underlying disease. But unfortunately, we also know that as you get older, there is a higher risk of coronavirus having a more serious impact with infection.

As of 1 August, the government will pause shielding unless the transmission of COVID-19 in the community starts to rise significantly. This means that people will no longer be advised to shield, and that the support from the National Shielding Service (free food parcels, care and medicine deliveries) will stop. Consult the government website for further guidance.


Can I go to a place of worship under the new rules?

Places of worship are now permitted to be open to the public for gatherings and communal worship, provided that members of the congregation are able to maintain social distancing and that the premises are COVID-secure.

Funerals and marriage ceremonies are permitted, provided there are no more than 30 people in attendance. Attendance should also be within the capacity limits of the premises so that social distancing can be strictly adhered to – in some cases this may be less than 30 people.


Am I allowed to relocate to stay with a vulnerable relative?

If your relative is vulnerable and there is no other way of them getting help then you may travel if you can maintain self-isolation on your journey.


Is there a heightened risk of fraud and scams?

Unfortunately, some people will be using this scary time to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable for their own personal gain. We can all work together to try to prevent this from happening.

People should remain cautious when accepting help from strangers, either online or in person. We commend the community spirit and kindness that is being shown at this really difficult time, but please remember that unfortunately not everyone has the best intentions. Be wary about sharing personal information with people you don’t know, such as your address or your pin number.
There have been reports across the country of COVID-19 related scams, such as phishing emails or phone calls, which are being sent with the intention of attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments, or revealing sensitive personal or financial information. Remember, your bank or the police would never ask you to disclose information such as your pin number over the phone. Avoid clicking links in emails from unknown senders – if it seems suspicious, delete it straight away.


Can we volunteer to help the police as people have volunteered to help the NHS?

The best way that you can help us is by taking heed of the government regulations. This will significantly reduce the demand on both us and the NHS, and help us to keep the county as safe as possible.

If you wish to help people in your area, we would suggest making contact with your elderly and/or vulnerable neighbours – who you already know – and giving them your mobile number and letting them know you are there for help should they need it. This will reduce the chances of them accepting help from a stranger who may turn out to be an opportunist, confidence trickster or thief.
As well as this, you can register your interest to volunteer for #TeamHerts with North Herts Centre for Voluntary Service (NHCVS). They are working in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council to provide support to those affected.


What crimes have you stopped responding to? Will you stop arresting people?

There are no crime types that we do not respond to and police officers will make arrests as necessary. Each contact to the police for help is risk assessed appropriately. We’re asking the public to be patient as we may take more time to follow up report relating to lower-level crimes.


I called 101 and received a text message asking to participate in a survey – is this legitimate?

If you do call our Force Communications Room (FCR) to report a crime or incident, please be aware that you may receive a text from us afterwards asking how we did. We know that due to the current increase in text and online scams this may cause some concern, so we just wanted to inform you that this is a legitimate follow-up message from us asking you to rate the service you received so we can continue to learn and improve.


How can I provide feedback and suggestions on what my local policing unit should be focusing on?

If you want to pass on your thoughts about policing in the county or your local area, you can utilise our community voice service ‘echo’. Tell us what you think we should be prioritising, or what you are concerned about in your local area. Simply visit bit.ly/herts-echo and have your say. This is completely anonymous, but if you’re talking about your local area please be as specific as you possibly can. Please be aware that this is NOT a platform for reporting crime. Echo feedback is used to set our local policing priorities, and strengthen our relationship with the public by listening to what they want.


How are you protecting officers?

Police forces are following guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

In some scenarios, officers and staff have been issued with personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimise the risk of work-related infection.

PPE is NOT needed for routine policing activities and will not be worn unless dealing with a suspected COVID-19 case. Public Health additionally advises that it is NOT to be worn when dealing with contacts of suspected cases.

PPE which is to be worn when dealing with a person suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 is:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Fluid repellent surgical face mask is recommended (if available)
  • Disposable plastic apron (if available)
  • Disposable eye protection (such as face visor or goggles)

We are working closely with the Government and PHE to manage supplies of PPE like gloves and masks. Questions around stocks of these should be directed to PHE and the Government. Regions are monitoring their stock levels and will redistribute resources where they need to in support of neighbouring areas falling short.


Can I still report crime to the police?

Yes. The safety and welfare of local communities remains our top priority, as always.

Members of the public should continue to call 999 in an emergency where a crime is in progress or there is a threat to life. If your call is not urgent and can be reported using our online channels, we ask you to do so in order to release the pressure on our emergency lines and resources. Our digital services offer you the option to report online.

Do not call police to report cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Please direct concerns to NHS 111.


How will you deal with under 18s not adhering to the government regulations?

We will start off by speaking with them, and encouraging them to comply of their own free will. If necessary, we will liaise with an adult with responsibility for that child or young person. There is a power for us to provide a direction to that adult if it is necessary for us to do so.


I am interested in applying to become a police officer.  Can I still do that?

Welcoming future police officers is as important as ever and recruiting individuals that are passionate about making a difference to the communities we serve.

We are making some changes to some of the recruitment elements in our process to be able to do these virtually, some of which are already in place and some to get in place as quickly as we can.

Local forces are now running virtual interviews and we are working with the College of Policing on a virtual national force assessment centre which we expect to be ready in the coming weeks. This means a change for the timeframe of the process and we will keep you up-to-date with the progress of your application.

Our recruitment team are committed to supporting you and appreciate current circumstances may mean more questions, so please drop us a note with any questions you have at:

BCHCareers@Herts.pnn.police.uk.

We look forward to receiving your application and progressing the ones we have already received!


Can I still apply for a firearms or explosives licence?

Firearms licensing services are currently reduced in scale, with all non-risk and non-urgent work suspended for the time being. This allows us to concentrate on ensuring that existing certificate holders who are nearing renewal are renewed prior to expiry. We are confident that as law-abiding and responsible citizens our shooting community will understand the situation we are in and thank you in advance for your patience.

Please continue to notify us of weapon transactions and changes of addresses, we will process them as staffing and priorities allow – please do not email us to chase progress at this time.

  • Grant applications – due to social distancing restrictions we are unable able to process any grant applications. We ask that you consider waiting until restrictions are lifted prior to applying. Any that we do receive will not be actioned.
  • Variations – if you require a variation please submit it. Most variations do not require a visit so we may be able to process it and will contact you if we cannot.
  • Renewal – our priority is to ensure current holders do not expire. In order to assist us in these challenging times, please continue to renew but do not email or telephone the office to enquire on progress of your renewal. We are dealing with renewals according to expiry date (NOT date received) and, of course, are aware of the status of all holders.

Find out more about firearms and explosives licensing.

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