Around 11,000 Herefordshire residents to get greater freedom

Thousands of Herefordshire residents, considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), will no longer have to follow the current guidance on shielding from April 1.

Around 11,000 people in the county have been taking extra measures to protect themselves from COVID-19 but, with the virus case numbers currently low and the rollout of the vaccination programme, the government is lifting its restrictions and the guidance for CEV is changing.

Those in the CEV category will receive a letter in the next two weeks notifying them they can start following national restrictions alongside the rest of the population from April 1. It will include advice to help reduce their risk of catching COVID-19.

Steps to minimise risk include maintaining strict social distancing, keeping their overall social contacts at low levels and working from home where possible.

CEV people are thought to be at very high risk of serious illness from coronavirus. They were a high priority for COVID-19 vaccinations and more than 90 per cent of the CEV population in England have now received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

The government has recommended the current shielding recommendations should be replaced with practical advice on managing risk of exposure to the virus.

This includes advice to:

  • continue to work from home where possible, but if not possible, can return to the workplace
  • go to shops and pharmacies, but take practical steps to minimise any risk (e.g. shopping and travelling at quieter times of the day)
  • CEV children and young people should return to school and college

Supermarkets have agreed to continue to offer priority access to delivery slots for CEV individuals already receiving them for a grace period - currently to 21 June. Herefordshire’s Talk Community can continue to offer support for those needing help with shopping and those self-isolating.

After 31 March, CEV will not be eligible for statutory sick pay and Employment and Support Allowance due to shielding. The advice is to return to work, if they cannot work from home, and that returning to work is safe.

The free medicine delivery service will end after 31 March and CEV individuals are advised to ask if friends, family or volunteers can collect medicines for them. If they have to go themselves, they are advised to visit pharmacies at quieter times.

Herefordshire’s Director of Public Health Dr Rebecca Howell-Jones said:

“Thousands of people across Herefordshire have seen their lives severely disrupted due to shielding during the pandemic.

“I would like to thank them for their patience and commitment to following the national guidance on shielding. They have played a significant part in protecting themselves from this devastating virus.

“I would also like to thank the hundreds of volunteers across Herefordshire who came forward to support those people largely confined to their own homes, as well as family members and friends who helped to keep them safe.

“We know some people may feel apprehensive about leaving home after such a long time, while others will welcome additional freedom but, with the prevalence of the virus in the community at low levels, the government feels now is the right time for people to start thinking about easing up on these more rigid guidelines.

“However, if you have been shielding, we strongly urge you to take extra precautions from 1 April to keep yourself as safe as possible, such as continuing to observe social distancing and working from home. If you are one of the few CEV who have not yet taken up the offer of COVID-19 vaccination, I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible.”

The government will continue to monitor all of the evidence relating to COVID-19 and adjust this advice if there are any changes in infection rates.

During the pandemic Herefordshire’s Talk Community COVID-19 response team had worked with volunteer organisations across the county to provide vulnerable residents advised to shield with additional support if they had gaps in their isolation plan. 

The Talk Community Helpdesk received thousands of phone calls from residents needing additional support and more than 1,500 volunteers were on hand to provide vulnerable people with food and medication collections, as well as help with general daily tasks such as posting letters and pet care. Support is still available through Talk Community

To protect yourself and others, you must remember: Hands. Face. Space.

  • Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home - use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • Space – stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.
  • Vaccination – take up COVID-19 vaccination when you are invited to do so.

Published: 23rd March 2021