Coronavirus > Coronavirus advice > Social distancing & ‘lockdown’, self-isolation and shielding

Social distancing & ‘lockdown’, self-isolation and shielding

Social distancing & ‘lockdown’,
self-isolation and shielding

Below you will find information on social distancing, self-isolation and shielding, including information on what they mean, who they apply to and why we need them.

Social distancing & ‘lockdown’

What is social distancing?

Social distancing means avoiding contact with people unless you really need to.

Strict rules are now in place for social distancing. Some people are calling this a ‘lockdown’.

What this means is that you need to stay at home and may only leave for the following reasons:

  • to shop for essentials, as little as you can and no more than once a day
  • to exercise once a day – you must do this either alone or only with someone in your household
  • for medical reasons or to care for a vulnerable person
  • to travel to essential work that cannot be done at home.

Gatherings of more than two people are not allowed, unless it is of people living in the same household or related to essential work. You are not allowed visitors to your home, including family or friends.

All non-essential services have been stopped. For essential services, like the GP, different ways of accessing them need to be used, such as telephone or online services.

 

How far apart do you need to be when you do go out?

If you have to go out for any of the reasons listed above, you need to stay at least 2 meters apart from other people, that’s 6 feet or about three steps. This is because the main way the virus is spread is through droplets produced when we cough, sneeze and even when we talk.

 

Why is social distancing important?

Social distancing not only protects yourself from catching the virus, but importantly, it protects those who are most vulnerable. This will help to slow down the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people who get it.

If the spread of the virus is slowed, it also means the health system is under less pressure. This means that those people who still get the virus, will have better access to care and get the help they need, when they need it. It also means those people who do not have the virus, but need medical care for other reasons, will also get the care they need, when they need it.

 

Who needs to practice social distancing?

We all do.

However, it is especially important if you are at higher risk of coronavirus. This includes people who are over 70, pregnant, have a long-term health condition or receive the flu jab for medical reasons.

For some people, the risk of the complications from the virus is low, but we all have to think about each other. Even if you are at low risk, you can still spread the virus to someone else who is at greater risk.

 

How long will social distancing last?

Strict ‘lockdown’ rules around social distancing are in place from now until 13th April. At this time, they will be reviewed by the government. However, it is likely that we will have to follow some form of social distancing for quite some time. This is because, even if the number of cases of the virus go down, when we start interacting with each other again, they will go back up.

Every Mind Matters offers advice and tips for if you are staying at home.

 

What’s the difference between social distancing and self-isolation?

Social distancing, as much as possible, applies to everyone. Self-isolation applies to people who have symptoms of coronavirus or are living with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus.

Self-isolation is stricter that social distancing. Social distancing still allows you to leave the home under certain circumstances, keeping a safe distance from others. Self-isolation means you are not allowed to go out at all and should avoid contact with the people you live with.

For more information on social distancing, see the current government advice.

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Self-isolation

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation means staying at home and not going out at all.

If you need food or medicines, you will need to order them online or over the phone, or ask someone (such as a family member, neighbour or friend) to pick them up for you and drop them off at your home. Do not have contact with them when they do.

You should try to stay at least 2 meters (6 feet or about 3 steps) away from others in your home.

Do not have any visitors, except for those providing essential care.

 

How do I know if I need to self-isolate?

Self-isolation applies to people who have symptoms of coronavirus and anyone who lives with them.

 

How long do I have to self-isolate for if I have symptoms of coronavirus?

If you have a high temperature and a new, continuous cough, you need to self-isolate for 7 days. After 7 days, your risk of passing on the virus to others is greatly reduced.

If your symptoms are severe, you are short of breath or finding it difficult to breathe, your symptoms are getting worse or you are not better after 7 days, call your GP or 111. Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital.

 

How long do I have to self-isolate for if I am living with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus?

If anyone you are living with has symptoms of coronavirus, you need to self-isolate for 14 days, even if you do not have any symptoms. This is because you might have the virus but not yet show any signs of it.

The 14 day period starts from when the person in the household first showed symptoms of coronavirus.

If someone else in the household develops symptoms, they then need to self-isolate for 7 days from when their symptoms started, even if this takes them over the 14 day period.

The following graphic helps to explain how long each member of the household has to to self-isolate for, depending on whether or not they also coronavirus symptoms: Self-isolation: what to do if you or someone in your household develops symptoms of coronavirus.

 

Coping with self-isolation

Self-isolation is difficult, especially if you live by yourself. It is really important to try to stay in contact with family and friends as much as possible through phone calls, emails, messaging and video calls. Also try to stay active as much as you can in the home.

Every Mind Matters offers advice and tips if you are staying at home. Remember that self-isolation is temporary and will not last forever.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Advice Line nurses are also there to provide confidential support, advice and information. Call them for free on 0808 801 0899, email adviceline@chss.org.uk or text NURSE to 66777.

