open-door-coming-out-of-shielding

As of 27 January, the Government has announced that England will return to ‘Plan A’, meaning that people will no longer be advised to work from home, face coverings will no longer be mandatory, and organisations can choose whether they use NHS Covid Passes.

We know this announcement will cause worry for many in the WM community, especially as there hasn’t been advice given to those at severe risk from Covid-19 about how to protect themselves.

Here, we’ve updated our previous advice on looking after yourself when restrictions are lifted, going through the risks you might face, how to manage these and ways you can look after yourself, including in the workplace. If you’re still concerned, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.

The risk of catching COVID-19

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, people living with WM are classed as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’, meaning that they are at increased risk of developing serious disease if they catch COVID-19. This is because WM affects the immune system, making it harder for you to fight infections and viruses like Covid.

For the same reason, vaccinations are less effective for people with WM. However, they do still offer some protection so it is really important that you take up every vaccination offered to you.

Since November, there has been a wave of infection of a new variant called Omicron, which seems to have spread much faster than other variants, increasing the risk that you might be infected.

It is therefore understandable that you might be concerned about your safety – or that of a loved one – with restrictions being lifted. However, there are things you can do to manage your risk.

Managing your risk – individual choices

Managing your risk is an individual choice, and is based on what is important to you, where you live and what risk you’re comfortable living with, amongst other things. What might seem risky to one person, won’t seem that way to another.

Some activities are higher risk than others. These include:

  • Mixing indoors
  • Mixing in large crowds of people
  • Mixing with people who aren’t wearing masks
  • Being in close physical contact with people (like hugging)

Lower risk – but not totally devoid of risk – activities are:

  • Mixing in very small groups of people, who are wearing masks
  • Mixing with people outdoors
  • Staying 2 metres away from others

Try to keep these things in mind when you’re deciding what risks you’re willing to take, and remember that everything does carry an element of risk. There are other factors that might help you decide which risks to take, and which you want to avoid. These include:

  • What is important to you – this might be family or an important social occasion. There may be some things that you aren’t willing to give up, but there are ways you can minimise the risk on these occasions, which we’ll discuss in the next section
  • Your mental health – for example if you live alone, meeting someone for a coffee might help you if you’re struggling. Or, on the other hand, you feel that you have to go to a friend’s ‘big’ birthday party, but the thought causes you a lot of anxiety because you know it will be indoors.
  • Other risks you are taking – as someone who is immunocompromised, it’s sensible to keep your level of risks to a minimum. If you have taken a few risks, lately, you may stop and think before you take another.
  • How busy your area is – someone living in a densely populated area may feel some activities are more risky than someone living in a rural area.
  • Knowing infection rates - knowing how many people are currently infected might help you decide if you are willing to take a risk. For example, if the rate is high or rising, you may decide to pass on an event. You can find the latest information on infections rates across the UK here.

Practical things to do protect yourself

If there is an activity that you can’t avoid for any reason, there may be a way you can modify it to help protect yourself:

  • Keep to the standard rules: wear a face mask, wash your hands regularly, and keep your distance from others. You can also ask that people you are meeting do the same
  • Use lateral flow tests, and ask people you are meeting to use them before you see each other
  • Use Google to find out the least busy times for places you want to visit – this is really helpful if you live in a built up area
  • Get your shopping delivered to avoid busy supermarkets
  • Meet people outdoors whenever possible, and if you are meeting indoors consider how much time you spend inside with other people
  • Make a list of things that you must do, and that you cannot remove. This might help you decide whether you want to take on other activities, or look at ways you modify these activities so that they carry less risk

Work, COVID-19 and WM

If you work, you may have concerns about the risk this brings. It is important to talk to your employer about these risks as soon as you can. If you can still work from home, then it is a good idea to continue to do so. If you have a job where you can’t work from home, you are protected by law and your employer must make reasonable adjustments to protect you. Adjustments to your workplace could include changes in shift pattern to avoid busy times or a change in duties away from customer facing duties.

Getting a letter from your medical team advising why it is unsafe for you is really helpful when discussing working from home or modifications to your workplace or duties with your employer.

If you are being pressured to work in an environment that is unsafe for you, you can get advice from Acas about what to do.

Mental Health

If you're struggling with your mental health, know that you are not alone. There are lots of fantastic resources that can help you:

Every Mind Matters - NHS mental health advice, including information specifically related to looking after your mental health in the pandemic

SAMH - Scotland's national mental health charity

Mind - mental health advice, information and support, including information specifically around mental health during the pandemic

Remember, our community is always here for you as well. You can join one of our supportive online forums or support groups to talk to people in situations similar to your own.

Sign me up

Join the WM community.

Keep up to date with the latest news about the WM community and WMUK’s work including national and regional events, research, news, fundraising and opportunities to get involved.