County Durham residents who were asked to stay isolated in order to shield themselves from coronavirus are being urged to take extra care as restrictions begin to ease.
It follows updated government advice stating that although people who are shielding remain vulnerable, they can now leave their home, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing and continue to practice good hand and respiratory hygiene.
Durham County Council, alongside its partners in the NHS, is urging those who are extremely vulnerable to continue staying at home as much as possible and keep visits outside to a minimum.
Those residents should minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart and stay alert when leaving home by washing hands regularly. In addition, they are being advised not to attend any gatherings, including weddings or religious services, and strictly avoid contact with anyone who is displaying symptoms of the virus.
Those who do choose to spend time outdoors should go out with members of their own household. For those who live alone, time can be spent with one person from another house, though ideally that should be with the same person each time.
The shielded will still be able to access their supermarket priority slots and they’re advised to keep using those and avoid going shopping.
The government has advised that all those shielding should continue to do so until 30 June and say they will regularly monitor this position.
While these measures could be making life difficult for those who are vulnerable to access essential supplies and engage in social contact, the council is also reassuring residents that their community hub, County Durham Together, is still there to provide help and support.
Between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, the hub can support with essential food supplies, welfare and general advice.
It also offers a chat service to combat the loneliness that can often be felt when self-isolating or shielding, as well as a reading service as part of the council’s online library service Borrowbox.
Information on how to register for priority supermarket slots or how to help shop for a vulnerable family member or friend can be accessed via the hub too, as well as on the council’s website.
People are advised to accept help from friends, family and neighbours where possible, but anyone in need of extra support can find a list of local groups on the council’s website www.durhamlocate.org.uk or fill in our Coronavirus help form at www.durham.gov.uk/covid19help.
Alternatively, help can be accessed by emailing [email protected] or calling 03000 260 260.
Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “We know that these restrictions have been difficult for people who are shielding and I’m sure they welcome the news that those restrictions are now starting to ease. However, we would strongly urge those who are extremely vulnerable to continue to take extra care to protect themselves.
“The North East has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections and it’s important that we all do what we can to stop the transmission of this virus. That’s why we would encourage those who have been shielding to continue to stay at home where possible, accept help from family and friends, and only go out once a day if they do feel they need to go out.”
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service is reassuring residents it is available to provide important safety advice and will carry out fire safety visits to high-risk homes and businesses. These will be prioritised and risk-assessed – all other prevention advice is available over the phone from its community safety team by calling 07930839422 (Monday – Thursday 8.30am – 5pm, Friday 8.30 – 4.30pm).
Northumbrian Water also offers a range of free Priority Services and help to customers who need support. To sign up for that, or for more information, visit its website at www.nwl.co.uk/priority. Its customer service team can also be contacted on 0345 717 1100.