The UK government has announced that the risk of infection due to COVID-19 has reduced to such a degree that the 4 million people who have been asked to shield due to a high potential risk of suffering severe symptoms from a COVID-19 infection have been told that they can stop shielding on April 1st 2021. Everyone affected will receive a letter from the government in the next few days explaining this change.
NB most people with Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis will have been told to shield, people with ABPA are less likely to be told to shield.
Shielding is an extreme form of lockdown requiring people to e.g. stay indoors at all times, accept no visitors and limit direct physical contact with the outside world. This lack of direct physical social interaction is excellent at preventing infection from viruses like COVID-19 but the protection comes at a high price in terms of mental health. Anxiety, depression and loneliness are common and can be difficult to cope with, so the easing of these restrictions should start to help bring relief from those symptoms.
Of course, if you are experiencing any symptoms of anxiety and depression you should seek help from your doctor as these are potentially dangerous problems. The NHS provides several helpful resources too.
We have been listening to our patients here at the National Aspergillosis Centre in our regular weekly meetings on Zoom and in our Facebook Support groups and some talk of their anxiety over leaving shielding, especially if they are being asked to re-start work by their employer. This is perfectly normal of course – employers should be making your return to work as easy as possible – a staged return to work is is good way to do it to ease yourself back into the routine and allay your fears. The employer must make your workplace safe to work in.
Bear in mind that when we entered lockdown there were 65000 active cases a day and 2 million infected people in the UK, so one person in 34 was infected. As of today 18th March there were 5000 cases a day and a quarter as many active cases – 1 in 120 are infected.
Add to this that all highly vulnerable people will have had at least one vaccination giving them 90% protection and at least 40% of the people around them similarly protected, so the chances of infection are much reduced. The lifting of shielding is still 2 weeks away and the rate of reduction in people admitted to hospital due to COVID-19 is falling very fast, as is the number of deaths. The number of active cases will also likely be a lot lower at 1 in 250.
This is a pause in shielding, if our control over this virus slips a little the government will bring shielding back to protect the highly vulnerable.
Read full details of this change here.