It has been announced that in addition to the social distancing measures that have been gradually announced by the government over the last few days, the time has come to shield the most vulnerable. This means that those who the government calculate are the most clinically vulnerable, of which they estimate there are about 1 ½ million people, will have to isolate for at least 12 weeks. This means not leaving the house and avoiding face-to-face contact – even gatherings of friends and families in private spaces. According to the government website, this extremely vulnerable group includes:
- Solid organ transplant recipients
- People with specific cancers
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy or radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
- People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- People having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors.
- People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs.
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe COPD
- People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell disease)
- People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
- Women who are pregnant and who also have significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
To make it clear who needs to isolate for this period of time, the NHS will be contacting people this week if they need to implement the advice – in person if necessary. This is without a doubt a big move by the government that has the potential to have massive ramifications for those that will have to isolate for the required amount of time. Therefore, a number of steps are being taken to ensure people can get the supplies they need and stay as connected as they can in order to best support their physical and mental health.
- This applies only to the at-risk individuals, and not a whole household if someone who is considered particularly vulnerable lived inside – however, the remainder of the household must of course follow advice on social distancing.
- Carers – both formal and informal – may continue to visit, but must also remember to follow the social distancing guidelines.
- For those potentially lacking in support, and network of local hubs will be set up across the country. These hubs will be responsible for the delivery of food and medicines that will be left on the doorstep, and such deliveries will begin at the end of this week and increase in sophistication over time. Supermarkets and community pharmacies will be helping to ensure that supplies reach those most in need.
- A helpline that the most vulnerable can contact will be set up so that people know how best to look after themselves depending on their condition.
The armed forces are working in conjunction with local authorities to draw up the best kind of response plans and the most efficient ways of getting what the most vulnerable need to them.
Last Chance to Follow Advice
Once again, prime minister Boris Johnson reiterated the importance of following social distancing guidelines that have been set out time and time again. Mr Johnson said he was very much aware of the importance the open spaces can have on people’s mental health and well-being and said that he wanted to protect that as much as possible, but that he would be thinking it over in the next 24 hours as to whether it was necessary to implement the more Draconian measures that have been brought in in other countries across Europe. These range from a complete lockdown, to a partial lockdown where people are allowed to go outside to access essential services – the definition of essential services does differ from country to country though.
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