It’s not news to us that we should all be following social distancing, social isolation (when unwell with a new persistent cough and/ or fever) and for some “shielding” in the UK.
However, for the benefit of everyone, here is a reminder of what they are and how it may apply to you and your loved ones.
You can also read the FAQ’s section by clicking on the highlighted link.
Social distancing means avoiding interaction with other people as much as possible:
The government has advised that you should:
- You should avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough
- Stay at home. You should only leave your home to shop for basic essentials, to exercise outside once a day, for any medical need, or to travel to work- but only if this is absolutely necessary!
- Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidancefor more information
- Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible
- If you do go out, you should maintain a 2-metre distance (6 feet) from people at all times.
- You should not meet up with any of your family, loved ones or friends who do not live in your household. Doing so can increase the spread of the virus!
- Keep in touch with relatives, loved ones or friends using remote technology such as the phone, internet and or social media
- Follow stringent social distancing measures when in close proximity to those who have been identified as being at a higher risk of becoming unwell such as elderly or those with underlying conditions identified by the government.
- Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
- If you are unwell and are displaying symptoms such as (a new persistent cough and or fever) you should stay at home and self-isolate- see below for more information.
The government provides more detailed advice on social distancing for everyone in the UK
Self-isolation – for people with symptoms (new persistent cough and/or fever)
Self-isolation means staying away from other people because you have symptoms of coronavirus. In order to help stop the spread of the virus, the government has advised the following:
- You should not go to work, use public transport, visit public places, or have visitors to your home (unless they are medical).
- You should not go to the shops or pharmacy – someone else should bring supplies to you. You should follow this advice for 7 days at least, and only when your temperature returns to normal.
- Anyone else you live with should follow this advice for 14 days (from the day you first show symptoms).
- If someone vulnerable lives in the same home, they should stay somewhere else, if possible, for 14 days. If this isn’t possible, you should keep your distance, not share a bed, not share towels, and clean surfaces often. The government provides more detailed advice on self-isolation if someone has coronavirus symptoms.
For all individuals with thalassaemia, please note:
If you are displaying symptoms of the coronavirus or you are unwell at all, please contact your haematology team to let them know.
This is to ensure appropriate guidance and care can be given and other causes of illness during this time are not dismissed.
What does it mean to be identified as being at a “higher risk” or “extremely vulnerable”?
The government identified a list of conditions who they believe are at a higher risk of developing severe complications. Their updated list can be found here:
However, we are aware that there is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to those who are considered to be at a higher risk within the thalassaemia population.
The National Haemoglobinopathy Panel has outlined that not all people with transfusion dependent thalassaemia and non-transfusion dependent thalassaemia will be at a higher risk of developing severe complications due to COVID-19. There is a specific criterion in which haematologists have identified what makes some people with thalassaemia more at risk- please look at our website to view this document
There is a specific criterion in which haematologists have identified what makes some people with thalassaemia more at risk.
Individuals with a form of thalassaemia who are identified to be at a higher risk should have been contacted by their GP or Haematology Team by now and given information on “shielding” for 12 weeks and what this may mean. More details about shielding will be provided below.
If you think you should be identified as being of a higher risk and have not yet received a letter or been contacted about this, then we advise that you contact your haematology team and GP to discuss your specific medical case.
People who are more prone to developing severe complications from COVID-19 in the UK have been advised to shield for 12 weeks.
What does shielding mean exactly?
Shielding means staying at home for 12 weeks and minimising all non-essential contact with other members of their household.
If you are shielding, you should not leave your home at all unless it is to receive medical attention.
- You should not go to work – you should work from home
- You should not go to the supermarket, pharmacy
- You should not go to the parks or exercise out of your home
- You should sleep in a separate bedroom if you are able to
- You should use a separate bathroom if you are able to- if not this should be cleaned before every use.
- You should minimalise time spent in shared space with other members of your household
- You should avoid all non-essential contact with those in your house-hold- this includes kissing, hugging etc. – this is to try and reduce the chance of you getting the virus.
- You should not use the kitchen together or eat together
- You should keep 2-metres (6 feet) away from members of your household
- You should use separate hand towels, bath towels and dish/tea towels
- You should use separate cutlery, plates and glasses from those in your household.
- You should clean door handles and kitchen and bathroom surfaces regularly.
Please visit the government’s page to find out more about shielding.
We understand how difficult this will be, however, it is important to follow this in order to decrease the chances of you becoming extremely unwell with the virus.
If you live with a key worker
If you live with someone who has to go to work, they should be following the general advice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus extremely strictly during their work.
When they get home, they should wash their hands thoroughly and follow stringent social distancing for those who have been identified as being at a higher risk.
