Shielding guidance update
The COVID-19 virus still poses a high risk if someone who was shielding is exposed to it. However, the rate of community transmission has now dropped to a level that means that the risk of catching COVID-19 has significantly reduced.
As the risk is lower, and considering the most recent scientific advice, the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland has updated the guidance for those who were shielding.
Since 31 July there is no need for anyone who is extremely vulnerable to have to shield to manage the risk. Further letters were issued to all those who had been advised to shield, with details of the change and ways to continue to get the help you need.
There is information below on what these changes mean for you.
Shielding in the future
Shielding has now been paused. Pausing, rather than stopping shielding is just a precaution and there are no plans for it to restart at the moment. The pause is indefinite, but it remains possible that it will need to reactivate the guidance if the risk increases in the future.
Shielding and safety concerns
It is impossible to guarantee safety in any walk of life. However, the level of risk in the community is now considered to be low. It is no longer necessary for anyone who is in the extremely vulnerable category to have to shield.
What to do if your workplace does not practice social distancing
Employers have a 'duty of care' for staff, customers and anyone else who visits the workplace. In practice, this means taking all steps they reasonably can to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff.
Where vulnerable staff cannot follow guidance on social distancing at work or during travel to work, they should tell their employer they need to follow government advice and avoid these risks.
Information about child care arrangements
Information for people who are returning to work and are experiencing issues with child care is available at the following link:
Guidance over maintaining social distancing
For now, people who have been advised to shield should still maintain strict social distancing. This includes family members.
The position will be kept under review in line with the on-going assessment of the likelihood of catching the virus.
Support after the ending of shielding
It is understood some people are anxious that shielding has been paused. If you have any concerns about your health or mental wellbeing, you should speak to your GP.
There are a range of supports that are available for people now that shielding has been paused. Details of these supports were contained in the letters that were issued to those who were shielding.
The Minding Your Head website contains information to help you look after your own mental health and to support others.
In addition, tailored information and self-help guides from local mental health and wellbeing charities are available at the Covid-19 Virtual Wellbeing Hub.
These resources are designed to help promote positive mental health and wellbeing both during and after the Covid 19 Pandemic.
If you would like to speak to someone, you can still contact your GP, or if you are in distress or despair, you can call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 where you can speak to a trained counsellor. This service is available 24/7 and is free from all NI landlines and mobiles.’