Clinically extremely vulnerable people can join their families in forming ‘bubbles’ over the Christmas period, but should take extra caution within these, the Department of Health and Social Care has advised.
Vulnerable patients, who were advised to ‘shield’ from Covid-19 exposure earlier in the pandemic, can mix indoors and outdoors with people from up to three households between 23 and 27 December.
However they are advised to socially distance from those in their bubble who do not live with them.
The new guidance for England, published today (26 November), also recommends that they avoid physical contact, consider who they sit next to, and wear a face covering if social distancing will be difficult.
And it stressed to vulnerable patients that forming Christmas bubbles ‘does involve greater risks’ as it increases numbers of contacts.
Suggesting alternatives such as spending time outside, or using technology, the guidance said: ‘You will continue to minimise your risk of infection if you limit social contact with people that you do not live with, even at Christmas. It is important that you and the other people in your Christmas bubble consider these risks carefully before agreeing to form a bubble. Forming a Christmas bubble is a personal choice and should be balanced against the increased risk of infection.’
The updated guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable patients also contains tier-specific guidance for the period from next Wednesday onwards.
On 2 December, England will be leaving national lockdown and returning to a system of three tiers. Only Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight will be in Tier 1, with the most relaxed restrictions.
The Government also reiterated its update from earlier this month – that it will not be reintroducing formal shielding measures for vulnerable patients at this stage.
Instead, they will only consider this for some Tier 3 areas, for a limited time and on the advice of chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.