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The government has updated its guidance to those clinically extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus, including advising to avoid shops in very high areas, which may impact mobility retailers trading this winter.

During the first lockdown in the spring, more than two million people in England identified as being the most at-risk if they contracted the virus were instructed to ‘shield’ by the government.

In March, the government wrote to 2.2 million people deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable from Covid-19 with advice to avoid face-to-face contact with others for at least 12 weeks.

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Now, the government has updated its guidance to those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, bringing advice in line with its new ‘three-tier lockdown system’.

Tailored advice in line with three-tier system

The guidance to the clinically extremely vulnerable from the Department of Health and Social Care for each tier includes:

Medium alert level:

  • Strictly maintain social distancing when meeting people outside of a bubble
  • Adhere to the rule of six
  • Meet people outside where possible
  • Limit journeys on public transport where possible
  • Work from home where possible
  • Continue to attend work if working from home is not possible
  • Continue to attend school, unless advised by paediatric or GP not to

High alert level:

  • Do not meet people outside their bubble indoors, including hospitality venues
  • Adhere to the rule of six outside (six includes children)
  • Keep the number of different people to meet with low
  • Work and school advice remain the same as medium
  • Avoid travel where possible except for going to work, school, or for essential shopping
  • Walk or cycle where possible. Opt for private cars with those in the same bubble over public transport
  • Reduce the number of shopping trips or go at quieter times
  • Use online delivery for food shopping if possible or ask friends and family to help deliver shopping or collect medicines
  • Continue to go outside with your household and/or support bubble because of the benefits of exercise

Very high alert level:

  • Only meet friends and family not in a bubble in certain outdoor public spaces
  • Stay at home as much as possible – avoid busy areas to minimise the chance of coming into close contact with others
  • Avoid any travel into or out of a local COVID alert level
  • Continue to go outside for exercise
  • Strongly advised to work from home – if unable to work from home and have concerns about going into work, clinically vulnerable advised to speak to employer about taking on an alternative role or changing working patterns temporarily
  • If there is no alternative, clinically vulnerable can still go to work
  • School advice remains same as medium
  • Avoid all but essential travel
  • Limit shopping trips, use online deliveries or ask friends & family to collect food and medicines – NHS Volunteer Responder may be available to assist
  • Continue to receive care at home, either from professional social care and medical professionals, or from friends and family within your support bubble

Formal shielding

According to the government, it may advise more explicit and restrictive measures for those in the worst affected, very high tier three alert area, based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer.

Importantly, this will only apply to some very high alert areas and the government will write to individuals to inform them to take the formal shielding measures.

The formal shielding measures include:

  • Strongly advised to work from home
  • If working from home is not possible, the individual should not attend work
  • If the person cannot attend work for this reason, they may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – the formal shielding notification sent to people will act as evidence to employers of the Department of Work and Pensions that you are advised to shield and may be eligible for SSP or ESA
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable children are advised not to attend school
  • Shielders can go outside, but should try keep all contact with others outside their bubble to a minimum and avoid busy areas
  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Can still meet support bubble, but cannot meet with friends and family not in the bubble
  • Try to stay 2 metres away from other people within the household, especially if they display symptoms of the virus or have been advised to self-isolate
  • Stay at home as much as possible and not to travel unless essential
  • Advised not to go to the shops. Use online shopping if possible or ask others to collect and deliver shopping
  • Strongly advised not to go to a pharmacy for medicines – if friends and family are not able to collect your medicines, then the person will be eligible for free medicines delivery arranged by the pharmacy
  • May be eligible for extra care and support from your local authority
  • Can still receive informal care at home from people within their support bubble
  • Can still receive care at home from professional social care and medical professionals

A tough winter ahead

The return of more restrictive guidance, including the advice to remain home in high and very high areas, will add further pressure to the mobility retail segment as it heads into the traditionally quieter trading period.

The most difficult scenario facing mobility retailers, however, is the introduction of shielding in very high hotspots.

With the government seemingly set to keep retail open even in tier three areas, retailers may face a situation where shielders – many whom fall into key customer groups for mobility dealers – are told to avoid their stores while also receiving no additional financial support from the government, unlike hospitality businesses.

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