How to get out and about safely after shielding pauses

Our Patient Advocacy team shares their tips on going outside safely following the pausing of the shielding guidance.

Correct as of 30/07/2020

Do you live in an area affected by a local lockdown? The advice in these blogs is designed for people living in areas where shielding has been paused. The areas in local lockdown may be subject to different rules, including the extremely vulnerable being advised to resume shielding and restrictions on who can meet up and where. Please make sure that you follow all rules and/or guidance in your local area. These areas may also change. You can find out more information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/local-restrictions-areas-with-an-outbreak-of-coronavirus-covid-19.

Please also get in touch for further information using the contact details at the bottom of this blog.

Shielding guidance has slowly been made less restrictive over time, to reflect the decline in the number of cases of COVID-19. This has now come to the point where all guidance will be withdrawn, and shielding will be paused; this will happen at some point in August for all UK nations.

We first put together a blog with tips for going outside when those shielding were advised they could to go out to exercise outdoors once a day. However, shielding is now pausing at a time when the public are also being encouraged to go out and about more often. You may be concerned about going out, or you may be looking forward to getting out more, or somewhere in between; all are valid and understandable feelings.

Note: this blog does not replace advice from your medical team, but is designed to help you understand all the information available to you. We always suggest you take advice from your medical team about your personal risk of severe illness from COVID-19 if you are concerned. This advice also does not replace local advice or restrictions and it is your responsibility to check your activities meet the rules where you are.

Tips for going outside safely

Here is a list of tips from the Patient Advocacy team here at Leukaemia Care to help you get out and about in the safest possible way.

  • Go at your own pace. The first step is the hardest, especially if you have been inside for a long time. Start by going out for a short period of time and doing low risk things, building up your confidence.
    • Don’t be afraid to say no to things that make you uncomfortable.
  • Use the knowledge you have already got about your own health to help you decide what actions to take.
    • For example, those of you who have had a transplant or are living with a chronic type of leukaemia may already have experience of avoiding infections. You can adapt these actions to help you avoid COVID-19 infection too.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands! This is still an important and very effective way to control COVID-19, with the added bonus of preventing lots of other common bugs too.
    • Also make sure everyone else around you is following good hygiene rules, like washing their hands. The actions of those you are meeting up with will help protect you too.
  • Keep maintaining social distancing where possible, including with friends and family. Social distancing is still one of the most effective ways you can protect yourself from COVID-19, alongside good hand hygiene.
  • Wear a face covering when you go out. It is thought that face coverings do offer some protection to those wearing them, as well as the important factor of preventing you giving COVID-19 to others too.
    • Don’t forget that the vast majority of people inside shops will now be wearing coverings, as it is compulsory in shops and takeaways from the 24th of July in England and has been compulsory for some time in Scotland.
    • Try not to use surgical masks or other masks usually used in hospitals, as supplies are under a lot of pressure and these are needed for healthcare workers. You should not need this level of protection if you meet with people who are also following all government advice.
  • Continue to go out at quieter times of the day if you can.
    • If you still would like to avoid supermarkets, and you are registered with the shielding support service, you can still get priority for supermarket deliveries. Pressure on normal slots is also easing in some places, if you plan ahead.
  • If you want to do a specific activity once restrictions lift, choose a lower risk version where possible:
    • Want to get back in the gym? Many places are still offering online classes, or google to see if your local park has an outdoor gym.
    • Ordered your shopping online but forgot something? Or need to do the shopping in person? Pop to a smaller local shop or go at quiet times. You could also try Prime Now, which can deliver shopping from Morrisons at no extra cost within two hours in certain urban areas, or use a takeaway app like Deliveroo or UberEats which may list delivery from shops nearby.
    • Want to see your friends and family? Meet with them outside where possible. Suggest a BBQ, a picnic or a walk in the park.
    • Celebrating a special occasion? Ask to see the person celebrating separately or in a small group and suggest an outdoor gathering (please remember that there are still restrictions on the number of people that can gather at once).
      • You could use a marquee with open sides if you want to be undercover from rain but allow good airflow.
    • Want to have a pint in the pub or some restaurant food? Choose a place with an outdoor space or have a takeaway.
    • Need to stay over to see far away loved ones or want to go on holiday? You could choose self-catering accommodation so you can have the place to yourselves and control who comes in and out.

What if no one else is following the rules, doesn’t this make it dangerous to go out?

It is understandable that you are concerned about the behaviour of others, as this impacts upon your likelihood of getting the virus too. However, there are many things we do where we risk harm from others. For example, if you are driving, you are relying on most people to follow the rules in order to keep you safe too. If you take precautions when out and about, you are helping to make it safer for everyone to get out and about, as well as safer for you.

The best thing you can do to is to focus on what you can do to control your risk, and our tips above should hopefully give you some ideas. Don’t feel pressured into doing anything that makes you feel uncomfortable; share our information with your friends and family so they can understand how you feel. Leukaemia Care are also here to chat if you need a listening ear.

Do I have to return to work if I am concerned about catching COVID-19?

The pausing of shielding means that you can return to work if you cannot work from home, provided the workplace is COVID-safe. Your haematologist is the best person to advise if you are safe to return to work. You also need to talk to your employer at the earliest opportunity, if you haven’t already, as they will be able to provide you with details about precautions and talk to you about extra help you might need to return.

Please see our “Returning to work” blog (link in Further Information below) for more information or contact us for further help.

Further information

  • End of shielding blog – this covers the key dates for each devolved nation and quickfire answers to questions you may have.
  • Returning to work blog – this provides an easy step by step guide to help you decide whether to return to work and where to go for more information about your rights.
  • Understand the risk of COVID-19 – this blog is designed to help you make sense of the information available relating to your risk from COVID-19.

We are hosting a webinar on the 4th of August to further discuss the topics in these blogs. You will get the chance to put your questions to leading haematologists from across the UK. You can sign up here. The webinar will also be recorded.

You can also get in touch with the Advocacy team by emailing advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk or by calling our helpline on 08088 010 444. The helpline team will help you or will make a note of your enquiry and the correct team member will call you back.

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