Almost 130,000 people will this week start receiving a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales setting out the latest advice to protect them from coronavirus.
They will be asked to continue shielding until 16 August, but the letter will also describe how the medical advice has changed to enable them to go outdoors to meet other people for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The shielded group are people who are classed as extremely vulnerable to developing serious illness if they contract coronavirus because they have a specific health condition.
They have been following strict shielding advice for 12 weeks.
Wales’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton, said:
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been focused on ensuring people who are at greatest risk are protected from coronavirus. The spread of coronavirus is being carefully monitored – if it gets lower, it is possible those within the shielded group will be able to do more. If it gets higher, we may advise those people to stop going outside and to stay at home again.
Earlier this week, the Welsh Government announced a change in advice for people who are shielding, based on a review of the evidence by the four UK chief medical officers.
From 1 June, everyone who is shielding are being advised they can leave their homes to meet people from another household outdoors, as long as strictly follow to social distancing rules and good hygiene measures. This includes exercising outdoors.
The new August shielding date does not affect this updated advice.
Dr Atherton said:
We are asking all those in the shielding group to continue to shield until 16 August because coronavirus has not gone away. We want to do all we can to keep those people in this group safe and that means asking them to continue to shield.
I will continue to work with my chief medical officer colleagues to review the evidence for this group and will write to them again in the summer.
Everyone in the shielding group has been asked to continue to rely on their existing support networks – including family and friends –for help with everyday tasks, such as food shopping and collecting prescription medicines.
For those who do not have anyone locally, the Welsh Government has worked with local authorities and the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), major food retailers, GPs and pharmacies to ensure they can access the support they need to continue shielding. The arrangements for weekly food boxes for those people who are shielding who have no support from family or friends will continue to be in place.
The Welsh Government also continues to work with supermarket retailers in Wales which offer online shopping and home delivery to make sure priority slots are available for people who are shielding.
Dr Atherton added:
A huge amount of work has been going on to support people who are shielding and I’d particularly like to thank local authorities, the WLGA, WCVA and county voluntary councils for their ongoing work and support.