Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has indicated that despite the rise in numbers of coronavirus in our communities and the lifting of many restrictions in Wales he will not be advising people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to shield at this time.
Advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable to follow shielding measures was paused on 01 April 2021 and since that time those on the shielding patient list have been advised that they should follow the same rules as other citizens in Wales, however they should take extra care to minimise their risk of exposure.
Fewer people are being admitted to hospital and there has been significantly fewer deaths when compared to earlier waves. The Chief Medical Officer is keen to ensure that we balance the risk of harm from coronavirus with the risk of harm to an individual’s mental health. He has indicated that he does not expect to have to advise ‘shielding’ again in the future, based on current evidence.
There will be some exceptions – where patients have received specific advice to shield themselves by their own clinician. This is advice that they are likely to have had to take regardless of the pandemic, they should continue to follow this personalised advice if advised by their clinician.
Despite not reintroducing the advice to follow shielding measures, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales has recognised that some people in this group will feel concerned at seeing the rising number of cases. There are people who are particularly vulnerable who may feel concerned about the level of response to the vaccine in their particular cases because of a known weakened immune system. There may be other people who have been unable to take the vaccine due to their medical condition. To provide some reassurance, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales will be writing to all those on the shielding patient list. The content of the letter is attached to this statement. The letter includes information about vaccine effectiveness and encourages those who have not yet taken up the offer to do so, it also emphasises the importance of receiving both doses. In addition to this the letter provides advice on how to minimise personal risk and highlights the measures that the Welsh Government will be retaining as legal requirements at level 0. (The level which the Welsh Government has indicated will be as near to normal as we are likely to reach for a while.) Level 0 is expected to start on 7th of August if conditions are favourable. This information has been included to ensure that those who receive news from UK media outlets know that different rules will apply in Wales and there will be more protections here.
Whilst the Chief Medical Officer for Wales does not expect to have to reintroduce measures again in the future, we are maintaining the shielding patient list at the present time. The Chief Medical Officers of the four UK nations are keeping the shielding list under review, and it may be possible that in future some conditions or groups may be removed from the shielding list. The first group this is likely to impact is children, as there is significant evidence that very few children become extremely unwell or die as a result of coronavirus infection. Where inclusion on the list or list status changes, we will write to the individuals affected and inform members, as we have done throughout the pandemic. I continue to appreciate your support in communicating with this group.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.