Social distancing badge created to help protect coronavirus shielders

Around 130,000 'distance aware' badges are being distributed across health boards in Wales. Credit: Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB

A 'social distancing' badge has been created to help identify and protect vulnerable people who have been shielding for months from coronavirus.

The simple pin badge, featuring a shield in a white circle, is intended as a "polite prompt" to others to maintain a respectful distance, as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.

The shielding group, thought to be around 130,000 people in Wales, are those at higher risk from the effects of coronavirus because they have a specific health condition.

They have now been advised that they can stop shielding from 16 August as long as the virus remains under control - but while many have welcomed the news, others remain concerned about their safety.

Medic Helen Iliff, who herself has been shielding at home since March, came up with the concept of a visual symbol to help those emerging from shielding.

The anaesthetics trainee, who works at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, floated the idea online and the response was "overwhelmingly positive."

Helen Iliff, a medic who has herself been shielding, came up with the idea for the badges.

Helen's design includes a shield to signify protection, while blue chevrons around the edge symbolise the NHS and the continued need to be alert.

The shield is available in a range of other colours to ensure maximum inclusivity and the symbol can be used on lanyards, stickers and other items.

Helen said: “Those who responded had very clear ideas, including having no text - as people would have to get too close to read it - and using bold colours.

“It needed to be visual and also a polite prompt, not a protest or demand. 

"One of the really big positives was the willingness to engage from non-shielding groups, especially in hospitals and workplaces that may struggle to maintain social distancing."

Helen has been working from home since lockdown and says we all have a personal responsibility to help keep ourselves and others safe as the virus continues to circulate.

"It’s not that people aren’t willing to engage with social distancing, but we are tiring after so long in lockdown and people forget," she added.

People deemed most at risk from coronavirus were asked to shield at the beginning of the pandemic. Credit: PA

Helen teamed up with life peer Baroness Ilora Finlay, who helped Helen take her idea from the kitchen table and become a national campaign.

Baroness Finlay said: "As people are encouraged to emerge from shielding, it is essential that there is a clear, instantly recognisable symbol to signal that social distance must be respected.

"There are children and young people at risk. There are people across all groups in society, many of whom Wales depends on for economic recovery, who look fit and well, but if they got Covid they could die.  

“Social distancing is already being ignored in many places, leading to cluster outbreaks. This symbol is a universal prompt to respect social distancing, and it costs almost nothing. Without it, lives will be lost."

Around 130,000 badges will be distributed across health boards in Wales, and it's hoped they will soon be available in supermarkets and other shops.

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