Coronavirus: major new measures to protect people at highest risk
Date published: 23 March 2020
Illustration of COVID-19, created by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Up to 1.5million people who have been identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of catching coronavirus have been advised to stay at home for at least 12 weeks.
Those who currently live with conditions, or are taking medication or receiving treatment, are classed as higher risk by health experts, which means a greater risk of developing serious complications if coronavirus is contracted.
People identified as belonging to one or more of the at-risk groups will be contacted by their GP practice, specialist or both, strongly advising them to stay at home for a period of at least 12 weeks.
In the first instance they will receive a letter this week and, where a mobile number is known, the NHS will also send frequent text messages shortly to those in this group, to reach the most at risk as quickly as possible with advice.
These communications will set out to reassure them that their ongoing medical needs will be met by the NHS, and contain advice and guidance on how to manage their condition while self-isolating, including getting prescriptions delivered and accessing support for daily living.
Dr Paul Johnstone, Director at Public Health England, said: “The NHS are contacting the people who are most vulnerable to developing a very serious illness as a result of COVID-19 with specific advice to stay at home for at least 12 weeks.
“If you receive a letter it is vitally important that you act on it for your own protection, don’t attend any gatherings of friends or families and don’t go out for shopping, leisure or travel.
“Those of us who are less at risk can play our part in protecting other people by following the government’s advice on social distancing and volunteering to give extra support to vulnerable people who are staying at home.”
The guidance for people at the highest risk is:
- Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
- Do not leave your house for at least 12 weeks starting on Monday 23 March.
- Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces e.g. family homes, weddings, parties and religious services.
- Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
- Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
- Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP practice or other essential services as and when you need.
A helpline for the most in need of support has been set out for those considered to be extremely vulnerable due to their medical conditions, so people know exactly how to care for themselves and others in the coming months.
It was also announced that a new local support system will make sure those individuals self-isolating at home and who are without a support network of friends and family will receive basic groceries. Community pharmacies will support those who need help getting their medicines delivered.
The government is working with a partnership of the groceries industry, local government, local resilience and emergency partners, and voluntary groups, to ensure that essential items can start to be delivered as soon as possible to those who need it.
The people identified as the most vulnerable in their communities will be contacted directly – including in person where necessary – as a priority.
The Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We are working incredibly hard, day and night, to protect the nation’s public health whilst supporting our NHS so it can continue to look after patients in need of care.
“It is vital that we do everything we can to protect ourselves, our families and our friends from being impacted by the virus. But for those who are at the highest risk in our society, we have to do even more to ensure they’re kept safe.
“Whether it’s going shopping for a neighbour in need, or keeping inside if you know you’re at risk, we all have a part to play in protecting the welfare of those who are most vulnerable.”
Rochdale Borough Council has been contacted for comment.
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