Shielding guidance was put into place to ensure that those most at risk of severe illness from coronavirus were protected. The daily number of new cases is at a much lower level (lowest level since the peak in March) which means the risk is minimal. Scientists believe that due to the negative impact of social isolation, personal economic stability, mental health and quality of life, it is proportionate to allow people to stop shielding soon.
It has been announced that shielding in England will end on 1 August. It is important to note that you should continue to maintain rigorous social distancing where possible.
Further easing of shielding measures from 6 July were also outlined. The guidance will change so you can meet in groups of up to six people from outside your household (outdoors with social distancing). It is suggested that you still maintain social distancing and not share items such as cups and plates. Support bubbles will also apply to those in the shielding group. If you live alone (or are a lone adult with dependent children under 18 of which may include a shielding child), you will be able to form a support bubble with another household.
Support will continue to be available through the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme beyond the end of July. They can help with collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies; regular, friendly phone calls which can be provided by different volunteers each time or by someone who is also shielding and will stay in contact for several weeks; and transport to medical appointments. More information about the volunteer scheme can be found here. Those shielding will also continue to have access to priority supermarket delivery slots if you have registered online before 17 July.
From 1 August, if clinically extremely vulnerable people are unable to work from home but need to work, they can, if the business is COVID safe. It is important that you have discussions with your manager about how they can support you at work and ensure you are kept safe. You can read the full updated guidance here.
We are now aware of shielding end dates of all four nations as below.
• England – 1 August
• Northern Ireland – 31 July
• Wales – 16 August (subject to review)
• Scotland – 31 July (subject to review)
Please note that these dates are all subject to the rate of transmission staying as low as they are. It may be that if there is second wave, shielding will be back in place and then BSPGHAN shielding categories (under 18s) would still apply. This explains why the word ‘paused’ is often used in new government statements.
Why are there differences between countries?
Countries are taking different approaches to coming out of lockdown and easing shielding measures. There are number of reasons why, including:
• R-number (rate of transmission) in that country
• Demographic and population factors
• Different Chief Medical Officers for each country
How does this link with BSPGHAN guidance?
The BSPGHAN guidance outlining the new shielding categories for those with a paediatric liver condition still applies until the end of shielding date in your country. Therefore, if you are in Category A or after discussion B and need to continue shielding you should. Once your country’s end date arrives you should continue to follow government advice regarding social distancing and hygiene. These categories should make you aware that you are still a group at risk of complications and therefore will need to be more vigilant than perhaps other groups. You can view our article about BSPGHAN guidance here.
Government and clinical guidance needs to be put into context and applied to how you live your life. It is important that you balance the cost and benefit of individual decisions. Remember this is advice only – shielding is not compulsory but it is there to help protect you from contracting coronavirus and developing serious complications. We know people will be anxious about these new announcements and it will introduce a lot of new questions for families but we hope those who have signed up to CLDF’s unshielding zoom session this week will benefit from speaking to others in similar situations. If you would like to join this session on Thursday 25th June at 4pm please email email@example.com to register.
Links to further information and articles
*We will update CLDF articles as and when advice changes.
Read the CLDF article about BSPGHAN guidance regarding new shielding categories
Read the CLDF article about easing of shielding guidance
Advice from Mental Health Foundation about coming out of lockdown is available here.
Click on the links below for the most up to date advice in your country applicable to those shielding and those not: