Are you confused by the latest Covid-19 Lockdown and the restrictions now in place around the UK?

Russell Fleming, Content Manager, ME Association

The latest lockdown comes into effect in England, today. Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, each have their own measures in place, and with regions also adopting local alert levels, the situation is confusing – especially for people with cognitive problems.

  • This online article from the BBC provides a quick and simple method to check what restrictions are in place for you locally. Simply enter your postcode or the area where you live, into the box provided. It has been updated to take into account the lockdown in England and the measures in place in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

We have tried to summarise general restrictions below as they apply to people with ME/CFS, and are updating the free range of Covid-19 related leaflets that we have made available since the pandemic began back in March.

We still believe that most people with ME/CFS should be regarded as clinically vulnerable. They are entitled to the NHS Flu vaccine and may be eligible because of their age or other criteria.

The emphasis on clinical vulnerability has now shifted, with the Government talking more about those in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ category and, in England, reinstating the shielding measures.

However, most people with ME/CFS should be considered clinically vulnerable because if they do contract the Covid-19 infection it could impact their health to a greater extent than for people who do not have ME/CFS.

If you have another medical condition in addition to ME/CFS you could be considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and are advised to take the extra shielding precautions. If you have not been contacted by the NHS and believe you should be in this category, then please speak with your GP.

England

In England, a new lockdown is in place as of today and will last for 4 weeks, until Wednesday 02 December, when regional measures will take effect. The Government website below explains the restrictions and what to do if you start showing symptoms of Covid-19 infection:

Scotland

In Scotland, a 5-tier system of local protection levels is in place. You can check your local area and determine which restrictions apply to you by visiting the Government website below which also explains what to do if you start showing symptoms of Covid-19 infection:

Wales

In Wales, Firebreak rules are in effect until Monday 09 November when further information will be made available. Visit the Government website below to learn more about the restrictions and what to do if you show symptoms of Covid-19 infection:

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, additional regulations and restrictions had been introduced and these are due to be reviewed on 13 November. Visit the Government website to learn more about the restrictions and what to do if you show symptoms of Covid-19 infection:

What should I do if I have ME/CFS?

There is no specific advice from the Government or NHS for people with ME/CFS. However, we do feel that you should be considered clinically vulnerable and advise that you stringently observe the recommended precautions.

It is recommended that you stay at home where possible (although you can still attend medical appointments, collect prescriptions, mingle with members of your household and go outside for exercise).

You should maintain a high level of personal and household hygiene (washing hands regularly and keeping surfaces clean), and wear a face covering (mask) if you do venture outside or are in contact with people other than those in your household.

You need to decide for yourself if additional precautions are suitable. Such decisions might take account of your current state of health (if you are severely or very severely affected by ME/CFS or experiencing a relapse, for example), whether you can cope with extra restrictions and isolation, whether you feel additionally susceptible to infections, and, whether you live with other people who might place you at extra risk, for example, children who are continuing to attend school.

The lockdown in England will place additional strain on those with ME/CFS who receive support at home i.e. social care. The agency involved in your care should provide you with information about how these new restrictions might impact your situation and work with you to ensure continuity.

The Flu and the Pneumonia Vaccines

You might decide that it is worthwhile getting the Flu and/or Pneumonia vaccines this year because contracting either of these viruses can only add to the health problems you currently experience with ME/CFS or might experience with the Covid-19 infection.

Even with the lockdown in place in England, you will still be able to visit your GP surgery or local chemist to get a vaccination. Just check with them about their own restrictions when you make an appointment and follow the precautions about leaving your home e.g. wear a face covering (mask) and adopt stringent social distancing measures etc.

The Government has stated that anyone who is entitled to a flu vaccine on the NHS should be regarded as ‘clinically vulnerable’, or at increased risk of infection, and most people with ME/CFS will be regarded as such for this reason and/or because of their age etc.

Those who are clinically vulnerable will need to pay particular attention to the advice currently in place; to stay at home where possible (and work from home if applicable) unless they are in education, to limit social contacts, practice stringent social distancing measures, maintain a high level of personal and household hygiene, and use a face covering (mask) of they do venture outside, while encouraging others they come into contact with, to do so as well.

People with ME/CFS are deserving of extra support where required. Because this condition affects a person’s ability to function, they will often be unable to access essential services and will be more dependent than before on the help and understanding of others.

Extra help and support might be in the form of access to community initiatives, online shopping, home delivery of groceries and medications, and modifications that allow them easier access to employment or education.

There are also people with ME/CFS who have other serious health conditions that make them ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to infection.

Previous shielding measures are now back in place in England, and people in this category are advised to stay at home as much as possible (although exceptions do apply).

The clinically extremely vulnerable will be contacted individually by the NHS and eligible for help with grocery and medication deliveries, and will have access to NHS volunteers for example.

With regard to the lockdown in England, and measures in place in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, they are advised to adopt the practices that are most relevant to where they live and to any alert level that is in place.

If you feel you should be in this category, but haven’t heard from the NHS, then you are advised to speak with your GP as soon as possible.

Government Guidelines for England:

Protecting people more at risk from coronavirus

Clinically vulnerable

If you are over 60 or clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. You:

  • should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others
  • should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace

Clinically vulnerable people are those who are:

  • aged 70 or over (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
    • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
    • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable

There is a further group of people who are defined, also on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus – that is, people with specific serious health conditions.

Over this period, we are advising the clinically extremely vulnerable to work from home. If you cannot work from home, you are advised not to go to work and may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

You are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible but are encouraged to go outside for exercise.

The full guidance is available and the Government will write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice while the new restrictions are in place.

The ME Association

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