Shielding easing for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland

Shielding updates for England and Northern Ireland

The government has announced changes to the shielding guidance in England and Northern Ireland. This is based on evidence that fewer people are now infectious, meaning that it is much less likely you will be exposed to the virus. For some people, these measures will come as welcome news, but we know some of you will be understandably anxious.

From 4 July social distancing in England will be a minimum of 1 meter. The other home nations have yet to announce changes.

From 6 July, those shielding will be allowed to meet in groups of up to 6 people outside, including those from different households, while maintaining strict social distancing. People shielding will no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of their household. People shielding will also be able to form a support bubble, if they are in a single adult household.  For more detailed guidance see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/meeting-people-from-outside-your-household

From 1 August, shielding guidance will be lifted altogether in England and Northern Ireland from the end of July. From 1 August, people who are currently shielding should adopt strict social distancing measures instead.

From 1 August, food and medicine boxes from the National Shielding Service will stop. However, people who were on the shielding list will still be able to benefit from priority supermarket slots, services provided by NHS Volunteers and other local volunteer groups.

https://volunteering.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/nhs-volunteer-responders-portal/isolating

From 1 August, people shielding can go into work, if they cannot work from home, but only if their workplace is COVID-19 safe and they can keep a safe distance from others.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Will I be informed?

Everyone who is currently on the shielding list in England and Northern Ireland will receive a letter outlining these new changes. People on the shielding list might be advised to shield again if there is an increase in coronavirus cases.

Has the risk from COVID-19 gone away?

No, people shielding should remain cautious, as you are still at risk of becoming severely ill if you catch coronavirus.  This is an important move towards some kind of normality and a time to enjoy the summer months with family and loved ones.

However, the decision to go outside is yours. If you do decide to go out, for now, the best ways to protect yourself are to:

  • follow social distancing guidance when you do go out
  • to help you to get used to being outside more you may want to try short trips outside or spend time in the company of your social bubble
  • choose people in your social bubble who you trust to be following the Government’s guidance
  • spend as long as you feel comfortable outside – it is perfectly normal to feel frightened and worried as you adjust to the drastic changes COVID has made to the way the way society operates. Do it in small steps to build your confidence.
  • maintain good hand hygiene
  • take particular care to minimise contact with other people outside your social bubble
  • go outside when there are fewer people around, such as early in the morning
  • ideally spend time in open areas
  • do not share or exchange personal belongings (such as cups) with other people
  • avoid going into enclosed spaces, as well as shops and other buildings.

Shielding in Wales

Shielding advice in Wales is in place until at least 16 August 2020.

https://gov.wales/guidance-shielding-and-protecting-people-defined-medical-grounds-extremely-vulnerable-coronavirus-0

In Wales, a letter is being sent to everyone in Wales who is shielding to tell them this and next steps. The Chief Medical Officer will then send another letter advising what to do after 16 August 2020.

People who are shielding can take unlimited exercise and meet people from another household if they want to.

‘Outdoor exercise is unlimited, as long as individuals strictly follow social distancing rules and hygiene practices. Those who are shielding can meet outside with people from another household - but should not go into another person’s house or share food with them. There are no other changes being made to the advice for those who are shielding at this stage. People who are shielding should continue to follow all the other advice previously given. You should not go shopping or attend work outside of home. They should continue to have food and medicine delivered to them’.

Shielding advice in Scotland

The shielding advice in Scotland has been extended to 31 July.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-shielding-way-forward-scotland/

People shielding in Scotland can go outside for any amount of time. People shielding in Scotland can:

  • meet up with one other household a day outdoors, with a maximum of 8 people in the group altogether
  • take part in non-contact outdoor activities, such as golf, hiking and fishing.

‘You can go outdoors for a walk, wheel, run or cycle. We do not recommend that you take part in outdoor activities such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, angling, etc. in the same way as the rest of the population can just now. You can go out on your own or with someone you live with; maintain strict physical distancing, also known as social distancing, at all times, even if you live with the person you're out with, this means keeping 2 metres (or three steps) away from other people at all times; should not meet with anyone you do not live with; should choose times and areas that are quiet, if you can; should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds as soon as you get back home'

Looking after your mental health

Lots of people are feeling anxious or struggling with their mental health at the moment and this may be especially so for those who are in the vulnerable groups contemplating the easing of shielding.

Here are some of our tips:

  • Don’t make the virus the focus of your conversations with friends and family.
  • Control what you can control and plan for how you will deal with situations that you may find difficult.
  • Focus on the present and talk and share your anxiety and problems with coping with people who you trust
  • Make sure you are looking after yourself, so you feel more able to cope with whatever happens.
  • Learn and practice ways to calm yourself. This could be through doing some deep breathing exercises, thinking of a beautiful scene, a happy time etc.
  • Only look at reliable sources of information, like the NHS and the websites for UK Government and devolved administrations.
  • Limit your exposure to the news.

The Mental Health Foundation has a good list of tips to look after your mental health.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/coming-out-of-lockdown

Other sources of helpful information and organisations are listed here:

www.piduk.org/static/media/up/PIDUK%20-%20Emotional%20Wellbeing%20and%20COVID19.pdf

Shielding and employment

If you have a shielding letter, your employers should be supporting you in shielding. If you can work from home in your job, it is fine for you to continue working while shielding, as long as you are well. If you are unable to work from home, you should not be working while shielding.

In England from 1 August, shielding guidance will be paused. This means that if you are shielding you can go into work, but ONLY if you cannot work from home and your workplace is COVID-safe.

The Government advice is that employers must support vulnerable and at-risk workers to protect themselves. Please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

PID UK cannot advise you about specific employment situations, but you can find helpful guidance from ACAS about employment issues here: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

The shielding advice also applies to key workers. Find out more at https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/health-safety-and-wellbeing/supporting-our-most-vulnerable-people

Shielding and school

In England, nurseries have reopened and children in certain year groups are now allowed back to school. You can find more detail on this here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Staff and children in the clinically extremely vulnerable (high risk) group have been advised to shield.  People in this group are not expected to go to school or college.

From 1 August, children in England who are clinically extremely vulnerable can go back to school if they are eligible. Children should be reminded to wash their hands often and practise social distancing.

Children who live with parents or siblings who are shielding can return to school if they wish, but we advise you talk to the child’s specialist before doing so.

If a child or family member has coronavirus symptoms or is self-isolating because of coronavirus symptoms in their household, they should not go to school.

If your child is not going to attend school or college, let the school or college know, so they can continue supporting your child as well as they can. Parents will not be fined for not sending their children to school or college at this time.

Posted 24th June 2020