MILLIONS of Brits who had previously been shielding from the coronavirus have been given new guidelines after the government introduced a three-tier lockdown system.
There are currently 2.2 million people who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable in the UK.
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The government has now introduced new guidance which will coincide with its new three-tier structure, separating Brits into very high risk (Tier 3), high risk (Tier 2) and medium risk (Tier 1) categories.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said as cases continue to rise in the UK “now is the time to take action and ensure we protect the most vulnerable in our society.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries urged all those affected to follow the specific guidance for their areas.
She added: “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.”
People in the clincally extremely vulnerable group are people who have specific types of cancer and who have had an organ transplant.
The new advice is less restrictitve than previous shieling measures and people will have to adhere to measures relevant to their tier.
But what are the new guidelines if you’re in the clinically extremely vulnerable category?
Tier 3 – Very High
Those living in tier 3, which includes areas such as Liverpool and Halton, have had the toughest restricitons imposed.
If you live in Tier 3 pubs will be closed, wedding receptions are banned and households and bubbles cannot mix inside or outside the home.
The rule of six still applies and people in these areas have been advised to not travel outside the local area.
The new advice for the clincally vulnerable in these areas is to work from home and stay at home as much as possible – avoiding all but essential travel.
The advice also states that you should also significantly reduce shopping trips, and if possible use online delivery or ask people in your household, support bubble or volunteers to collect food and medicines.
People have still been encouraged to go outside for exercise and people have been urged to contact their local authority if they need further assistance.
Tier 2 – High
People living in Tier 2 are subject to the same restrcitions as the rest of the country, while pubs remain open, people must not mix with others outside their household.
The rule of six still applies and where you can you should limit travel. These rules are in place in areas such as Manchester and the North East.
Those who are shielding in these areas have been asked to reduce the number of different people they meet outside.
The new guidance also states that they should reduce the number of shopping trips they go on and should aim to going during quieter periods of the day.
The guidance states: “You can still go to work if you cannot work from home because all workplaces should be covid secure, and children should still attend school.
“This is on top of restrictions for everyone to not meet other households indoors, unless part of a support bubble, and to only meet in groups of up to six people outdoors.”
Tier 1 – Medium
For people in living in Tier 1 nothing will change and previous guidance such as the rule of six and the 10pm curfew will remain in place.
Government guidance states that people in these areas should strictly observe social distancing and meet others outside where possible.
The guidance continues: “Limit unnecessary journeys on public transport and work from home where possible, but you can still go to work and children should still attend school.
“This is on top of restrictions for everyone to only meet in groups of up to six people.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has said it will write to all of those affected by the changes and will outline what this means for individuals in different tiers.
ARE YOU CLASSED AS EXTREMELY CLINCALLY VULNERABLE?
Those with the following conditions fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable group:
- solid organ transplant recipients
- people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
- people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
- people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- people with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell)
- people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
- women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
- other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decision
Commenting on the changes Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director and Director of Health Protection at PHE, said people who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
“If you are in this group, we recommend that you follow the advice to help protect yourself at each alert level as set out in the guidance.
“In addition to the rules you must follow at each alert level, you can take additional precautions.
“Continue to maintain strict social distancing, wash your hands regularly and try to keep the number of social interactions that you have low.
“The fewer social interactions you have, the lower your risk of catching Covid-19”, she added.
The government also stated that the advice for those shielding could change as restrictions are altered after it admitted that the orginal programme left peopel “feeling imprisoned”.
The guidance states: “This will only apply to some very high alert areas, and the government will write to you separately to inform you if you are advised to shield.
“You are not advised to follow this revised shielding advice unless you receive a new shielding notification advising you to do so.
“Further support will be made available from your local authority and community pharmacies to help protect you during this period of heightened risk.”
Last night, the Government’s top doctor advised vulnerable Brits to take more care to protect themselves from the bug.
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Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Prof Chris Whitty, said: “People previously shielding are at greater risk.
“We always advise they take greater precautions.
“But we also recognise there were significant difficulties in mental distress and loneliness for people who were put into shielding as they certainly perceived it.
“And I think we’re trying to deal with that in the way we approach shielding.”