The Department of Health has today reiterated the advice regarding “shielding” by people who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to Covid-19.
Updated advice to Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people was issued just before Christmas – with a commitment that letters from the Chief Medical Officer would follow. Some of these letters have already been received.
This updated advice on the Department's website remain in place:.
While not a return to the shielding advice in place in the early part of the pandemic, the updated NI advice does mirror the latest advice in England.
It is also stressed that this is guidance – not regulation.
Advice for CEV people
Based on the elevated risk profile associated with Covid-19, a number of changes to advice for CEV people were announced just before Christmas:
a) CEV people were advised not to participate in Christmas bubbles;
b) CEV people were advised to avoid going to shops, pharmacies, and hospitality settings;
c) CEV people were advised to work from home where possible, but if they are unable to do so they were advised not to attend the workplace. The advice re attending the workplace was effective from 26 December.
These measures, in addition to the wider restrictions agreed by the Executive to take effect from 26 December, mean CEV people are protected from exposure to the virus across a wide range of settings.
This advice is consistent with advice that is in place for CEV people in England, Scotland and Wales. Whilst England has announced a formal return to shielding, this is slightly different from the form of shielding that was introduced at the outset of the pandemic, with CEV people still being able to exercise outdoors. In practice, the advice in place in England mirrors the advice in Northern Ireland.
The updated advice was placed online at nidirect. In addition, the Chief Medical Officer has written to all people who had previously been shielding to advise them of the change in advice re: attending work. The letter can be used as evidence for employers for evidence of entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay.
Letters are in the process of being issued to patients via their GP or secondary care clinician as appropriate. Some people have already received their letters. Patients can use their old shielding letters as evidence in the meantime if necessary.
Notes to editors:
Anyone who cannot attend work due to this advice and who is unable to work from home is eligible to apply for support. Whilst the letter from the Chief Medical Officer references statutory sick pay, this is not the only support which may be available. If the person is an employee, their employer may be able to make furlough arrangements under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April 2021. They should discuss with their employer whether this is possible. If the person is self-employed they may be eligible for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. If they cannot work from home or cannot be furloughed, they may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC). The letter from CMO is evidence for employers that the person is considered clinically extremely vulnerable in relation to Covid-19 and advised not to attend the workplace. There is no need to get a fit note from their GP. In the meantime, people can use their original letters as proof of being clinically extremely vulnerable in relation to Covid-19.
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