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Guidance on social distancing for everyone in Wales and protecting older people and vulnerable adults.

First published:
17 March 2020
Last updated:

Key messages

Stay local and keep Wales safe:

  • always observe social distancing (also known as physical distancing) – stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from others, indoors and outdoors
  • wash your hands regularly
  • if you are meeting one other household, stay outdoors and stay local
  • work from home if you can

Stay at home if you or anyone you live with has symptoms.

This guidance should be read alongside the FAQs and detailed guidance on the Welsh regulations. These advise what you can and can’t do, and are regularly reviewed.

Background and scope of guidance

This guidance is for everyone, including children. It advises on social and physical distancing measures we should all be taking to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). It is intended for use in situations where people are visiting indoor places (such as shops) or outdoors,  living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers. If you live in a residential care setting - guidance is available at residential care setting.

We are advising those who are vulnerable and at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social and physical distancing measures. This group includes those who are:

Note: there are some clinical conditions which put people at even higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If you are in this extremely vulnerable category, you will have  been sent advice about the more stringent measures (‘shielding') you should take in order to keep yourself  safe.

People falling into the extremely vulnerable group are those who may be at particular risk due to complex health problems such as:

  • people who have received an organ transplant and remain on ongoing immunosuppression medication
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia who are at any stage of treatment
  • people with severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis or severe asthma (requiring hospital admissions or courses of steroid tablets)
  • people with severe diseases of body systems, such as severe kidney disease (dialysis)

What is social distancing?

Social distancing measures (also known as physical distancing) are steps you can take to reduce very close or physical contact between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).

They are:

  • Keep your distance from other people outside your household – stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from others when outdoors and in enclosed spaces outside the home setting (such as shops).
  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature or new and continuous cough or loss of or change to sense of smell or taste.
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, when possible.
  • Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.
  • Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
  • Avoid indoor gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media. Outdoor meetings of two separate households are permissible in particular circumstances but observing social distancing measures.
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.
  • Work people visiting your home (eg to fix a boiler) must only visit if they are well and have no symptoms. They and you must maintain social distancing and they must undertake frequent hand hygiene measures (see section below) whilst they are in your home.

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is practicable.

We strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can, and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible, particularly if you are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant.

This advice is likely to continue to be in place for some weeks.

FAQs on the regulations are reviewed regularly and advise on what you can and can’t do.

Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

There are general principles you can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • washing your hands more often - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home

Face coverings

The evidence remains clear that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow social distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly.

Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures, but in some circumstances where it might be difficult to stay 2 metres away from others, we are advising the use of three-layer, non-medical face coverings.

This is in line with the World Health Organization’s latest technical advice.

Face coverings should be made up of three layers as set out by the World Health Organization but do not need to be medical-grade face masks.

This advice applies only to people who are not symptomatic. If you experience any of the symptoms of COVID-19, you must self-isolate immediately and get a test, as set out in existing guidance. Unless your test shows a negative result, you must not go out during this time, even with a face covering.

FAQs on face coverings are available.

What should you do if you develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)

The same guidance applies to the general population and those at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature or new and continuous cough or loss of or change to taste or smell), self-isolate at home and apply for a test within 5 days of symptoms developingIf you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house until the result of the test of the person with symptoms is known.. The isolation period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. You can find the full guidance at self-isolation: stay at home.

How can I get assistance with foods and medicines if I am reducing my social contacts?

Ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are providing help to those advised to stay at home or needing assistance. It is important to speak to others and ask them to help you to make arrangements for the delivery of food, medicines and essential services and supplies, and look after your physical and mental health and wellbeing.

If you receive support from health and social care organisations, for example, if you have care provided for you through the local authority or health care system, this will continue as normal. Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you are protected. The advice for formal carers is included in the Home care provision.

What should you do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

We advise everyone to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible. However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and consider whether appointments can be postponed.

What is the advice for visitors including those who are providing care for you?

Your regular social visitors such as friends and family should not visit you indoors during this time, unless they are providing essential care for you. Essential care includes things like help with washing, dressing, or preparing meals.

If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or paid for by yourself, inform your care providers that you are reducing social contacts and agree a plan for continuing your care.

If you receive essential care from friends or family members, speak to your carers about extra precautions they can take to keep you safe. You may find this guidance on Home care provision useful.

It is also a good idea to speak to your carers about what happens if one of them becomes unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, or if you do not have family or friends who can help you, you can contact your local council who should be able to help you.

What is the advice if I live with a person who is shielding or at risk?

If you live in a house with a person who is shielding or is in the wider ‘at risk’ category, refer to our self-isolation: stay at home guidance.

What steps can you take to stay connected with family and friends during this time?

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks during this time. Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post, or online if you are not able to meet locally outdoors. Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing and you may find it helpful to talk to them about how you are feeling.

You can meet up with people from one other household at a time as long as you stay outdoors and maintain social distancing measures at all times.  If you need a carer to help you and be with you when you go out, you can still meet someone else outdoors. 

FAQs on meeting other people and what you can and can’t do are available.

Remember it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you can use a NHS recommended helpline.

What is the advice for informal carers?

If you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk at the current time. Ensure you follow advice on good hygiene such as:

  • wash your hands on arrival and often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser.
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
  • do not visit if you are unwell  but do make alternative arrangements for their care.
  • provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use NHS 111 Wales online coronavirus service and leave the number for NHS 111 Wales prominently displayed.
  • find out about different sources of support that could be used and access further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK

Look after your own well-being and physical health during this time (on Public Health Wales).

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