How to coronavirus-proof your finances from booking a holiday to stockpiling – The Sun

WASHING hands may help mitigate your risk of contracting coronavirus, but there are measures you can take to protect your finances too.

Coronavirus cases have risen to 90 in the UK – see our live blog for the latest – but it's not just our health that's been impacted.

The money in our pockets has also taken a hit.

Holidaymakers have seen flights across the globe cancelled, while only today budget carrier Flybe blamed coronavirus in part for pushing it into administration.

Savers' pensions and investments have also taken a pummelling as the virus caused global stock markets, including the UK's FTSE100, to experience their largest dip since the 2008 financial crisis.

Elsewhere, people have been splurging on stockpiling, and paying over the odds for in-demand hand sanitiser.

While no-one can predict what might happen next as COVID-19 spreads, there are some measures you can take to try to ensure the hit on your finances is minimised.

Here's what you need to know.

Know your sick pay rights

Most employers pay sick pay anyway, but it will depend on your contract, so check.

If you're not covered by your employer, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has this week confirmed anyone who has to self-isolate over coronavirus will get statutory sick pay from day one.

They previously had to wait four days to claim funding help, which is currently a minimum of £94.25 a week.

To qualify for statutory sick pay you have to earn at least £118 a week, and you have to be employed.

These rules still apply if you are working on a part-time, fixed-term or zero-hour contract.

What you can do to help in the UK fight against coronavirus

  • Follow public health advice on handwashing regularly for at least 20 seconds
  • Reduce the impact and spread of misinformation by only relying on trusted sources like the NHS website, and Gov.UK
  • Check and follow the latest FCO travel advice when travelling and planning to travel
  • Ensure you and your family's vaccinations are up to date to reduce pressures on the NHS
  • Checking on vulnerable family, friends and neighbours
  • Using NHs 111, pharmacies and GPs responsible, and only go the hospital when you really need to
  • Being understanding of the pressures the health and social care systems may be under and receptive to changes
  • Accepting that the advice for managing the illness for most people will be self-isolating at home and over the counter medications
  • Checking for new advice as the situation changes

But this means the lowest paid workers and the self-employed could lose out.

Mr Johnson said anyone who does not qualify can look into claiming Universal Credit instead.

See our full guide to your rights to sick pay if you have to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

Parents can get time off if schools are closed – but you're unlikely to be paid

So far, a total of ten UK schools have closed due to the coronavirus, with others advising their students to self isolate.

Parents are entitled to take time off work to look after children – and you won't face disciplinary action or lose your job.

This is known as "dependant leave" which allows parents time off to deal with an unexpected problem or emergency.

The downside is that you may not be paid for your time off, unless your employer specifically says you will.

See our full guide to your rights to pay and time off as a working parent.

You might be allowed to work from home

All employees have the right to request flexible working, although, you must have been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks.

Employers must assess the advantages and disadvantages, as well as holding a meeting with you to discuss the request.

They can reject the request for a number of reasons, including extra costs to the business and not being able to reorganise staff to cover your work.

Think before booking new holidays – and pay on card

Experts predict the coronavirus outbreak in the UK will explode in April and could last until the height of summer, throwing plans for travel into chaos.

If you're thinking of booking a holiday, founder, Martin Lewis, told The Sun there's "no right answer here".

But he says you should consider how far off your trip is, whether you're at higher risk of contracting the virus, and ultimately whether you want to go to an affected country.

What happens if I don't have travel insurance?

IF your travel insurance doesn't cover coronavirus cancellations, or you don't have any travel insurance, it's worth getting in touch with your travel operator.

You're not guaranteed any help but it might arrange an alternative holiday or allow you to rebook at a later date.

Free cancellations aren't guaranteed if you've booked through an ATOL-protected tour operator either.

This is because the protection is against the failure of the package holiday provider, and not for a major medical outbreak like the coronavirus.

Some travel companies are still offering worried holidaymakers help where possible.

For example, Greek airline Aegean Airlines is offering customers with flights to any destination before March 20 the chance to rebook for free.

If you've booked flights and accommodation separately, ask the airlines and hotels if they can help.

Read Martin's full holiday booking advice guide for more information.

Also be aware that your employer can't prevent you from going on a personal trip.

And if you do decide to take the risk, make sure you pay on credit card if possible as if an airline goes under due to coronavirus, as we've seen with Flybe, your rights to a refund will depend on if your flight is ATOL-protected.

If it's not, you may be able to claim through either Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act for credit card customers with bookings that cost more than £100, or the Chargeback scheme for debit card users.

Also make sure you have a decent travel insurance policy – see below for more on this.

Take out travel insurance – and make sure it covers coronavirus-related problems

When trips or flights are cancelled due to coronavirus, your first port of call for a refund or alternative trip is your travel provider.

But if you have no luck with them, this is where travel insurance should kick in.

You should always take out insurance as soon as you book your trip as this will protect you if your holiday is cancelled before you jet off.

This is particularly important right now as if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues a travel ban to a country and you don't have insurance, you won't be protected if your trip is cancelled.

What should you look for in a good travel insurance policy?

