Baffled North East people have turned in large numbers to a charity helpline for advice about what they can and can't do under the new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions imposed last Friday.
Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Newcastle, Shona Alexander, said: "We are being kept very busy with questions about what's being allowed or not.
"The latest restrictions are resulting in queries about what the lockdown means, particularly for family groups. Childcare is still a major issue, as is the changing situations in schools."
And she said they expect it to get even busier as the end of the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme comes to an end of October 31. From that date companies will receive no financial aid to pay the wages of its staff placed on Furlough.
"We are expecting a surge of employment issues, partly because of the new lockdown rules which particularly restrict the hospitality businesses, but also because Furlough is coming to an end and people are very worried about their jobs," she said.
"It seems lots of businesses are now pessimistic about the consequences of the latest lockdowns (and the) continuing economic slump, so the end of Furlough may well be the final straw for them. October is likely to be very busy for us."
The surge comes at a time when Citizens Advice centres themselves are dealing with the Covid-19 restrictions. In Newcastle there are 24 staff, five of them part-time, and ordinarily it has 40 to 50 volunteers. Yet only three volunteers are now back working.
Ms Alexander said: "Most of our advice is now done over the phone, but on August 3 we re-opened our public drop-in sessions at City Library because we know that there are people in need of our advice who don’t have a phone or access to a computer, have basic literacy and numeracy and mental health issues and no social support whatsoever."
An added problem is we are approaching winter, one of the busiest times of year for Citizens Advice centres throughout the North East.
Ms Alexander said: "November and December are always busy with fuel debt problems as the winter weather starts. We anticipate that fuel poverty problems will be worse this year because of Covid-19 restrictions, with more people at home much more.
"In preparation for this, local Citizens Advice offices in the North East have banded together to run a new home energy advice service for people with health problems such as asthma, COPD or heart disease. It's funded by the Energy Redress Fund - fines which Ofgem has made against energy companies for their poor customer service."
Ms Alexander added: "It has been challenging for us to give consistent advice during the whole Covid-19 pandemic situation, and like everyone else, we keep up-to-speed with everything via the Government and NHS websites on an hourly basis.
"Staff here are amazingly resilient, and we are rising to all the challenges, as indeed we have since we were first set up in September 1939, to help people through World War Two."