When Coronavirus first started to spread in Wales we took unprecedented action, based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, to advise people with serious underlying health conditions to stay at home and shield themselves. We did so as the evidence suggested these people were more susceptible to the most serious effects of COVID-19.
I am pleased that so many have been shielding so diligently – not only protecting themselves but also helping to protect our NHS. We recognise how challenging these last few months, with minimal face-to-face contact with others, has been.
I am incredibly proud of all those who have and continue to provide the vital support to enable people to shield. Our Local Authority partners, pharmacies, volunteers and major food retailers have all pulled together to make shielding possible.
Those who are shielding will know that the current advice to shield runs until the 15 June and they will be eager to know what they can and cannot do beyond this period. I am keen that we do not ask people to shield for any longer than is absolutely necessary. Shielding is incredibly difficult and has implications for both the mental and physical health of those being asked to do so. It is important the balance of the advice we give takes into account the entirety of the risks and benefits of shielding.
After discussions with the Chief Medical Officer for Wales I can update you that he is making some modest changes to his advice for this group from 1 June. While there is a need to approach any changes with caution, and those who have been shielding will need to be very strict about hygiene and social distancing, from 1 June there are two changes to the advice for this group:
- The first change relates to exercise. Until now those who are shielding have been advised not to leave their homes. Now, as the incidence of COVID-19 in our communities has gone down and the risk of infection is lowered, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales has advised that those who are shielding can start to take exercise outdoors. This outdoor exercise is unlimited, as long as when they go outside they strictly follow the social distancing rules and hygiene practices. Risk can never be completely eliminated but we advise those shielding to exercise at times that are less busy, so the risk of contact with others is reduced.
- The second change relates to the ability to meet others. As a Government we have recognised the importance of being able to meet with family and friends. Everyone else in Wales has already been advised that they are able to meet with another household from 1 June as long as it is outdoors. Therefore the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is now advising that those who are shielding should be able to meet outside with people from another household on the same basis. However, they must not go into another person’s house or share food with them.
We have advised everyone in Wales to maintain social distance of 2 meters and keep good hygiene when meeting outdoors. For those who are shielding, strictly following these rules is vital.
There are no other changes being made to the advice for those who are shielding at this stage. People who are shielding should continue to follow all the other advice previously given. They should not go shopping or attend work outside of home. They should continue to have food and medicine delivered to them.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales is continuing to develop his advice for what shielding people should and should not do after the 15 June. All who are shielding will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales before 15 June setting out the next steps.