People who were previously told to shield in Wales are now being told not to attend school or work outside the home.
The message comes from Wales’ health minister, Vaughan Gething, who cites fears over the spiralling coronavirus rates in Wales and the spread of the highly infectious strain in Wales.
According to the advice, the concern is particularly for “those whose work requires them to be in regular or sustained contact with other people, or where individuals share a poorly ventilated workspace for long periods”.
After months of being told to isolate in the first wave, people shielding had more recently been told to simply use their own judgement due to concerns of the harms that come from long term isolation. But this has now been changed. You can read the full advice here.
The CMO will be sending out letters to all shielding people but according to the statement there are concerns that these will be delayed because of Christmas.
Find out about coronavirus cases in your area:
In a statement Mr Gething said: “The advice to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, previously ‘shielding’, has changed from today to advise those within this group that they should no longer attend work or school outside the home.
“This is particularly the case for those whose work requires them to be in regular or sustained contact with other people, or where individuals share a poorly ventilated workspace for long periods.
Letters from the chief medical officer for Wales will be issued confirming this advice but will take some time to reach individuals due to the festive period. These letters can be used as evidence for the purposes of claiming statutory sick pay.
This decision has been taken based on a number of factors but has been influenced most recently by the significant recent growth in rates of infection in Wales, which are being attributed to a new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus.
The statement went on: “We have also taken account of the pressures we see on our health service with increasing hospitalisations. This advice will be reviewed on a three weekly basis aligned to the Welsh Government reviews of alert levels across Wales. Individuals in this group are already subject to the regulations in place at level 4 and therefore must stay at home as much as possible.”
Mr Gething was keen to stress that people shielding can still exercise and attend health appointments.
He added: “I would wish to emphasise that the group can still go outside to exercise and also to attend medical appointments. We must remain conscious of the harms associated with isolation for long periods and therefore those in this group can remain part of a support bubble, as long as they take care.
“We have been clear that the safest option for people within this group is not to be part of a Christmas bubble. However if they choose to do so they should follow the advice provided on our website which includes keeping contacts to an absolute minimum, meeting for short periods in well ventilated areas, maintaining strict hand and surface hygiene and staying two metres away from others.”
In an interview with WalesOnline yesterday, First Minister Mark Drakeford told people at risk to be more careful than ever.
“Act with caution,” he advised.
“Every one of us should be more cautious. The chief medical officer will be writing to everybody on the shielding list after Christmas with updated advice. We were talking only today about shielding people who are in work and what the advice should be for them. The advice has to be to take an even more precautionary approach than you did before. The virus is more of a threat today even than it was last week.”