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Stay safe if you’ve been shielding

Written by on 17th August 2020

People considered as ‘extremely vulnerable’ were advised by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales to take extra precautions during the peak of the pandemic in Wales i.e. ‘shielding’.

Shielding was first introduced at the start of the pandemic in March when the infection rate was much higher.

Infection rates in Wales are now very low and so the chances of catching coronavirus (COVID-19) are much lower, which is why the Chief Medical Officer has changed his advice.

Those who have previously followed shielding advice no longer need to do so. You can now follow the same rules as the rest of the population in Wales. This means:

  • You no longer need to stay 2 metres or 3 steps away from people you live with or who are part of your extended household.
  • You can now go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID secure (has taken reasonable measures to minimise risk to employees);
  • Children who have been shielding can return to school when schools re-start.
  • You can now go out for any reason, including going to shops to buy food but you should stay 2 metres or 3 steps from other people.

As part of the support arrangements food boxes will end, but priority supermarket slots will continue to be available and medicine deliveries will be available via the National Volunteer Prescription Delivery Scheme until the end of September.

A letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales has been sent recently providing the latest information and advice. View a copy of the letter.

Things you should be doing to stay safe:

  • Do keep 2 metres or three steps away from other people outside your home or extended household.
  • Do regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Do plan ahead. Think about the availability of places to rest when going for a walk, or toilet facilities when further away from home. Take hand sanitiser in case hand washing facilities are not available.
  • Do work from home if you can or return to your workplace if it is COVID secure (has taken reasonable measures to minimise risk to employees).
  • Do contact your local supermarket for priority online shopping if you do not feel ready to do your own food shopping yet. If you do go to a supermarket, choose quieter times of the day.
  • Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP, pharmacy or other day-to-day services.
  • Do contact your local council if you have no one who can help you.

Things you should not be doing to stay safe

  • Do not get close to anyone who is showing signs of coronavirus. These could be any or all of the following: high temperature (above 37.8 °C), a new and continuous cough, a loss of taste or smell.
  • Do not take unnecessary risks, such as attending large gatherings indoors where physical distancing is not possible.
  • Do not go to your GP or hospital without phoning first. If you need to contact the NHS you should let them know you have been shielding.

What Welsh Government will do if COVID-19 cases rise in Wales

Welsh Government will keep a record of everyone on the shielding patients list should they need to ask anyone to shield again in future.

If the Chief Medical Officer for Wales’ advice changes for your area, Welsh Government will communicate with the public via local radio and television and if shielding is necessary he will write to you again.

Going forward, Welsh Government want to have a better understanding of each individual’s personal risk. Welsh Government are currently working together with the other UK nations to develop a tool that will allow doctors to assess an individual’s risk and what actions they should take to help lower the risk.

Work and employment

As shielding advice has been paused, people who have been shielding will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) on the basis of being advised to shield.

You should continue to work from home if possible, however you can return to work if your workplace is COVID Secure.

Your employer should help you to transition back to work safely and must take all reasonable measures to minimise exposure to coronavirus by ensuring a 2m distance is maintained between workers in your workplace (if you can’t work from home). The Welsh Government has already issued guidance to employers on taking measures to make the workplace safe.

Employers should be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals.

It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability, race or ethnicity.

Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.

You can get advice on your specific situation and your employment rights by visiting the Acas website or calling the Acas helpline, 0300 123 1100. 

If you have concerns about your health and safety at work, you can raise them with any union safety representatives, or ultimately with the organisation responsibility for enforcement in your workplace, either the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority.

If you are self-employed support is available through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support for people who have a disability or long term physical or mental health condition. Support can be provided where someone needs help or adaptations beyond reasonable adjustments. Call the Access to Work helpline on 0800 121 7479.

For information on financial assistance available to you please visit Understanding Universal Credit on GOV.UK.

Children and young people

In the same way as adults, children and young people no longer need to shield which means they can go back to school or college/university.