TRAVEL insurance policies can vary a great deal, but here are some 'must have' features you should look out for from the Money Advice Service.

  • Medical expenses – A good policy will give cover of £2million or more for travel in Europe and £5million or more for the USA and elsewhere around the globe
  • Repatriation service – The costs of getitng you back to the UK for medical reasons should be covered automatically by your policy
  • Cancellation and curtailment – A good policy will cover you for £2,000 or more if you have to cancel or shorten your holiday
  • Missed departure – Covers additional accommodation costs and travel expenses up to £500 or more if you miss your flight due to circumstances out of your control
  • Delay – You'll usually be covered for £250 or more if your travel plans are delayed due to circumstances out of your control
  • Baggage cover – Covers you if your baggage is lost, damaged or stolen. Look for policies that have cover of £1,500 or more.

Like with any policy, make sure you're covered for costs incurred as a result of delays, cancellations or being put into quarantine while on holiday.

You should also ensure you've got enough medical cover – consumer group Which? recommends you take out £2million for Europe and £5million for worldwide.

In addition, travellers should watch out for clauses that specify you won't be covered for cancellations caused by a pandemic, in case COVID-19 is escalated to this level by authorities before your trip.

But be aware you won't be able to get your money back from your insurer if you decide to cancel your holiday because you're worried about the outbreak – although those with pre-medical conditions may have a get out of jail free card.

Check out our guide to the travel insurers that will cover you if coronavirus causes flight cancellations.

Ensure investments and pensions are diversified

The UK's FTSE100 dropped by 13 per cent last week as coronavirus fears caused the biggest one-week fall since the financial crisis in 2008.

And Bank of England governor Mark Carney has warned that the economic shock from coronavirus could be large.

But while the FTSE is starting to recover, experts say investors shouldn't panic, and should instead use this an an opportunity to make sure their portfolios are well diversified.

This means you don't put all your eggs in one basket by sticking money into just the one region or just the one type of asset class.

Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at investment platform AJ Bell said: “Anyone investing in the stock market should be thinking in terms of five years or more rather than weeks or months, and that is the context through which to view the current turmoil.

"At most, people should use this as an opportunity to review their investments and position their portfolios to ride out this uncertainty.

“The first thing to ensure is that your portfolio is well diversified, for example not too heavily concentrated on a handful of stocks or funds, or one or two particular countries, industries or themes that could be particularly hard hit.

"Gold may be an option to help diversify your portfolio, although the price has already rallied a lot. Additional downside protection could be gleaned from buying a fund or investment trust where the priority is capital preservation, such as Troy's Personal Assets Trust.”

Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at platform Interactive Investor, added: “Investors have a choice to make in volatile markets, whether to be brave and buy, whether to take a wait and see approach, or whether to be cautious and cash out.

"Historically, those who have been brave have typically been rewarded, as markets often recover, and what appears to be a dramatic fall at the time is, with hindsight, little more than a minor blip in a long-term trend."

Don't panic buy pricey hand sanitiser

Shops have been stripped off hand sanitiser as panicked shoppers try to protect themselves from wayward germs.

We've even seen 50p Lidl hand sanitiser selling for £40 on eBay.

But don't get caught up in the hype and pay over the odds for something you don't necessarily need.

Here's how to cut the cost of your grocery shop

MONEY.CO.UK has shared some top tips with us to help you keep your supermarket spend down to a minimum.

  • Write yourself a list – Only buy items that you need. If it isn't on your list, don't put it in the trolley
  • Create a budget – Work out a weekly budget for your food shopping
  • Never shop hungry – You are far more likely to buy  more food if your tummy is rumbling
  • Don't buy pre-chopped veggies or fruit – The extra they'll charge for chopping can be eye watering
  • Use social media – Follow your favourite retailers to find out about the latest deals
  • Be disloyal – You may want to go to different stores to find the best bargains
  • Check the small print –  It’s always worth checking the price per kg/lb/litre when comparing offers so you’re making a like for like decision as a bigger box won’t necessarily mean you get more
  • Use your loyalty cards – Don’t be afraid to sign up to them all. They all work slightly differently – work out what bonus suits you better and remember to trade in your points for additional rewards

Ultimately, the NHS and Public Health England say the best way to stop the spread of coronavirus is simply to wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds.

If in doubt, The Sun has published a step-by-step guide on how to wash your hands effectively to stop the spread of germs.

We've also rounded-up where hand sanitiser is still available at sensible prices if you need it on the go.

Think before stock piling items you don't need

It's not just hand sanitiser that is proving difficult to get hold off, as Brits have also been stockpiling items such as toilet roll.

While this isn't necessary, you may get peace of mind from putting away two week's worth of essentials in case you're put in isolation.

Planning what to buy in advance is crucial as it will ensure you get what you actually need, prevent you from stocking up on items that will go off, and stop you spending cash on takeaways and delivery fees.

Start with a meal plan based on the freezer and store cupboard goods you already have – and work out what you would need to add.

Unless you've got cash to spare you aren't going to want to buy everything at once, so simply add a few extra items onto each shop and prioritise essentials first.

We've put together a stockpile list of food and household items you might want to include.

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