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Elderly And Vulnerable To Take ‘Extra Precautions’

The government has announced a second national lockdown, and told millions of clinically vulnerable people to take ‘extra precautions’, but has stopped short of implementing formal shielding.

While some people classed as vulnerable have welcomed the second lockdown, charities warned that millions who were previously asked to shield need urgent clarity and support.

From Thursday 5 November, England’s pubs, bars, and restaurants, as well as non-essential retail will close until 2 December, and people have been told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave.

However, schools, colleges and nurseries will remain open.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said at the 31 October Downing Street Press Conference that the more than two million people on the previous shielding list need to take “extra precautions”, but shielding would not be reintroduced due to “the issue of people having significant problems with loneliness and feeling completely cut off from society”.

The government classes clinically vulnerable people as those aged 60 or over, and those under 60 with an underlying health condition, including chronic diseases, respiratory diseases like asthma, pregnant and overweight people.

Charity Age UK has said that older people will be likely to struggle with ‘less direct contact with family and friends’, adding that it will be ‘mobilising to help in every way we can’.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s director, said: “Many older people’s hearts will have sunk to their boots after hearing this news.

“That’s why this weekend it’s really important we reach out to the older people in our lives to tell them we love them, they are not forgotten and we’ll be there to support them through this new period of national lockdown.”

She stressed that anyone who has concerns for themselves or others should get in touch, and to remember they are not alone.

James Taylor, a director for disability equality charity Scope, has urged the government to provide clarity and more accessible advice about the ‘renewed form of shielding’ for disabled people and their employers, saying the guidance is ‘vague at best’.

He said millions of disabled people have been shielding since March, and will now be feeling more anxiety and worry knowing they face having more time away from loved ones and essential support.

He added that the charity had concerns that there were too many disabled people who have fallen through the gaps of the coronavirus financial support packages offered, and many may have to choose between heating or eating this winter.

Mental health charity Mind has also urged the Government to support those who feel alone through a second lockdown.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer stressed there is an urgent need for a winter mental health support package, including in-person and online services.

He said: “The Government has to learn from mistakes in the first wave, making sure people can get help early on.”

The Government has promised to write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice for the second lockdown.

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