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People classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” who are socially shielding in the coronavirus pandemic are urged to remain indoors until the end of June.
This group of people was not mentioned in Sunday’s statement on the easing of lockdown restrictions by the prime minister, but a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost UK that the advice still stands: people who are shielding should stay at home to stay safe.
It comes as people in England have been told they can exercise as many times a day as they like and sunbathe in local parks, as long as they socially distance. But this advice isn’t the same for those who are shielding.
Instead, they should stay home and avoid face-to-face contact with others until the end of June. It remains unclear whether the shielding period will be extended at that point.
What does shielding mean?
You’re strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable to protect yourself, Gov.uk states.
It also lists that shielding means:
- Not leaving your house.
- Not attending any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
- Avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus.
Who should be shielding?
Doctors in England identified specific medical conditions that, based on what they know about the virus, place people at greater risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
Those deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” include organ transplant recipients; people with specific cancers; people with severe respiratory conditions; people with rare diseases that increase the risk of infections; people on immunosuppression therapies; and women who are pregnant with heart disease.
What about those classed as clinically vulnerable?
“Clinically vulnerable” people need to follow different advice to those deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable”.
People classed as clinically vulnerable include those aged 70 and over, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions, such as mild to moderate respiratory diseases like asthma; diabetes; chronic heart, kidney and liver disease; and chronic neurological conditions like Parkinson’s and MS (you can find the full list here) as well as pregnant women.
According to the government’s lockdown recovery strategy, clinically vulnerable people should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to be shielded. You can read the latest advice on social distancing here, but the key takeaway is that people in this group are still advised to stay at home as much as possible.
What help can I get if I’m shielding?
If you’re shielding, you can register for extra support – for example, getting shopping delivered to your home. You can either register online or call 0800 028 8327. You need to have your NHS number with you when you register – you can find this at the top of the letter you received letting you know you are clinically extremely vulnerable.
You can also ask family, friends and neighbours to support you by picking up food and prescriptions, however they should drop them off in your garden or on your door step and remain two metres away at all times.
In a 51-page Covid-19 recovery strategy, the government said that over the coming weeks it will continue to introduce more support and assistance for people who are shielding.
What if I don’t want to shield?
Ultimately, it’s up to you what you do. Shielding is for your own protection.
If you have a terminal illness, been given a prognosis of less than six months to live, or have some other special circumstances, you might not want to undertake shielding. Call your GP or specialist to discuss this.
How can I keep healthy during shielding?
You might want to consider doing certain activities to keep mentally and physically well. Some ideas include: doing daily exercises at home or in your garden; spending time doing things you enjoy like reading, cooking, knitting, gaming or other hobbies; eating healthy balanced meals and staying hydrated; opening the windows and curtains to get some fresh air and sunlight in.
You can still chat to your neighbours or sit to chat to them if you have a shared garden space, however you should keep two metres away at all times and wash your hands once you come indoors, before touching anything.