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Information for people who have been identified as being at a very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

First published:
16 August 2020
Last updated:

What was shielding?

When Coronavirus first started the Chief Medical Officer for Wales advised people identified as medically extremely vulnerable to stay at home and ‘shield’ themselves.

Evidence suggested people with certain underlying health conditions were more susceptible to the most serious effects of coronavirus. A list of conditions is available within the shielding guidance

People identified as ‘extremely vulnerable’ received letters from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, or their GP, advising them to shield so that they could be protected from the coronavirus.

Where can I get a copy of the latest letter?

If you are on the Shielding Patients List you should have received a copy of the letter in the post. You can also view and download this shielding letter here. The letter contains advice on how to best protect yourself from coronavirus.

Do I still need to shield?

Shielding ended in Wales on 16 August, but the Shielding Patients List is being maintained in case we need to write with any changes to the advice. However, we recognise that there will be some people who will be more comfortable staying at home.

I want to sign up for text alerts, how do I do this?

This service is only available to those on the Shielding Patients List. The instructions and a Unique Reference Number were provided in the October letter from the Chief Medical Officer. 

If you have followed the sign up process, please give us 10 days to acknowledge your request. If you do not hear from us by the 11th day there may be an issue with the details you have submitted. Please ensure you use a valid email address and/or telephone number and that the Name, post code and Unique Reference Number match the details on your letter.

With an increase in cases of the virus why hasn’t shielding been reintroduced?

The position was very different when the pandemic began. There were no measures in any sector of society to reduce the spread of the virus and no rules or regulations in place. We now have consistent measures in place, both in our communities and workplaces. We also know more about how to keep ourselves safe. Asking people to shield at home again could cause more harm to people’s mental and physical health. 

What advice should I follow?

You can follow the same rules as the rest of the population of Wales.

To minimise your risk you should:

  • Keep contacts to a minimum. At present most cases are being
    passed within families and close friends.
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds each time, or use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available.
  • Clean surfaces regularly and avoid touching surfaces others have touched.
  • Plan ahead before going out. Consider what time of day you
    go out and where you are visiting e.g. avoid supermarkets
    during peak times.
  • Shop online - you can access priority supermarket delivery slots
  • Work from home, where you can. In a work environment review
    any risk assessment with your employer to ensure all COVID safety
    measures are being observed. Discuss start and finish times to help
    you avoid using public transport at peak times.
  • If you do need to travel, for short distances, we would encourage you to walk or cycle, as this is not only good exercise but it also means you are outside, which is generally lower risk.
  • For longer journeys, or if you cannot walk or cycle, consider what you can do to minimise the number of people you come into close contact with e.g. avoid sharing a car with another person outside your household.

Where can I find information about my health condition, managing my condition or Covid related information specific to my condition?

There are a number of helplines and information services that provide guidance and information tailored for people with particular health conditions. A list of organisations providing such services is available on the PHW website - click on the 'Charity and Support Organisation Directory for those with specific health conditions or requirements.’

Should I wear a face covering for further protection?

Face coverings are mandatory in certain settings. Guidance on face coverings can be found here.

Certain people may be exempt from wearing a face covering. You can find additional information here.

I am feeling anxious. Where can I find support?

Extra help for your mental wellbeing is available across Wales, online and over the phone. These resources are safe, free, and you don’t need a referral.

SilverCloud is an online course which offers support for anxiety, depression and much more, all based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You can sign up at nhswales.silvercloudhealth.com/signup/.

CALL Mental Health Listening Line provides a confidential mental health listening and emotional support line which is open 24/7. CALL can also signpost to support in local communities and a range of online information. Call 0800132737, text “help” to 81066 or visit callhelpline.org.uk/.

Mind Active Monitoring provides six weeks guided self-help for, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and more. To get started, talk to your GP, any other health professional, or sign up directly at: Mind.org.uk.

ACTivate Your Life is a four session taught course that aims to teach people about stress and suffering caused by emotional issues, like worry, or chronic pain. To start go to phw.nhs.wales/activateyourlife.

The Young Person’s Mental Health Toolkit links young people, aged 11 to 25, to websites, apps, helplines, and more to build resilience. You can access the toolkit at bit.ly/ypmhten.

If you are still struggling after several weeks and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS Direct Wales or call 111.

I am nervous about going to work. What safety measures are in place?

The Welsh Government has issued Statutory Guidance on taking all reasonable measures to minimise exposure to coronavirus in workplaces and premises open to the public. The Keep Wales Safe – At Work guidance builds on these requirements and aims to help employers, employees and the self-employed to work safely.  

Each business is unique and will need to decide what actions it needs to take to operate safely, depending on the nature of the business including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated. All businesses must have regard to the Coronavirus Regulations and the Statutory Guidance and must take all reasonable measures to keep people safe as the 2 metre physical distancing duty is enshrined in Welsh Law. 

