Protecting the over 70s: What the current coronavirus guidance says in Wales

If you’re confused about what you should do if you’re over 70, you’re not alone.

You may have seen reports about concerns that the over-70s are being unfairly treated, or could be told to stay home for longer, or will be subject to a blanket ban.

Even before the lockdown restrictions were introduced, people over 70 were told to take particularly strict measures to avoid catching the virus.

That is still the case. You are more likely to contract coronavirus and more likely to have a pre-existing condition which could mean you get a severe form of the illness.

So are you supposed to be in the strictest lockdown or can you leave the house under certain conditions?

I have been going through the guidelines for Wales and England and have been asking medical and scientific officials.

Here are the main points of what I’ve found.

It’s the same advice for Wales and England although if you compare the guidance on their websites you’ll find different terminology being used.

Credit: PA
  • If you’re over 70 you’re not automatically being asked to ‘shield.’

This is one of the biggest confusions right now.

If you are told that you should be shielding, that means you shouldn’t leave your home at all (apart from in medical emergencies) until at least June 15th. Friends and families should do your shopping or collect medicine for you and if you have no-one to do that, there are free food and pharmacy delivery schemes and priority delivery slots from supermarkets.

People who are being told they should shield include transplant patients, people with severe respiratory conditions, some cancer patients and pregnant women with significant heart disease.

Bu if you are over 70 and fit and well, you don’t come into that category. You are not classed as "clinically vulnerable" or "extremely vulnerable."

However.

If you are over 70, and fit and well, you are still considered to be at an increased risk of getting coronavirus.

The general advice on social distancing applies to you. Stay home except for essential travel, i.e. to get food and medical supplies, exercise once a day, work from home where possible.

But you are also told that you should follow those guidelines "more stringent" and at the moment, it is not clear what "more stringently" means in practice.

We strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can, and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family if possible.

The Welsh Government

Only you will know what that should translate into in your life but it almost certainly means that as well as following the general lockdown rules you should also avoid going shopping if someone else can do it for you or, if you can’t, use the supermarkets’ dedicated shopping times for vulnerable people.

You should probably also discourage friends and family dropping off food for you from coming in for a cup of tea.

It’s not just over-70s in this group. If you have underlying health conditions, pregnant, or eligible for the flu vaccine, you too are considered vulnerable.

My advice: keep checking the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales website when you see any report about changes to the advice for over-70s.

The UK Government and Public Health England websites contain virtually the same advice, but the terminology is different, which could be confusing.

A word of warning: the guidance is going to change in the next week or so but I doubt it’ll be radically different so it’s still worth knowing what the advice is now.

When we know how it affects you we will update you.