Inside the home, you should follow the precautions above for ‘If you live with other people’. As mentioned, there are more detailed instructions on the government’s page about shielding.
If these measures aren’t possible or you are still worried, you may want to consider living separately.
If someone visits
Visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, daily needs or social care should continue, but not if they have any symptoms.
People should only visit your home if absolutely necessary. They should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival, and regularly whilst they are there. They should also keep 2 meters away from you.
The full government advice on how to ‘shield’ can be found here:
Getting food and medication
- From Tuesday 24 March, visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable to register for the support you need – this includes help with food and shopping – or call the government’s dedicated helpline on 0800 028 8327
- Many GPs let you request repeat prescriptions via email. You can also usually order repeat prescriptions online via your GP’s website. Contact your GP to find out the easiest way for you.
- Ask family, friends and neighbours to collect your prescriptions or bring you supplies (they should leave them at the door) or use online services.
- Contact your pharmacy if you need a volunteer to deliver your medication to you.
- Contact your local council and tell them your situation.
Coping with staying at home
These measures are severe, but they are necessary to keep everyone as safe as possible, and to help the NHS cope with the cases that do happen.
It can feel like we have no control during this time, but there are things we can do to make it easier and help ourselves to cope better.
- Keep following the advice to regularly wash your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser, especially when eating, or if you’ve just coughed or sneezed.
- Continue to avoid touching your face with your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects (such as mobile phones, television remotes etc) and surfaces in the home.
- Tell your neighbours about your situation – they may be able to help with getting food or supplies to you
- Look into local charities or local groups in your community that are offering help to people staying at home
- If you are worried about getting supplies for home and don’t have anyone nearby that can help, visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call the government’s dedicated helpline on 0800 028 8327
Looking after your mental health
- Spend time doing things you enjoy like reading, cooking or other indoor hobbies
- Try to access some of the free online programmes for relaxation.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink enough water
- Keep active – try some the free exercises available on the NHS website.
- Open your windows for fresh air and get some natural sunlight.
- Stay in touch with family and friends by phone, internet and/or social media
- For more information- https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
Supporting vulnerable relatives if you are staying at home
If there are people you would normally visit or help during this time, there are other people and services that could help, and you can still help by being in regular contact.
- Call your relative every day or more to check in with them
- Ask your relative’s neighbours if they could help by bringing them supplies
- Ask other family members or friends who are not vulnerable themselves to drop off supplies
- Book online deliveries for your relative
- From Tuesday 24 March, visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or call the government’s dedicated helpline on 0800 028 8327 to register for the support they need – this includes help with food and shopping.
- Contact their pharmacy if they need a volunteer to deliver their medication.
- Contact their local council and tell them the situation.
- There are charities and groups in local communities working to support those who are vulnerable – look into anything happening in your relative’s local area
Work and money worries
We’ve included some key things to know here. But if you have concerns about your employment rights or finances, you should seek expert advice from ACAS (helpline: 0300 123 1100).
The Money Advice Service also has some helpful information on different situations: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/coronavirus-what-it-means-for-you
The government web page explains what employers should do for their employees: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees
- Check your employment contract for policy on sick leave, Statutory Sick Pay, paid holiday leave and other types of caring/emergency leave.
- If you are normally entitled in your contract to Statutory Sick Pay, and you are off sick or self-isolating due to coronavirus in your household, you should still get sick pay from the first day of absence.
- If you are on a zero hours contract, you may still be entitled to sick pay if you have done some work for the company. Check your eligibility.
- If you have a relative who is ill, or your children’s school is closed, your employer must give you time off. But they only have to pay you if this is in your contract.
- If you don’t get Statutory Sick Pay, for example because you’re self-employed or your earnings are too low, you may be able to claim other benefits.
- If you’re a contractor, freelancer or similar (in gig-economy work) then speak to your current company – some are offering sick pay or compensation.
- If you claim Universal Credit, the rules around minimum income will be relaxed for the duration of the outbreak of coronavirus.
- If you claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), you will be able to claim from day one, instead of day eight.
- If you’re worried about the impact of coronavirus on your finances, speak to your bank, mortgage lender and utility bill companies – some are offering support to their customers during this time.
Support for you
If you need to talk to someone, you can call us from Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. Please call 0208 882 0011.
We are currently receiving a very high volume of calls related to coronavirus, so if you’re not able to get through straightaway, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer to get in contact that way. We’ll usually get back to you within two working days, but due to the current rate of calls and emails we are currently receiving it may take us longer.
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References and More reading:
- NHS- General Advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- NHS Self isolation: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/
- Public Health Government advice: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/04/coronavirus-covid-19-5-things-you-can-do-to-protect-yourself-and-your-community/
- TIF- Health & Nutrition- Short Guide for the COVID-19 pandemic