A new group of South Tyneside residents have been added to Central Government's list of people identified as being at greater risk of serious illness from coronavirus.
Around 4,500 local residents will be receiving a letter from the Government advising them that they may be more vulnerable due to their health or other concerns. This means they will now be prioritised for a vaccine and benefit from additional advice and support as necessary.
Previously there were more than 7,000 people in the Borough identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and, in a letter from the NHS or their GP, they may have been asked to 'shield' during the national lockdown periods.
The current Government advice is that they continue to shield until at least 31 March, with those newly identified as 'at risk' also advised to start staying at home, with the exceptions of exercise and attending scheduled health appointments. This includes avoiding food shopping and visiting pharmacies.
The South Tyneside Covid-19 Community Support Hub continues to be available to assist at risk people who are living on their own and have no other means of support, such as family, friends or neighbours, to help with access to essentials like food. It is also available for those who are struggling with their wellbeing and need signposting to services.
South Tyneside Council is currently writing to those newly identified people about the Government guidance and the local support that is available to them.
Councillor Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "It is encouraging that an additional 4,500 vulnerable residents will now benefit from greater protection. They will have quicker access to the vaccine and can benefit from the advice and support in place for clinically extremely vulnerable people.
"However, this also means that they should stay at home as much as possible and take extra precautions to minimise their exposure to coronavirus. Many may feel that, at this stage in the pandemic, the advice is not relevant to them, but it is important they are aware of their enhanced risk status, both now and for any future changes in the pandemic.
"We understand that this could be a worrying and confusing time for people, particularly if they live alone and have no other means of support such as family, friends or neighbours to turn to.
"Our Covid-19 Community Support Hub has continued to be available throughout the pandemic for 'at risk' residents. We want to reassure those newly identified people that the service is here for them - they are not alone. Staff redeployed from their usual duties are working to ensure they get the help and support they need."
The Government recently announced that an extra 1.7m people across the country have been identified as at a higher risk of Covid-19, after using a combination of factors based on medical records to assess whether someone may be more vulnerable than was previously understood.
Residents affected are urged to register with the National Shielding Support System (NSSS) www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support. Registering gives them access to priority supermarket delivery slots as well as other wellbeing assistance. Even if help is not needed at this time, it is important they register so that local support can be targeted to those most in need.
Residents are also encouraged to call on the help of friends, family or neighbours to assist with food shopping or medicines collections wherever possible. Alternatively, they can use online shopping or contact their local pharmacy to arrange delivery of medication.
People can get help to register with the NSSS by calling South Tyneside's Covid-19 Community Support Hub on 0800 028 2955.Family, friends and neighbours can also register on behalf of a resident in this category.
The Council continues to work with voluntary and community organisations to provide targeted support to those who need it in the affected group. Support is tailored to individual needs and includes help with:
- Digital support to register for priority supermarket delivery slots;
- Accessing essential food and basic supplies;
- Additional care for those who live alone and don't have family, friends, neighbours or social care services for support;
- Welfare checks by the Council, if needed;
- Signposting to financial or welfare support, befriending services, mental health and support from voluntary organisations.
Councillor Dixon added: "It is so important that people in the 'at risk' category take extra care to protect themselves, that they stay home as much as possible and continue to follow the guidance around Hands, Face and Space. Members of the same household or support bubble are also encouraged to be extra vigilant to the risk they may pose to those deemed high risk.
"Family, friends and wider communities continue to play a significant role in supporting each other to stay safe and this is fantastic. However, those who are asked to stay home due to their health and have no help, really should not try to do this on their own."
Vulnerable residents, who have no other means of support, can call the Covid-19 Community Support Hub on freephone 0800 028 2955,from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
For further information about South Tyneside Council's response to the coronavirus pandemic, including further details about the Covid-19 Community Support Hub, visit the Council's website at www.southtyneside.gov.uk/coronavirus
Details of the current national restrictions are available on the Government website at www.gov.uk/coronavirus