Vulnerable people fearful as shielding 'not advised' even in high risk areas
Vulnerable people will not automatically be told to shield again, even if they live in areas judged to be at ‘very high risk’ from coronavirus, the Government has confirmed.
None of the three new alert levels introduced by Boris Johnson yesterday will include a recommendation that people stay home at all times to protect themselves.
More than two million people who shielded during the first wave of the pandemic are being told they should take extra precautions but can broadly follow the same rules as the rest of the local population.
Some with pre-existing health conditions that make them more susceptible to getting seriously ill from the virus say they feel ‘hung out to dry’ by the decision.
Rosemary Parker, 58, has been shielding at home with her son since March because she has chronic asthma and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six years ago, which weakened her immune system.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates Coronavirus news live
She said without any new instruction from the Government, many employers still expect people to turn up for work, even if this puts them at risk.
Rosemary, who lives in Southport – one of the only areas that is now in the strictest third tier of the new local lockdown system – received a letter from the Government telling her to shield earlier this year but now feels people have been let down.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘When we were told to shield before, that provided some level of protection for people with their employers.
‘So many people are having to go to work or school. I’m lucky – I can stay home if I need to, but unless people are given another letter, they have to keep going in and so many are telling me they don’t feel like it’s covid-safe.
‘I understand that shielding is hard but people are far more stressed knowing they have to go out. They should be given the choice again.’
Rosemary did start going out when it appeared safer over the summer and took trips to visit her elderly parents and sit in her brother’s garden.
People in tier one – where there is judged to be a medium risk – should meet others outside where possible and limit journeys on public transport, in addition to the rules that apply to the population as a whole.
In tier two – the high alert level – people should go shopping at quieter times of the day, avoid travel and reduce the number of people they meet up with outside.
In the final, very high alert level, people are being told to stay in as much as possible and use delivery services or ask neighbours to drop off essential goods. They can still leave the house for exercise.
Liz Flett-Wood, 34, has been shielding at her home in south London with wife Kirsten, 46, who has several conditions which make her vulnerable to the virus.
Liz said one of the biggest impacts since the guidance on shielding was relaxed over the summer has been a reduction in the other types of support that were being offered.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘Things like special shopping hours for shielding people in supermarkets and pharmacies offering deliveries to your home have all but disappeared.
‘We were being sent a “Boris Box” with some essential supplies but that stopped just before August.
‘It made things easier for a lot of people because you then only had to ask friends or family to pick up a few extras, rather than do your whole shop for you.
‘Now delivery slots at supermarkets are hard to get hold of again, and orders are turning up with items missing, I know a lot of people would find it useful but it won’t happen unless shielding starts again.’
Liz said that Kirsten is so vulnerable to the virus, a doctor told the couple: ‘if she gets it, she will die.’ They did begin to see a few people over the summer but had to be so careful that they asked everyone to reduce their social contacts in the week before meeting up.
She said: ‘In London, I think a lot of cases are being missed because it’s so hard to get a test so nobody knows what the real situation is. I don’t think we could go back to full blown shielding again but it should be a choice.
‘There is a mental health aspect to it all but it is more stressful not knowing what the situation is and the vagaries of the rules aren’t helping.’
The Government said all those who shielded previously are already better protected this time by measures not previously in place when shielding was originally introduced in March, such as the rule of six and face coverings.
Letters will be sent to those affected by the new guidance and people will be kept updated as and when things change, the Government promised.
Deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said: ‘The new system will provide clarity on how best those in this group can keep themselves as safe as possible depending on the rates of transmission in their local area.
‘Whilst advisory, I would urge all those affected to follow the guidance wherever they can and to continue to access health services for their medical conditions.
‘We will continue to monitor the evidence closely and fine-tune this approach to make sure everyone in this group is clear about the safest way to go about their daily lives, particularly over the coming winter months.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]
For more stories like this, check our news page.
Source: Read Full Article