The Wokingham Paper

Coronavirus: Shielding to end in August but support bubbles can start in July


PEOPLE who have been asked to shield themselves from the coronavirus will be able to stop from Saturday, August 1.

On Monday evening, the Government health and social care secretary announced a “future roadmap” for those who have been shielding at home. 

And from Monday, July 6, those who have been shielding can meet up outdoors, in a group, with up
to five others and form ‘support bubbles’ with other households.

Those who are shielding and live alone in England — including single parents who are shielding — will be able to create a support bubble with one other household of any size.

This follows the ‘social bubble’ rules which were introduced earlier this month for anyone living alone and single-parent households.

And people shielding will also be able to meet in groups of up to six outdoors while maintaining social distancing rules.

From Saturday, August 1, vulnerable people at risk from becoming ill from coronavirus will no longer need to shield in England.

That means they can return to work, if they can’t work from home, as long as their workplace is “Covid secure”.

But the advice is still to follow social distancing guidelines when outside the home, and to wash hands regularly to reduce the risk of being infected.

The changes mean those shielding will no longer be eligible for statutory sick pay — unless they develop coronavirus symptoms, or someone they know develops symptoms, and they are told to self-isolate and cannot work from home.

Free essential food boxes will stop being delivered, but support from NHS volunteers and local councils is still possible.

And the NHS will also keep the shielded list, in case more advice needs to be given to this group in future.

In the borough, the Wokingham Community Hub has helped to feed more than 700 shielding households to access their own food shopping.

Those who have been shielding will still qualify for priority slots for online shopping and will be offered help with medicine deliveries and getting to medical appointments.

Responding to the announcement, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Councils continue to play a key role throughout the pandemic in supporting those who have been shielding, working alongside the NHS, local communities and volunteers to protect those most vulnerable to the virus and who are isolated.

“This announcement provides some much-needed clarity on a planned return to normal life for those whose lives have been completely changed by the impact
of coronavirus. Clear communication about these changes is vital to give people who are shielding the time to adjust to the new guidance.

“Councils also need to have all the necessary information to help with any questions or concerns from those affected.

“A plan is needed for those who cannot afford access to priority supermarket delivery slots who will no longer be receiving emergency food parcels and to support those whose wellbeing has suffered
as a result of prolonged isolation.

“Extra local welfare assistance funding also recognises the crucial part that councils play in helping vulnerable households and councils want to continue working with the Government to develop the best way to support people, both inside and outside the shielded group, if there are local outbreaks or to protect against a potential rise in infection.

“As all members of our communities build their resilience to move out of lockdown, they need to know that support will be there if it is needed.

“Councils need to have the additional funding and effective data to deliver this vital support so they can specifically target where it is needed most.”

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