Shielding guidance update
The COVID-19 virus still poses a high risk if someone who is 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 are shielding.
Subject to the rate of community transmission continuing to be low, from 31 July there will be no need for anyone who is extremely vulnerable to have to shield to manage the risk.
Further letters will be issued to all those who have been advised to shield, with details of the change and ways you can continue to get the help you need.
If you are shielding, you should continue to follow the updated shielding advice until 31 July. The advice may change in the coming weeks and this page will be updated with any further guidance.
There is information below on what these changes mean for you.
People who have conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to severe complications if they contract COVID-19 are strongly advised to shield until 31 July.
However, shielding is not compulsory, and you will not be penalised if you choose not to follow the guidance. You must, of course, continue to follow the social distancing rules which apply to everyone.
Shielding in the future
Shielding will be paused from 31 July 2020. 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. If this continues to be the case, from 31 July it will no longer be 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 food parcels
If you are shielding and have previously registered your need for a food box through the Community Helpline you will automatically continue to receive this until 31 July 2020.
If you are shielding and have not previously registered through the Community Helpline, contact the helpline now to register, using the number below. This will allow you to talk to your local Trust and facilitate continued delivery of a food box until 31 July.
For those not shielding but who were getting a weekly food box this will end on 26 June. If you still need help to access food after this date you should contact the COVID 19 Community Helpline who will direct you to other supports that are available.
You can find out more about getting help with food, medicines and essential services, supplies and the priority online shopping service at the following page:
COVID-19 Community Helpline
- phone: 0808 802 0020, or
- text: ACTION to 81025, or
- email: email@example.com
Information about child care arrangements
Information for people who are returning to work and are experiencing issues with child care is avaiable 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. You should continue to follow the updated shielding advice until 31 July.
Support after the ending of shielding
It is understood some people will be anxious about the end of the shielding. If you have any concerns about your health or mental wellbeing, you should speak to your GP.
Work is also underway to develop a range of supports that will be available for people once shielding ends. Details of these supports will be contained in the letters that are being issued to those who are 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.’