At least 7,000 more people join shielding list in Suffolk
- Credit: PA
Thousands more people in Suffolk have been told to shield following an announcement by the government.
Public health bosses in Suffolk said that at least 7,000 people in the county had been asked to stay indoors to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
Suffolk County Council said that it was awaiting further data before it could confirm the final number.
The news comes just a day after the government confirmed that 1.7 million people nationally would be added to the list.
The previous shielding list included people with single risk factors such as those with various cancers.
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But as the pandemic has progressed, medics have found that some people are at higher risk than others because they have multiple risk factors.
Using medical records, the new tool assesses which people are at higher risk based on multiple factors including age, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), other health conditions and also postcode, which is indicative of levels of deprivation.
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Those told to shield are advised to “stay at home as much as possible” - people can still go out for exercise and attend healthcare appointments.
When outdoors, they can meet one other person for exercise – provided they stay socially distanced.
If they meet the criteria, people who are shielding can also form support bubbles which enable them to stay with one other household.
The government strongly advises people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to work from home – and if they cannot work from home, they “should not attend work”.
Even though the latest rules do allow more time outside, people who are shielding are advised not to go to the shops.
Chrissie Geeson, chair of the Collaborative Communities Covid-19 Board and head of localities and partnerships at Suffolk County Council, said: “If you have received a shielding letter, you have been identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable and at increased risk of the worst effects of Covid-19 if you contract it.
"It is vital to stay at home and only leave your house for essential purposes such as for exercise or to attend a medical or vaccination appointment, and to limit your contact with other people."
Ms Geeson added support is available via the Home But Not Alone phoneline, as well as from the Suffolk Advice and Support Service.
Among the services provided include helping people with access to food and medication, as well as financial guidance and priority supermarket slots.
"We urge anyone who is experiencing any difficulties at this time to make contact with us at the earliest opportunity to receive confidential, professional advice and support," she added.
The number of people shielding has grown massively since the outbreak of the pandemic last year.
Initially only 10,000 people in Suffolk were asked to shield but this grew to 35,000 by May last year after GPs were able to add people to the list that had not been previously considered vulnerable.
Some were allowed to go outside at the end of May last year but were asked to begin shielding again when the county moved to Tier 4 restrictions.