It is a confusing time for people with blood cancer as ‘shielding’ has come to an end and yet cases are on the rise again. It is important to remember that people with a weakened immune system remain at a higher risk of experiencing more serious complications from Covid-19.
You are at very high risk of becoming very ill if you catch Covid-19 if you:
- are being treated for a blood cancer or blood disorder
- had an autologous stem cell transplant (where your own stem cells are collected and put back in your body after chemotherapy) in the last year
- had an allogeneic stem cell transplant (where stem cells are donated from another person) in the last two years
- are taking medication to suppress your immune system
- If you fall into this high risk category, you have previously been advised to follow rigorous ‘shielding’ measures by remaining indoors in order to keep yourself safe. These included limiting those who visit your home to people providing essential support, making sure all visitors wash their hands regularly and maintaining safe distancing measures whenever possible.
These guidelines have now been relaxed across the UK. However, we recommend that you talk about your situation with your doctor or medical before making any changes. They have the best understanding of your medical history and the potential impact COVID-19 could have on your health.
The recommendations state that who were shielding are able to do the following, IF they feel comfortable to do so:
- Meet other members of their household without needing to social distance.
- Meet with other people socially, while maintaining a safe social distance. There are some further restrictions and they vary for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Check the government webpage for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. You can also check the summary in this BBC news article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-52530518.
- If you live on your own (excluding children under the age of 18) you can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. This means you can spend time together inside each other's homes without needing to socially distance.
- Return to your place of work if your employer has minimised the risk of COVID-19 - but continue to work from home if you can. It is your employer’s responsibility to help you go back to work safely. You can get advice from ACAS here https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus.
- You may be advised to shield again if things change in the future. However, this is likely to be for a limited time, in in regions where infection is very high. If you live in one of these areas the government will let you know in writing and give you further advice. Further government advice is available here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19.
If you have any symptoms of coronavirus such as a new, continuous cough, high fever or a change to your sense of smell or taste visit NHS 111 online https://111.nhs.uk/ or call NHS 111 straight away.
What if there are local restrictions in my area?
If the number of coronavirus cases increases local restrictions may be imposed. In England, restrictions are based on the government’s three tier system. For the rest of the UK, local restrictions will be set by their governments and local authorities.
The government will monitor the situation and notify local patients by letter and text message to advise you on what you do.
For specific advice for children with Blood Cancer please follow this link https://www.cclg.org.uk/Coronavirus-advice from The Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group - the experts in childhood cancer
As always, the general guidance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus remains to:
- Regularly wash your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap and water.
- Wash your hands when you get home or get to work.
- Wear a face covering in shops and other public indoor spaces as well as on public transport.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.
- Avoid contact with people who are unwell.
- Avoid touching your face.
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