If you have received a letter from your GP or NHS England advising you to shield – you should be staying at home at all times and avoiding any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day you received your letter. This means strictly avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus; not leaving your house, not attending any gatherings and not going out to do any shopping.
In dealing with this unprecedented challenge, what everyone must recognise is that our NHS – like any health service around the world – only has a limited number of doctors, nurses, and specialist equipment. This means it can only deal with so many sick people at once.
The more people that get sick with Coronavirus at any one time the harder it is for the NHS to cope – meaning more people are likely to die from the Coronavirus, as well as other serious illnesses. Therefore, if we can slow the spread of Coronavirus so fewer people are sick at any one time, we can protect the NHS’s ability to cope.
That’s why, in addition to lifting the capacity of the NHS, the Government is asking everyone to stay at home – unless they have one of the reasons that have been set out. It’s simply the best weapon we have to slow the spread of the virus. That way we can protect the NHS and save lives.
This means you will have to rely on others to receive the supplies you need while shielding – such as asking family, friends and neighbours to support you and using online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home.
The Government is in the process of delivering 50,000 free food boxes containing essential supplies and household items such as pasta and tinned goods for the most vulnerable people - and depending on demand, hundreds of thousands of these boxes could be delivered each week. The first 2,000 of these have already been delivered to those who need them.
The Government is also helping pharmacies to deliver prescriptions. Prescriptions will continue to cover the same length of time as usual. If you do not currently have your prescriptions collected or delivered, you can arrange this by asking someone who can pick up your prescription from the local pharmacy, or contacting your pharmacy to ask them to help you find a volunteer or deliver to you.
If you receive support from health and social care organisations, for example, if you have care provided for you through the local authority or health care system, this will continue as normal. Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you are protected. I would advise you to discuss your daily needs during this period of staying at home with carers, family, friends, neighbours or local community groups to see how they can support you.
We know that stopping these activities will be difficult, and you should try to identify ways of staying in touch with others and participating in your normal activities remotely from your home. However, you must not participate in alternative activities if they involve any contact with other people.
We know this will not be a short battle – beating Coronavirus will take months, not weeks. But the Government is keeping all the current restrictions, and any further action that might be required, under constant review and they will be relaxed if and when the evidence shows we are able to.
If you need further help, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable to register for the support that you need. This includes help with food, shopping deliveries and additional care you might need.