As stated in our previous communications, advice is being updated regularly. On Saturday 21st March, Government have provided updated guidance for protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19). Those that fall into this group include:
- Solid organ transplant recipients
- People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
- Individuals with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD.
Those that fall into these categories are referred to as extremely vulnerable and should now be shielding for at least 12 weeks. Those in this highest risk category who live in England will receive letters or text messages from the NHS strongly advising them of these newly advised precautions. We are aware that some parents have been receiving notifications from the NHS already but if you think you or your child are in this category and have not received a letter from the NHS by Sunday 29 March 2020 or been contacted by your GP, get in touch with your GP or hospital doctor by phone or online.
Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. It means
- You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times
- Avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter. Please note that this period of time could change.
- Parents should continue to care for their child if they are unable to carry out specific tasks themselves but ask others to carry out certain tasks if you have symptoms of the virus and self-isolate.
- All people coming to your home should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival to your house and often whilst they are there.
- Those children and young people under this category should not attend any gatherings including those of friends and families in private spaces.
- The rest of the family living in the house are not required to shield themselves or adopt these protective measures but should do what they can to support the individual shielding and stringently follow guidance on social distancing as mentioned previously and reduce their contact outside the home where possible.
Here are some ways in which shielding can take place in the household:
- If possible, other family members should keep 3 steps (2 metres) away from the extremely vulnerable child/young person. A good way to visual this is to hold your mobile phone at arms length and double that distance.
- Minimise the time other family members spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas and keep shared spaces well ventilated.
- Where possible, extremely vulnerable children/young people should use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. If this is not possible, ensure they are cleaned after use every time (e.g. wiping surfaces that have had contact).
- Use separate cutlery for extremely vulnerable children/young people and ensure all crockery/cutlery is washed and dried thoroughly with a separate tea towel for drying those for your child. If possible use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery.
Those who are extremely vulnerable can register for extra help with food, shopping, deliveries and additional care https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable. You do not have to wait until you receive your letter or notification from the NHS to sign up to this if needed. This service is available in England. If you do not live in England, there are information links within the online registering service for information for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales at the bottom of the page. As soon as we know more about what is happening here we will update you.
We know that shielding will not be easy, especially with younger children, but remember you can only try your very best to keep to the guidelines to protect your children whilst also balancing the need to provide a loving and caring home. You may be thinking about whether you should kiss and hug your child especially if they are younger and unable to understand shielding and social distancing. Remember that ultimately you know what is best for your children and it is important to carry out hygiene guidelines and some of the advice outlined in this information in order to protect your child as much as possible if you are unable to distance yourselves from them.
While these guidelines are specifically for those who are in the extremely vulnerable category (those on immunosuppression therapies and solid organ transplant recipients), we do suggest that where possible those who have chronic liver disease follow some of this advice to ensure you are doing what you can to protect children within the house e.g. separate towels, cleaning of surfaces after use, separate cutlery.
It is very important that you read the full government guidance in the links below
Further information for Scotland:
For up-to-date government information and guidance on the coronavirus please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public