Great Britain

Bradford health experts slam Government over easing of shielding restrictions

BRADFORD health experts have joined forces to urge people who have been shielding in their homes for weeks not to put themselves at unnecessary risk.

This follows the Government’s announcement on Sunday that from Monday, June 1, people identified by the NHS as vulnerable and at high risk who have been shielding since the coronavirus pandemic began are now able to spend time outdoors – for example to exercise or to meet a friend or relative – as long as they follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

They had originally been told 10 weeks ago to stay indoors for at least 12 weeks.

The Council’s Public Health team and Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) believe this policy change has been made too early, is not necessary and potentially puts lives at risk.

They believe that the Government should have waited until more is known about the infection rate, the NHS Test and Trace system is better established and public resolve to maintain physical distancing and hygiene can be reinforced.

This is in addition to a collective plea by the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) to stop the wider easing of the lockdown in England.

They say the new rules, including allowing groups of up to six non-shielding people to meet outdoors and in private gardens, are “not supported by the science”, and evidence over the weekend, including packed beaches and beauty spots, including the riverside at Ilkley, indicates that the public is not sticking to the potentially life-saving social distancing guidance.

Sarah Muckle, Bradford Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “The easing of the lockdown for those who have been shielding since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is worrying. The original guidance was clear – high risk people needed to stay home for 12 weeks.

"That’s why councils quickly put in systems to support shielding people with the delivery of food parcels or medicines, and contact from volunteers to check on their health and wellbeing. And this support will, of course, continue.

“Making this major policy change with one day’s notice is unhelpful and doesn’t enable councils and health professionals to put the necessary preparations in place to support and advise shielded people to make the right decisions for their own physical and mental health.”

Dr James Thomas, a local GP and Clinical Chair of the Clinical Commissioning Group, added: “We are very concerned about the relaxing of the lockdown at this point and specifically for those at high risk, who are scared and were told to shield themselves for 12 weeks, who are now been given a very different message which will be confusing for some.

“Every person on that shielded list will have been identified by their GP taking into consideration that person’s medical history and health conditions and on that basis they were classed as high risk of contracting Covid-19. They are still classed as high risk.

“It is difficult to understand how the Government has taken this decision on shielding at this point in time.

“We cannot use a blanket approach to lift shielding for all those at risk, and at such short notice, as the impact could be life-threatening.”

The Government’s updated shielding policy says that from Monday, June 1, people who have been advised to shield can start taking steps to spend time safely outdoors. Key points are:

-        They can go outside once a day with members of their household or, if they are living alone, with one other person from a different household. It’s advised that this is the same person each time.

-         Strict social distancing, including staying at least two metres apart from others, is still key.

-        Support for shielded people remains in place.

-        People who are shielding should still avoid all non-essential face to face contact, including going to supermarkets or pharmacies.

-        Going outside isn’t mandatory and if people don’t feel comfortable going outside, there’s no reason to do so. Where people have concerns they are advised to discuss the decision with their GP or hospital clinician.

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