As cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) continue to fall in the UK, the official guidance for those deemed most at risk is changing slightly.
Many people were advised to self-isolate to protect their health, but those most vulnerable to serious complications if they caught coronavirus had to take things a step further and go into ‘shielding’ – not leaving their home at all or having contact with anyone outside their household.
From July 6th, these restrictions for the shielding group are relaxing slightly. People who’ve been shielding can now meet up to six people from outside their household, but it must be outdoors, such as in their garden, and they should maintain social distancing of at least two metres.
People who live alone and have been shielding can now spend time with members of one other household, known as their “support bubble”, without the need for social distancing. However, members of the other household must be very careful to minimise their risk of catching and passing on the virus.
Most people who’ve been shielding were told to do so in a letter from the Government, usually due to existing medical conditions which made them especially vulnerable. In these cases, the Government organised deliveries of food and medicines and these will continue until the end of July.
The next phase of changes is due to start on August 1st, when shielding is likely to be paused (providing the infection rate is still falling). Anyone who’s been shielding should still observe strict social distancing with everyone outside their household or support bubble, but they can go back to work if their workplace is judged to be ‘Covid-safe’. They should negotiate with their employer and, if possible, arrange to work from home.
People who’ve been shielding will also be able to visit shops to buy food or go to a place of worship from August 1st, but again social distancing is essential and other precautions such as regular hand washing or sanitising and wearing a face covering are recommended. If someone else can continue shopping for you, you should seriously consider this option.
If you had a letter from the Government telling you to shield and you haven’t yet registered for support, it’s not too late, and the support will continue until the end of July (possibly longer is the infection rate starts to rise again). You can call 0800 028 8327 to register, or do it online by clicking here. You’ll need you NHS number, which is on any prescriptions you receive or on the letter you received telling you to shield.
While it might seem like coronavirus is going away, it’s important to remember that it’s still out there. While the risk of catching it is receding, the consequences if you do catch it could be just as serious and potentially life-threatening for those who were advised to shield.
That’s why it’s just as important as ever to remain alert to the risk and do everything you can to minimise it. That includes regular hand washing and sanitising, avoiding touching your face, maintaining social distancing, not mixing with people outside your household or support bubble and wearing a mask or face covering in public places.
Remember, until at least August 1st you shouldn’t visit shops or other public buildings and places, or other people’s houses, and if you do meet with friends or family outside you should continue to observe social distancing. If you’ve been shielding for three months or more, why put that all that sacrifice in jeopardy now by rushing back to ‘normality’ too soon. It’s just not worth the risk.