From 16 August, shielding has been paused for everyone on the shielding list (children and adults), unless you have been advised by a medical professional to continue to shield. Some transplant patients and those who are on the waiting list may have been advised to continue to shield – please speak to your transplant team for advice on your specific circumstances.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has written to all people on the shielding list to advise them what to do next. You can now follow the same rules as the rest of the population of Wales. This means that you are able to go out to more places and see more people. But remember, government guidance is just that: you should do what’s right for you and start to ‘un-shield’ at your own pace.

Read the comprehensive guidance from Welsh Government on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from Coronavirus (COVID-19).

What next?

Whilst measures are being relaxed, Welsh Government keeps a record of everyone on the shielded patients list and may ask them to shield again.

The governments of the four UK Nations are working together to develop a tool that will allow doctors to assess an individual’s risk to Coronavirus and what actions they should take to help lower the risk. This will help people to make informed decisions about their lifestyles.

In the meantime, multiple potential COVID-19 vaccines are in development worldwide, with around a dozen undergoing clinical trials. When a safe and effective vaccine is available, priority groups should be vaccinated as soon as possible, including people with chronic kidney disease and solid organ transplant recipients. See interim government advice on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination.

Top ten tips for ‘un-shielding’

  1. Seek advice from your kidney care team – they know you and your health condition best

Ask for guidance on how to manage the risk of infection based on your specific circumstances, including your lifestyle and family. This is particularly important for transplant patients and those who are on the waiting list. Remember that Psychologists and Social Workers are also available to support you with your mental health and well-being.

  1. Keep washing those hands!

The evidence remains clear that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow social distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser. Do this after you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and before after you eat or handle food. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.

  1. Keep your loved ones close(r)

Unless you have been medically advised to continue to shield, you can follow the same rules as the rest of the population of Wales: you no longer need to stay 2 metres or 3 steps away from people you live with or who are part of your extended household. Shielding was always a personal decision and was only ever advisory, but the relaxation of the guidance now makes it possible to re-build closer physical connections with people you live with and those in an extended household.

Take a look at this video from Welsh Government ‘Can I cwtch my grandparents?’:

https://www.facebook.com/welshgovernment/videos/2670427036558668/

4.  Make alternative arrangements to obtain essential supplies

You can go out for any reason, including going to shops to buy food but you should stay 2 metres or 3 steps away from other people. For this reason, food box deliveries will stop on 16 August and the volunteer medicine delivery scheme will stop at the end of September. Make sure you have alternative arrangements in place:

  • Ask family or friends to help you
  • Check what support your local authority and local community groups provide
  • Book a priority supermarket delivery slot; and
  • Speak to your pharmacy if you have no one to help collect your medicines.

Read Welsh Government guidance on making alternative arrangements to collect food and medicines.

  1. Wear your #Distance Aware badge with pride!

Politely let people around you know that you’d like a social distance to be respected. Please e-mail team@kidneywales.cymru to request a badge or lanyard.

6.  Wear a face covering to reduce transmission of Coronavirus

Face coverings are only mandatory on public transport in Wales, which includes taxis. However in circumstances where it might be difficult to stay 2 metres away from others outside of your household/extended household, wearing a face covering may be beneficial as a precautionary measure. The is some evidence to suggest that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.

Kidney patients under hospital care in Wales can order a free face covering from Kidney Wales!

  1. If you have to return to a physical work place, make sure it is COVID safe

If you are employed, please show the shielding letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales (or your GP) to your employer. Carry on working from home if you can but if you need to return to your work place, your employer must undertake a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment in advance of your return to work to ensure the environment is COVID safe. Employers in Wales have a legal duty to take reasonable measures to ensure a 2m distance can be observed on their premises. The Welsh Government has issued guidance to employers on taking measures to make the workplace safe.

Wales Trade Union Congress (TUC) Cymru has launched a Whistleblowing Online hotline for any worker who may wish to report health and safety concerns: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/covid-19-health-and-safety-concerns-work

Take a look at this Welsh Government video: ‘Is it safe to go back to work?’: https://www.facebook.com/welshgovernment/videos/299098997821073/

  1. Start getting school bags ready for the new term

If you are an adult who has been shielding and you are a parent of a school age child(ren), unless you have been advised by a medical professional that you should continue to shield, your child(ren) may return to school.

Children who have been shielding can return when schools re-start in September. New evidence and experience of the COVID-19 indicates that not all those children and young people who had been advised to shield need to do so. Paediatricians and GPs will be reviewing the records of children who have been shielding to assess whether they need to remain on the Shielding Patients List.

  1. Un-shield at a pace that feels right for you

Going back to a more normal way of life is anxiety provoking after long months in self-isolation. The key to increasing confidence and getting back out there is by doing it in small steps. Think about what worries you most about ‘un-shielding’ – make a list, start with the least anxiety provoking thing and work your way up the list. Imagine you haven’t driven in a long time; you wouldn’t get back in the car and start driving around busy cities. You would drive around quieter, familiar areas whilst you rebuild your confidence. It’s all about taking small steps.

There are things you can control: if you want to meet friends, meet somewhere quiet where you are confident you can observe social distancing. Arrange to see one or two friends rather than organising a big get together. As you take these small steps, you will get back into a routine and your brain will learn that not everything is dangerous. Coronavirus is still there, but you can improve your quality of life by doing activities that are important to you while staying safe. You can reduce risk by washing your hands, wearing face coverings and keeping your distance.

  1. And lastly…..BREATHE!

Feeling anxious and worried about un-shielding is completely understandable. Take small steps. Breathing exercises can help when we feel anxious: “if in doubt breath out!”. Take a look at advice on managing stress and anxiety: https://www.kidneywales.cymru/news/2020/08/10/9072/

These are difficult times and Kidney Wales remains dedicated to supporting patients and families. Please contact Kidney Wales on 029 20 343 940; team@kidneywales.cymru, join the Kidney Wales Facebook Community Group and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Remember that specialist support is also available from:

C.A.L.L mental health helpline for Wales: http://callhelpline.org.uk/

Mind Cymru:    https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/mind-cymru/

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/wales/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/

Citizen’s Advice Cymru: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/contact-us

Read 431 KW Top Tips_Unshielding_Aug 2020