The advice to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, previously ‘shielding’ has changed from today to advise those within this group that they should no longer attend work or school outside the home. This is particularly the case for those whose work requires them to be in regular or sustained contact with other people, or where individuals share a poorly ventilated workspace for long periods. Letters from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales (CMO) will be issued confirming this advice but will take some time to reach individuals due to the festive period. These letters can be used as evidence for the purposes of claiming statutory sick pay.
This decision has been taken based on number of factors but has been influenced most recently by the significant recent growth in rates of infection, possibly due to the new variant of the coronavirus. We have also taken account of the pressures we see on our health service with increasing hospitalisations. This advice will be reviewed on a three weekly basis aligned to the Welsh Government reviews of alert levels across Wales.
Individuals in this group are already subject to the regulations in place at level 4 https://gov.wales/alert-level-4 and therefore must stay at home as much as possible. However I would wish to emphasise that the group can still go outside to exercise and also to attend medical appointments. We must remain conscious of the harms associated with isolation for long periods and therefore those in this group can remain part of a support bubble, as long as they take care.
We have been clear that the safest option for people within this group is not to be part of a Christmas Bubble. However if they choose to do so they should follow the advice provided on our website https://gov.wales/christmas-advice-people-who-were-shielding which includes keeping contacts to an absolute minimum, meeting for short periods in well ventilated areas, maintaining strict hand and surface hygiene and staying 2 metres away from others.
As letters will be unavoidably delayed, I am asking members and stakeholders to help us to communicate this message. I am also asking employers to take note of the change to advice and support their employees to follow it.
Guidance for those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable will be updated as soon as possible on the following link https://gov.wales/guidance-protecting-people-defined-medical-grounds-extremely-vulnerable-coronavirus-covid-19
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.