There is also strong evidence that suggests many children and young people do not need to shield at any time because, in general, children and young people have a much lower risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

There are around 5,000 children and young people on the Shielded Patients List in Wales.

Welsh Government expect that the majority of children will be removed from this list. This means they would not be asked to shield again in the future. We expect that only those on certain treatments, such as for cancer care or those at risk of severe infection due to an immunodeficiency will stay on this shielding list and so may be advised to shield again in the future.

Your child’s paediatrician or GP will notify you whether your child should remain on the Shielding Patients List.

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) 

If you develop any of these symptoms, however mild, you are advised to book a test immediately.

  • a high temperature (above 37.8 °C)
  • new and continuous cough
  • loss of or change to your normal sense of smell or taste

Hospital and GP appointments

Wherever possible, GP appointments will continue to be provided by phone, email or online. If you need to be seen in person, your GP practice will contact you to let you know what you should do. Your hospital or clinic will contact you if any changes need to be made to your care or treatment. Please phone your hospital or clinic if you have any questions about your appointment.  

It is recommended that you should wear a face mask when you need to visit your GP surgery or hospital.  If you do not have one, you can ask for one to be provided to you on arrival.

Mental health and wellbeing

As you emerge from shielding you may feel anxious or frightened.

Taking care of your mental wellbeing is important. These are some ideas about how you can do that:  

  • Noticing how you are doing and thinking about if you can do anything differently. Thinking about ways to take care of your wellbeing can help. 
  • Not judging yourself when you are having a hard day. There are different ways you may be able to reassure yourself. Why not try some calming activities, such as relaxation exercises or talking to others.
  • Take it one step at a time. Plan small things you can do to come out from the isolation of shielding. A short walk with a friend or a visit to a small shop to build your confidence. 
  • Focusing on what you can control, like your thoughts and behaviours. This will have a big impact on how you are feeling.  
  • Connecting with others. Reach out and ask for help from friends and family or from local organisations.
  • Noticing how you are doing and thinking about if you can do anything differently. Thinking about ways to take care of your wellbeing can help. 
  • Not judging yourself when you are having a hard day. There are different ways you may be able to reassure yourself. Why not try some calming activities, such as relaxation exercises or talking to others.
  • Take it one step at a time. Plan small things you can do to come out from the isolation of shielding. A short walk with a friend or a visit to a small shop to build your confidence. 
  • Focusing on what you can control, like your thoughts and behaviours. This will have a big impact on how you are feeling.  
  • Connecting with others. Reach out and ask for help from friends and family or from local organisations.

If you are receiving services for your mental health, learning disability or autism and are worried about the impact of isolation, please contact your keyworker/care coordinator or provider to review your care plan. If you have additional needs please contact your key worker or care coordinator to develop a safety or crisis plan.

If you have a learning disability and need some support understanding the shielding letter you can read the easy read version or contact the Wales Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 8000 300 – it is free to phone and is open from 9am to 5pm every day including bank holidays. You can also email [email protected]

There are also services to support you and others you might be worried about. Talking about worries and problems can make things easier. 

There are a number of helplines and information services that provide guidance and information tailored for people with particular health conditions. A list of organisations providing such services is available on the PHW website – click on the ‘Charity and Support Organisation Directory for those with specific health conditions or requirements. 

The C.A.L.L. Helpline is a dedicated mental health helpline for Wales. It provides confidential listening and emotional support and can help you contact support in your local area, including voluntary and charitable organisations. It is available on 0800 132 737, or by texting ‘help’ to 81066. Alternatively visit the C.A.L.L. website.

Further information on looking after your mental health and wellbeing is available on the Public Health Wales website.  

If you are still struggling after several weeks and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS Direct Wales or call 111.

Article updated: 17th August 2020

Please note: All information in this article is correct at the time of posting, however may change in the future. Vitalize Radio will do the very best to update the information as soon as possible.