Ongoing advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people

This is the latest (March 18th) advice from the Government for people who have been shielding.


Shielding advice is being paused nationally from 31 March. From 1 April you are no longer advised to shield, but you must continue to follow the rules in place for everyone under the current national restrictions.

The government has published ‘COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021’, which sets out the roadmap out of the current lockdown in England. This explains how restrictions will be eased over time. You can find these rules by searching for ‘roadmap’ on www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

You must continue to follow the national restrictions, which apply to everyone. We are also advising clinically extremely vulnerable people to continue to take extra precautions to protect themselves. You are advised to follow the practical steps described below to minimise your risk of exposure to the virus.

Socialising inside and outside the home
Continue to maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. Continue to minimise the number of social interactions that you have. The fewer social interactions you have, the lower your risk of catching COVID-19. When the rules allow you to meet with others from outside of your household, your risk of catching COVID-19 is lower if you meet them outdoors. When you are allowed to meet others indoors, keep the area well ventilated with fresh air, for example by opening the window. Please see the COVID-19: ventilation
of indoor spaces guidance for more information. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing, or where other people’s activities may reduce the likelihood of individuals maintaining social distancing.You can continue to form or maintain existing support bubbles and childcare bubbles.

Work
Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible. If you cannot work from home, you should go to work. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work. Some employers may introduce regular testing of employees as part of these measures. You may also want to consider how you get to and from work, for example, if it is possible to avoid using public transport during rush hour. Separate Government guidance has been issued on how employers can make workplaces COVID-safe including how they can maintain social distancing and a system of risk management in your workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers, including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplace.

If you need support to work at home or in the workplace you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work may provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) has been extended until 30 September. You may continue to be eligible throughout this period, even when shielding is paused, providing your employer agrees. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has also been extended until 30 September.

From 1 April you will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) on the basis of being advised to shield. You may be eligible for SSP or ESA if you are sick or incapable of work, either due to coronavirus or other health reasons, subject to meeting the eligibility conditions. If you have concerns about your health and safety at work you can raise them with your workplace union, HSE or your local authority. Where employers are not managing the risk of COVID-19, HSE and local authorities will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply with enforcement notices, this could lead to prosecution.

The existing employment rights framework provides protections against discrimination, unfair dismissal and detriment. Specific guidance has been published for employers and workers on work absences due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau also has information about your rights at work and how to solve problems in the workplace. If you have concerns you can also get advice on your specific situation and your employment rights by visiting the Acas website or calling the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100.

School, college and other educational settings
Clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and students should return to their school or other educational setting from 1 April 2021. Children who live in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not advised to shield and should have returned to school or college on 8 March.

The use of rapid lateral flow tests allows us to identify individuals with coronavirus (COVID-19) who do not have symptoms, which make up around a third of all cases. Finding asymptomatic cases, along with other infection prevention and control measures such as social distancing, can help us manage the spread of the virus.

Therefore to safeguard the health of the teaching workforce and keep as many staff, pupils and students in school and college as possible, we have made rapid lateral flow coronavirus (COVID-19) tests available to schools and colleges. Lateral flow tests can also be accessed directly for households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary school pupils and for households, childcare and support
bubbles of primary and secondary school staff. This testing will also help keep safe those in the community who are clinically extremely vulnerable and their families.

In addition to asymptomatic testing, secondary schools and colleges are continuing to put in place a range of protective measures to help minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19. These include social distancing, handwashing, use of face coverings in specific situations, bubbles, enhancing cleaning and ventilation and managing confirmed cases.

Travel
If you need to use public transport, you must wear a face covering unless you are exempt. Consider travelling outside peak hours to reduce the number of people with whom you come into contact.

If you need to travel, walk or cycle if you can. For longer journeys, or if you are unable to walk or cycle, try to minimise the number of people you come into close contact with.

Please do not car share with people from outside your household or support bubble and ensure you use a face covering when using taxis.

Going to shops and pharmacies
While you are not advised to avoid going to the shops, you may wish to continue using online delivery for food and essential shopping, or to rely on family and friends. If you do go out to the shops or pharmacy, consider going at quieter times of the day. You must wear a face covering in all shops unless you are exempt.

If you have already registered for priority access to supermarket delivery slots using the Shielding Support website or through your council by 31 March, then we can confirm that the participating supermarkets will continue to offer priority access until 21 June. After this date individuals can continue to book deliveries from a supermarket.

If you need support to access shopping for food and essentials before 31 March, and are unable to arrange this yourself or through friends, family, or other support networks, you can still register to request priority access to a supermarket delivery slot at the Shielding Support website, www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support by 31 March. You will no longer be able to register using this website after midnight on
31 March.

You might still want to ask friends, family or volunteers to collect medicines for you. The NHS Volunteer Responders programme is still available to help support those who need it. Volunteers can collect and deliver shopping, medication and other essential supplies. Call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week to self-refer or visit www.nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk for further information. There
may also be other voluntary or community services in your local area that you can access for support.

If you require additional care and support
It is important that you continue to receive the care and support you need to help you stay safe and well. Providers of social care and medical services are making every effort to ensure services remain open and as safe as possible. You should continue to seek support from the NHS for your existing health conditions. You can access a range of NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health professional through an online consultation. To find out more visit www.nhs.uk/health-at-home, or download
the NHS App. If you have an urgent medical need, call NHS 111 or, for a medical emergency, dial 999.

It is also important to look after your mental health.