What do the new coronavirus alert systems mean for people who are shielding?
PUBLISHED: 16:14 13 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:14 13 October 2020
People who were advised to shield during the peak coronavirus lockdown have been given new government guidance.
The new advice has been issued to more than two million people across England after prime minister Boris Johnson unveiled the three-tier alert system in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
The government said none of the alert levels - medium, high and very high - which come into force tomorrow would automatically trigger a warning for those who shielded before to shield again and stay home at all times.
Norfolk and Waveney is classed as the medium category meaning everyone has to continue following the rule of six and pubs and restaurants have to close at 10pm.
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The government has said that people in medium-risk areas who previously shielded should strictly observe social distancing, meet others outside where possible, limit unnecessary journeys on public transport and work from home where possible.
People can still go to work and children should still attend school. Freelance journalist Laura James, 51, from Reepham, who shielded during the first wave of the virus, said she is worried about her safety amid the rise in infections.
Mrs James, who has the rare inherited condition Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which affects her connective tissue, said: “The government is in a totally unenviable position. I do have real sympathy for them to balance the needs of the population and the economy. They are caught between a rock and a hard place.”
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She added there were many different groups of people who had to shield in March and believed a one-size-fits-all approach would not work.
Mrs James said the government should provide a furlough-style payment scheme for people who needed to shield but could not work from home.
The author, who has lived her life carefully since the outbreak, added: “I worry for my health if I catch coronavirus. I’m going to start getting more militant again.”
Sue Lawrence, 72, from Newark Close in Thorpe St Andrew, who shielded from March until July due to her having Huntington’s disease, said: “I think people should still be shielding. I am always wearing a mask and I’m a bit unhappy about going on the buses. I will be as careful as I can. It is such a shame this is going on but you have to go with it.”
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the prevalence of the virus across the country and we know those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are looking for practical advice on how they can carry on their lives while the virus remains in our communities.
“The new system will provide clarity on how best those in this group can keep themselves as safe as possible depending on the rates of transmission in their local area.
“Whilst advisory, I would urge all those affected to follow the guidance wherever they can and to continue to access health services for their medical conditions.
“We will continue to monitor the evidence closely and fine-tune this approach to make sure everyone in this group is clear about the safest way to go about their daily lives, particularly over the coming winter months.”
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