For more information on self-isolation, see NHS Inform’s Stay at Home advice.

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Shielding

New ‘shielding’ advice for those with high-risk health conditions: stay at home for 12 weeks

The Scottish Government has announced important new advice for people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus advising them to self-isolate for 12 weeks.

If this advice applies to you, NHS Scotland will contact you directly to advise you to stay at home for at least 12 weeks. This new measure is called ‘shielding’.

Staying at home for at least 12 weeks will help to reduce your risk of getting coronavirus, of needing to go to hospital if you do and of becoming seriously ill. The advice will help keep you, your family and your community safe.

 

Does shielding apply to me?

The new advice applies to people who have particular high-risk health conditions and who need to take extra steps to protect themselves. It also applies to their family, friends and carers.

You can find the full list of these health conditions on the NHS Inform website. Very high-risk chest and heart conditions are also listed below.

Please note that experts are working very hard to provide the most accurate information on who is most at risk of coronavirus. Other chest and heart conditions may be considered very high-risk and will be added to the list when this information becomes available.

 

Very high-risk chest conditions

You are considered to be at very high-risk if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You have any type of cystic fibrosis
  • You have asthma that has required hospital admission or steroid medication
  • You have COPD and any of the following apply:
    • You have severe or very severe airflow obstruction, as measured using a spirometry test. This is sometimes referred to as GOLD grade 3 (severe) or GOLD grade 4 (very severe).
    • Your breathlessness limits what you are able to do and you cannot walk as fast as other people your age. The is sometimes referred to as an MRC breathlessness score of 3, 4 or 5.
    • You have had 2 or more flare-ups or exacerbations in the past year needing emergency treatment
    • You have been admitted to hospital in the past because of an acute attack due to your COPD
    • You take prednisolone (steroid tablets) to treat you condition
    • You use non-invasive ventilation at home (a mask connected to a ventilator to help you breath at night)
    • You are on home oxygen therapy
  • If you are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy for lung cancer or mesothelioma or meet any of the criteria listed under COPD, above
  • If you have bronchiectasis and use nebulised treatments or meet any of the criteria listed under COPD, above
  • If you have interstitial lung disease of any type, including pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis.

You are also considered very high-risk if you have more than one long-term health condition. This includes people with a long-term chest condition for which you receive treatment AND have diabetes or heart disease.

 

Very high-risk heart conditions

You are considered to be at very high-risk if you fall into either of the following categories:

  • You are pregnant and have significant heart disease of any kind
  • You have ever had a transplant of any sort, at any time

There are a number of other heart conditions that, while not considered very high-risk, still put you at higher risk of complications from coronavirus. If you have one of these, shielding measures do not apply to you but it is vitally important that you strictly follow the current social distancing guidance.

More information about what these heart conditions are is available on our coronavirus heart page.

How will I be contacted if I am considered very high-risk?

If you have one of the serious health conditions listed on the NHS Inform website, NHS Scotland will contact you directly. This could be via letter, text or phone. If you are contacted, you will be strongly advised to stay at home (‘self-isolate’) for 12 weeks from the date you are contacted. NHS Scotland will tell you what you need to do and who to contact if you need help.

 

How do I self-isolate safely at home?

If you are contacted, you should take steps to self-isolate. Information on self-isolating and what that means.

 

What do people I live with need to do?

If you live with family or friends, they do not need to follow the same shielding advice as you. However, it is very important that they follow the current government advice on staying at home and social distancing.

They should also take further steps to help reduce your risk by strictly following the advice on the NHS Inform website.

 

How will I get food and medicines, and get to my medical appointments?

If you do not have someone who can help deliver food and medicines to you (keeping a safe distance from them at all times), NHS Scotland will tell you how you can arrange the support you need to stay at home safely. You can also find information on shielding support contacts on the Scottish Government website.

If you have any GP or hospital appointments planned, talk to your GP or hospital doctor about what you should do.

 

What do I do if I become unwell at home?

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus while you are staying at home, call 111 or your GP as soon as you get symptoms. Tell them that you are in a high-risk group and staying at home for 12 weeks. Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital. If you are seriously ill and it is a medical emergency, call 999.

 

I think shielding applies to me but I have not been contacted. What should I do?

NHS Scotland will directly contact people they believe should stay at home for 12 weeks. If you think this advice applies to you but you haven’t been contacted by Sunday 29 March 2020, you should contact your GP or hospital doctor by phone or online. It is safest to stay at home and follow the shielding guidance until you are clear about whether shielding applies to you.

 

Support and advice about shielding

You can read more about the coronavirus shielding measures on the NHS Inform website.

If you have any questions about this new advice, call our Advice Line nurses on 0808 801 0899, email adviceline@chss.org.uk or text NURSE to 66777.

 

Source of information on very high-risk conditions: British Lung Foundation and British Heart Foundation, developed in consultation with medical experts and guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care.

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