Update on 23 June 2020:
The new guidance will start on 6 July and aims to give the tens of thousands of shielders in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough a chance to "regain a degree of normality once more in their daily lives".
The Government has announced a stepped approach to easing the advice for those most at risk who have been self-isolating at home for the last three months.
Letters outlining the changes are now going out.
- From 6 July, they can meet up to six people outdoors but they must follow social distancing and handwashing guidance to minimise the risk of becoming infected.
- Those who are shielding and live alone or are single parents with children will also be able to create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household of any size.
- And from Saturday 1 August, people will no longer be advised to shield.
- However, support will remain available - including priority for supermarket delivery slots and help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments.
This guidance will be kept under regular review if rates of infection change and could impact those shielding.
Update on 31 May 2020: The government have updated their guidance on staying at home if you are shielding. They now say that:
- You can leave your home to spend time outdoors if you want to.
- If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household.
- If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household. Ideally, this should be the same person each time.
- Help stay safe when leaving home by washing your hands regularly, maintaining social distance and avoiding gatherings of any size.
- If you do go out, you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart.
This guidance will be kept under regular review.
Those contacted are strongly advised to follow the guidance - but it is your choice.
The GPs and hospital clinicians looking after people in these groups have been asked to review their patient lists and to add in anyone else who they think should be considered at highest clinical risk and advised to shield.
If you think that you should have a letter, contact your GP or specialist.
The following Q&A, based on information provided by the Government, aims to help you get some of the answers you need, to know about what shielding means in practice.
What does ‘shielding’ mean?
Shielding is the word used to describe how to protect those at highest risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. You can shield yourself following the Government guidance, and shield others by minimising all interaction between yourself and those who are most at risk.
How do I shield myself?
If you think you have a condition which makes you extremely vulnerable or have received a letter from NHS England, you are strongly advised to shield yourself, to reduce the chance of getting coronavirus (COVID-19). This means following the measures below:
- Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
- You can leave your house to exercise - but you must maintain strict social distancing. This means staying 2 meters apart from other people.
- Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
- Do not go out for shopping or travel. And when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
- Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
- Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
How do I get food and medication if I'm shielding?
Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. The Government has also set up a dedicated website and helpline where you can go for wider support.
Please register now, using your NHS number, if you have received the letter so that the Government can start putting in place people to help:
0800 028 8327
This service can help answer any questions you may have, such as:
- How do I get food shopping?
- How do I buy medicine?
- How do I pick up prescriptions?
You can also register for support by contacting the Countywide hub below.
Contact the countywide hub – use the online form
Call 0345 045 5219 Monday to Friday from 8am -6pm & Saturdays 9am - 1pm
I haven’t been contacted but I think I am in the high-risk group – what should I do?
If you have not received a letter or been contacted by your GP or hospital consultant, but feel you are within the high-risk category, you should contact your GP practice or hospital team. If you are unsure, check the list on the Gov.uk website to see if you are in the most at risk/ extremely vulnerable group.
I'm worried that shielding is going to affect my mental health - what do I do?
Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post or online. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling if you want to.
Remember, it is okay to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you might want to try an NHS recommended helpline.
You can refer yourself to NHS Volunteer Responders for a phone call from an NHS Volunteer, by calling 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm). We know that many people in the shielding group will already have good support networks among family, friends and neighbours, but if you don’t, the volunteers can help with a range of support, from transport to and from hospital appointments to ‘check in and chat’ – a simple phone call from a volunteer to check that you are doing ok.
Let us know if you have trouble with the referral process.
We've also put together some advice on how to look after your mental health during this time.