BuDS is advising people over 60 and those who are shielding and self-isolating to continue to be extremely cautious after 1 August, even though the Government is officially ending shielding on that date for most people in England. Read on for more…
BuDS is recommending people over 60 and people who are shielding and self-isolating to continue to be extremely cautious after 1 August. If you wish to stay shielding, you can do so. The fact that the Government has ended support for shielding people does not mean you have to stop shielding.
Being extremely cautious means continuing to limit your contact with people outside your household as much as possible, and staying away from higher-risk people and higher-risk places (see below for more info). You should take strong precautions to protect yourself such as wearing a PPE mask or other face covering whenever you are inside a building which is not your home, strictly observing social distancing and washing your hands regularly. If you are working, you should ask your employer if you can work at home and how they can keep you safe if they insist on you returning to work. There are links to more detailed advice including about masks further down this article.
BuDS feels that if you are an older person or have been recommended to shield, you should NOT do risky things like mix with other people without a mask, go supermarket shopping, visit busy places and shops, or go back to a workplace where you will mix with a lot of other people.
WHY DO WE THINK THIS?
BuDS has looked at all the scientific, medical and other evidence and different points of view about the safety of shielding people (you can see a full list on our website). BuDS is a disability charity of disabled people. Our priority as shielding comes to an end is the safety and wellbeing of older and disabled people. We recognise that the Government has wider interests and wants people to take risks with their health in the interests of the economy, but that isn’t our concern.
The first thing to remember is that the Covid-19 virus has not gone away. It is still out there and able to kill or seriously harm people who are more clinically susceptible to it, such as older people and those who’ve been advised to shield. The virus is still in ‘general circulation’ through the UK population with at least 1 person in every 1500 being infected across the UK.1,2 This is less than at the peak of the pandemic but still a relatively high figure.
The second thing to remember is that the number of infected people is now rising, not falling.3 While the number is still low now, it can rise very quickly. That means that another outbreak of the Covid-19 virus could happen soon and without much warning. So, when thinking about what to do, you need to think not just about your safety now, but your safety over the next few weeks when the level of infection could be suddenly much higher.
The third thing to remember is that most people who get Covid-19 do not get very ill. 8 out of 10 people who get Covid-19 don’t show any symptoms at all,4 so they don’t even realise that they have it. But older people and those who have been advised to shield probably will be very ill or even die if they catch Covid-19. So, what is safe for most people is not safe for older and shielding people. And the people you meet, even if you know them and they look perfectly well, could still be infected with Covid-19 and give it to you.
The fourth thing to remember is that Covid-19, like flu, can’t be exterminated. It will always be here. The best we can hope for is a vaccine which will mean that fewer people are killed or seriously ill when they catch it. The vaccine may be many months away5 and, even when we have it, it may be a long time before Covid-19 stops being a big health threat. So, thinking about ‘getting back to normal’ isn’t the best way to be thinking. The old way of life may never come back. BuDS thinks that adjusting to a different way of life, where older and shielding people will *always* need to protect themselves against Covid-19, is the best thing to be doing at the moment, not trying to rush back to the old normal.
Putting all this together, BuDS is recommending people over 60 and people who are shielding and self-isolating continue to be extremely cautious after 1 August. They should be thinking about their long-term future life and safety, not what they could ‘go back to’ in the short-term.
Older people and those who are shielding are rightly extremely worried about going back to work, or their household doing so. We believe that the Government is making a huge mistake to encourage clinically susceptible people back to the workplace while Covid-19 is still in general circulation in the population and infection rates are rising.
Our advice is to talk to your employer and ask to work from home, even if that means a change of duties. If your employer refuses or is difficult, you should ask for a copy of the health and safety audit which shows that it is safe for you, as a clinically susceptible person, to work in the way suggested by the employer. Your employer has a legal duty to keep you safe and they must assess your safety and let you see that assessment. If they do not, any dismissal or disciplinary action would be illegal and unfair and you could win compensation at an Employment Tribunal.
We fully recognise that some employers will not be reasonable or sensible about this matter. If this applies to you, you can get free support from CAB, ACAS and trade unions. Many home insurance policies include legal insurance protection for employment issues too. If your employer is in Buckinghamshire, please do contact BuDS. BuDS will be issuing more guidance on this soon.
Parents, grandparents and carers who are older people or shielding are rightly extremely worried about their school-age children and young people going back to school, colleges and university. While children, even those who are shielding, are not at high risk from coronavirus, they can carry Covid-19 without symptoms and infect others, including older people and those who are extremely clinically susceptible. We believe that the Government is making a huge mistake to encourage children and young people back to education while Covid-19 is still in general circulation in the population and infection rates are rising.
If you do not want to take the risk of your children and young people bringing Covid-19 home, our advice is to talk to schools and ask them why your children and young people could not learn at home. If the school refuses or is difficult, you should ask them how they can be sure that your child will not bring Covid-19 back to your household. BuDS will be issuing more guidance on this soon.
To learn more about who is more at risk of dying or being seriously ill if they catch Covid-19, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/how-dangerous-is-covid-19-if-you-catch-it/
To learn more about the higher-risk places and higher-risk people older and shielding people should avoid, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/high-risk-places-and-people-to-avoid-if-you-are-older-or-shielding/
To learn more about how face coverings and face masks can protect you and others, and to read our recommendations for older and shielding people, use this link: https://buds.org.uk/buds-guidance-on-face-coverings-and-masks-31-july-2020/
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 On 31 July, approx. 1 in 1500 had the virus. A week before, on 24 July, approx. 1 in 2000 had the virus. A week before that, on 17 July, 1 in 2300 had the virus. This clearly shows the numbers of people with the virus are rising https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/england17july2020, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/england24july2020, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/31july2020
 https://www.newscientist.com/article/2250084-coronavirus-vaccine-hope-rises-after-a-flurry-of-positive-results/ – see bottom of article, where it is mentioned that “Maybe something could [be licensed for use] within 18 months from now”