We have also urged employers to be as flexible as possible with regards to individuals’ personal circumstances during the pandemic.
 
A workplace risk assessment tool has been developed to help people working to see if they are at higher risk of developing more serious symptoms if they come into contact with coronavirus. It helps people to consider their personal risk factors for coronavirus and suggests how to stay safe. Those who were previously shielding are automatically scored 7 and placed in the Very High Risk group in the tool, which recognises the range and complexity of conditions in this category. This approach recognises that you will need a further discussion with your line manager to consider your personal risk and workplace setting, this may also need to involve Occupational Health to determine if it safe to return to work.

What are my options if I feel I am being treated unfairly by my employer/workplace setting?

If employees encounter difficulties at work we are advising that they liaise with their union, if a member, or they may wish to engage with ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), who offer free advice to employers and employees alike, in resolving disputes. A link to their specific advice on Coronavirus is here. Their free helpline number is 0300 123 1100.

Wales Trade Union Congress (TUC) Cymru has also launched a Whistleblowing Online hotline for any worker who may wish to report health and safety concerns.  You do not have to be a member of a union to access this service.  Information about the hotline is at: COVID-19: health and safety concerns at work

I need to use public transport to travel to work. How can I do this safely?

Wherever possible you should work from home. If this is not possible you should talk to your employer about working arrangements to minimise your risk. Discuss your working hours with your employer and try to use public transport off peak. Ensure you wear a face covering, avoid touching surfaces and use hand sanitiser/wash your hands when you arrive at your destination.

My GP is advising that because of my medical condition I shouldn’t return to work. Will I be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

If your doctor has advised that you should not return to work due to your health condition they will need to provide you with a fit note for the purposes of claiming SSP.

Do children with specific health conditions need to shield?

New evidence and experience of the COVID-19 indicates that not all those children and young people who had been previously advised to shield need to do so. This means that we need to review the Shielding Patients List to ensure we remove any children who do not need to shield in case we need to reintroduce shielding again in the future. It is very important we do not ask people to shield unnecessarily. Guidance produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health was considered and endorsed by the Chief Medical Officers of the 4 UK nations collectively. 
 
Paediatricians and GPs are reviewing the records of children who have been shielding to assess whether they need to remain on the Shielding Patients List. Children will remain on the Shielding Patients List until they are informed otherwise.

My GP has informed me that my child/dependent will remain on the Shielding Patients List. Can they attend school/their childcare setting?

Your child is remaining on the Shielding Patients List so that if there is an increase in coronavirus in our communities and we need to reinstate shielding advice we are able to contact you. For now, there is no need to shield and therefore all children, including those who remain on the Shielded Patients List, can attend school/their childcare setting.

Some children and parents may be anxious about attending. We recommend parents discuss their concerns with their local authority and school/setting, who can provide reassurance of the measures they are putting in place to reduce the risk.

I am on the Shielding Patient’s List, can my child attend school?

Yes. As you have been advised that there is no longer a need for you to shield, it is also the case that others in the household can return to work and school.

I don’t feel comfortable about going to the supermarket. What options are available to me?

If you are unable to go shopping yourself or receive support from friends, relatives, neighbours or volunteers, priority supermarket delivery slots will continue to be available to you. 

Many supermarkets also offer food boxes you can order for delivery to your door.  Most have also introduced various e-payment methods to remove the need for access to cash if other people are shopping for you.  You can find out more on alternative options here.

Can I still get my medicine delivered?

The volunteer medicine delivery scheme ended on 30 September.

If you do not feel ready or able to collect your own prescriptions you can:

  • Ask someone to pick up your prescription from your local pharmacy to help (this is the best option).
  • If you do not have anyone who can help, telephone your pharmacy; let them know you are in a high-risk group and speak to them about how they can help with your prescription. We are asking community pharmacies to ensure that they prioritise medicines delivery slots for those who have the greatest need.

You may also need to arrange any special medication prescribed to you by your hospital care team to be collected or delivered to you.

How do I find a volunteer to help me?

If you need support from a volunteer or voluntary organisations your local County Voluntary Council will be able to put you in touch with organisations that might be able to help.

What should I do if I need to see my GP/hospital consultant?

It is very important you continue to attend appointments and seek help for urgent medical issues.

GP appointments continue to be available, though initially they may be provided by phone, email or online. If you need to be seen in person, your GP practice will contact you to let you know what you should do.

It is also extremely important you have your flu vaccine this autumn. Your household contacts should also have a flu vaccine as that will help give you extra protection. GP surgeries and community pharmacies have made sure it is safe for you and your household contacts to be vaccinated.

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