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Coronavirus Shielding Advice explained

By Jane Lavery, Senior Occupational Health nurse at Staywell Occupational Health – 22nd April 2020

There has been a lot of confusion about the requirement for self-isolation, social distancing and shielding.  Self-isolation is required when individuals and others in their household have symptoms.  Shielding is required for those who are considered extremely vulnerable and is for a period of 12 weeks following the direction of a medical professional.  Social distancing is for everyone else.

It is sometimes difficult to challenge employees’ ideas about attendance at work whilst maintaining social distancing.  It is natural that employees will feel anxious about Coronavirus when they have a vulnerable relative to care for.   It seems that a contributing factor may be that reports in the mainstream media can sometimes be confused.  There is also disagreement between clinical leaders which really does just point to the fact that a lot remains unknown about the virus. 

To put things into perspective, there will be many healthcare workers who are not able to opt out of attending work but must take other actions to protect those that may be vulnerable at home. These workers are thought to be at a much higher risk of COVID-19 than many other professions as they will dealing with confirmed cases.

The current advice for those who have relatives that are shielding is available here.   In brief, for those who are shielding, the rest of the household are not required to adopt the same strict shielding measures for themselves but they should do what they can to support their relative by following stringent social distancing methods. 

Taken from gov.uk, this means:

  1. Minimise as much as possible the time other family members spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas, and keep shared spaces well ventilated
  2. Aim to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from people you live with and encourage them to sleep in a different bed where possible. If you can, you should use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. Make sure you use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes
  3. If you do share a toilet and bathroom with others, it is important that they are cleaned after use every time (for example, wiping surfaces you have come into contact with). Another tip is to consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first
  4. If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present. If you can, you should take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly. If you are using your own utensils, remember to use a separate tea towel for drying these
  5. We understand that it will be difficult for some people to separate themselves from others at home. You should do your very best to follow this guidance and everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces

If the rest of the household stringently follows the advice on social distancing outside of the home and minimises the risk of spreading the virus within the home by following the advice above, there is no need for them to also shield alongside the person.   


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