In this comprehensive guide, we delve into a myriad of COVID-19 FAQs, addressing a wide range of queries from understanding the virus itself to tackling complex legal questions. From the basics of the virus to intricate legal intricacies, we've compiled detailed answers to help you navigate the diverse concerns stemming from the ongoing pandemic. Whether you're seeking clarity about COVID-19 symptoms, preventive measures, or legal rights and obligations during these challenging times, you'll find valuable insights here. Let's unravel the complexities and provide you with the information you need in these uncertain times.
How does it spread?
COVID-19 is spread by an infected person through small droplets which come from the nose or mouth during a sneeze, cough or while talking. The droplets travel through the air and can be ingested by another person directly. If the droplets fall onto a surface and another person then touches that surface with their hands and fingers, they can then ingest the virus by transferring it to their eyes, nose or mouth by touch.
As a way to control the spread of the virus, scientists, governments and healthcare experts recommended strict social distancing and heightened hygiene methods.
In the UK, the government introduced three measures which were widely known as 'lockdown':
- Staying at home (except for very limited purposes)
- Closure of schools, offices, many retail businesses and other types of venue (including libraries, restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, and gyms)
- Stopping gatherings of more than two people
When enforceable 'lockdowns' were not in place, various other social distancing measures were widely adopted, these included
- staying 2 metres apart from other people
- increased hygiene methods, including recommendations for thorough and more frequent hand washing and the introduction of sanitising stations
- use of PPE by healthcare and key workers became mandatory, as did the wearing of face coverings or face masks in many social situations, such as in shops, schools, and offices.
Who does coronavirus affect?
Anyone can catch COVID-19; however, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) those people who may be most severely affected are those over the age of 60 and anyone who has health conditions such as lung or heart disease, diabetes, or conditions that affect their immune system.
Initially, there was much speculation about the different groups who were 'at-risk', but under WHO guidance, the above are the only groups who are currently (May 2022) listed as at increased risk of suffering severely from COVID-19.
Is COVID-19 life threatening?
Most people who contract COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms, particularly at the start of an infection. Serious infections can be life-threatening.
It is possible for people who have contracted the virus to only have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all (asymptomatic) but they can still pass the virus to others.
Common main symptoms of COVID-19 include fever (high temperature), new continuous cough, and loss of taste or smell. The NHS lists a number of other symptoms which, they say, are very similar to other illnesses such as cold and flu.
Around 80% of people who contract COVID-19 will not need to be hospitalised and will recover fully over a short period of time – typically around two weeks.
More serious cases will require the patient to be cared for in hospital as a result of respiratory problems (difficulty breathing). In the most serious cases, a ventilator will be required to take over respiratory function for the patient. Sadly, some patients do not recover. The death toll of COVID-19 patients in the UK is widely reported.
By March 2022 more than 50 million people in the UK had received a COVID-19 vaccination and the programme has been hailed as one of the major factors in combating the threat of the virus to overwhelm the NHS.
Could my long-term health be affected?
During the pandemic, doctors at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital lead a major research project to help combat the long-term consequences of COVID-19 and investigate the treatment of related lung inflammation.
Professor James Chalmers, who led the study, noted that he and other respiratory health professionals had recognised the emergence of post-COVID lung disease and were concerned that some patients would suffer long-term chronic conditions requiring ongoing treatment.
In the US, clinicians reported that COVID-19 patients were suffering heart inflammation, acute kidney disease, neurological malfunction, blood clots, intestinal damage and liver problems. Early data showed 14 to 30 percent of intensive care patients in New York and Wuhan lost kidney function and required dialysis. There were also reports of significant cases of cardiac injury in COVID-19 patients. The clinicians also suggested the strong likelihood of long-term health consequences.
It is now established that the effects of COVID-19 on some patients may be debilitating and chronic; the condition is known as Long Covid. To find out more, see our page on Long Covid – Your Rights
Why was PPE such a hot topic?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become one of the frontline defences to keep people safe when their job means they must come into contact with coronavirus and COVID-19 patients. Without PPE, amongst other risk prevention methods, healthcare workers and frontline essential workers may become ill as a result of doing their job.
The lack of enough and adequate PPE became a highly contentious issue at the height of the pandemic, with concerns among all areas of the health service, including those providing care in hospitals, care homes and out in the community.
However, as some people with COVID-19 may only have mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all, there are many professions in which workers are likely to come into contact with coronavirus as part of their daily work. So, at the height of the pandemic employers were obliged to put measures in place to protect workers.
For more information, please visit our page on the Role of PPE and Duty of Care.
My relative died, will there be an Inquiry?
As the law stands, unless a work-related fatality occurred as the result of an "accident" employers have no obligation to report it to the Procurator Fiscal. At the time of writing, the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service has suspended any requirement to report COVID-19 work-related deaths.
So, unfortunately, the outlook is that no employer, company or public body in Scotland is likely to face an inquiry or be prosecuted by the Procurator Fiscal for breach of Health & Safety Legislation in any case of injury or death arising from COVID-19.
Is there financial help for the bereaved?
The UK government has outlined the help and support available when someone dies of coronavirus (COVID-19), including the criteria of eligibility for bereavement benefits.
However, as Thompsons solicitor Bruce Shields has highlighted, "in Scotland no employer, company or public body is likely to be prosecuted by the Procurator Fiscal for breach of Health & Safety Legislation in any case of injury or death arising from COVID-19".
Bruce believes that "no death from COVID-19 is ever going to be subject to a Fatal Accident Inquiry. The history of Public Inquiry in the UK suggests that no-one will ever be held accountable for the avoidable deaths and injury from COVID-19".
Sadly, this injustice may leave only one recourse for family members whose loved one has died – a civil claim for compensation.
What is the Scottish Government's advice?
There is also advice on staying at home, shielding, pregnancy and looking after your mental wellbeing and the mental wellbeing of children during the coronavirus crisis.
Can I make a claim?
If you have contracted COVID-19 in a situation where an individual or organisation had a duty of care to keep you safe from the risk of coronavirus, then it is possible you will be able to make a civil claim for compensation for any past and future financial losses.
Who can I claim against?
In February 2020, the Government officially recognised Coronavirus as a "serious and imminent threat to public health." When you venture out for work or visit public spaces, your employer or the managing organisation holds a duty of care to ensure your safety. If they fail in this responsibility, they can be held accountable for any resulting losses.
For instance, if your employer neglects to shield you from coronavirus exposure by not providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or failing to follow recommended measures such as lockdown protocols, social distancing, or enhanced hygiene practices, and you subsequently contract COVID-19, you likely have grounds for a claim. The same applies if you contracted the virus in settings where protection should reasonably be expected, like doctor's offices or hospitals.
For personalised and current legal advice tailored to your situation, contact Thompsons at 0800 0891 331. We are here to assist you in understanding your rights and pursuing necessary actions based on your circumstances.
Thompsons Solicitors in Scotland and coronavirus claims
Like everyone in the UK, Thompsons was affected by coronavirus and the lockdown restrictions; however, we were committed to ensuring that the people of Scotland continued to have access to justice and their rights were upheld throughout the pandemic.
If you have any legal concerns or you need advice and updates on an ongoing case, you can contact us by phone, text or via the website. If you, or someone close to you, have suffered COVID-19 we can help you make a claim. Talk to Thompsons today.
Call 0800 0891 331 or fill in our online claim form by clicking on the button below, so we can call you back to discuss your circumstances. And for more information on coronavirus compensation claims, our "Can I Make a Claim?" page has lots of information.