Feeling unsure about venturing out for the first time after weeks of shielding? We’ve got you covered with our tips for adjusting to life after shielding. We’ll tell you what to expect when you go shopping, how to make sure you have access to priority supermarket delivery slots, what to do if you’re worried about affording food and how to stay as safe as possible whilst making the most of the changes to Government guidance.

Over 21,000 East Sussex residents were asked to shield at the start of Lockdown in March. That’s 17 weeks of not leaving home! Over this time many of you will have received support from neighbours, friends and family or other volunteers. With the easing of lockdown lots of people are now returning to work which means the support available is changing. We know it hasn’t been easy but hopefully this guide to life after shielding will help as you adjust to the changes.

New guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable

Gov.uk image showing the timeline of changes for life after shielding

New guidance came into effect on the 6 July and there will be more changes from 1 August – you can read it in full at Gov.uk but here’s the lowdown.

From 6 July anyone classed as clinically extremely vulnerable has been able to;

  • meet outdoors in groups of up to six people they do not live with, while maintaining social distancing, and;
  • create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household, following the same rules that apply to the public now.

The guidance will then change again from 1 August when the Government are expected to announce that shielding will be paused. From 1 August you will be able to;

  • visit places of worship and outdoor spaces
  • go to the shops yourself to pick up essential groceries (and your favourites biscuits/chocolate/tipple you’ve been craving)
  • return to work if you cannot work from home – just make sure you speak to your employer to make sure your workplace is COVID-safe.

For many, being able to spend time with loved ones again will be a big relief. To stay as safe as possible remember to still wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds and avoid touching your face. It’s important to still take care to stay 2m apart from those outside your household or support bubble wherever you can or 1m + if this isn’t possible.

So, what can you expect if you decide to pop out?

Seventeen weeks is a long time to be away from the world. It’s understandable that you might feel unsure about venturing out and curious about what life after shielding will be like. Particularly as the government advice is still to take care to minimise contact with other people outside your support bubble or household.

All over the country measures have been introduced to keep everyone safe and hopefully prevent a second spike.

To make social distancing easier many supermarkets and even some smaller shops are limiting the number of people in their stores. Some have sanitising stations for hands, trollies and baskets and Perspex screens installed at their checkouts. Most shops and take-away restaurants or cafes are also encouraging you to use cards or contactless payment methods rather than cash. Tesco have made a short video to show what changes they have introduced to keep you safe. You can expect similar measures to be in place at other supermarkets.

Should I wear a face covering?

There are some places where you must wear a face covering. This includes hospital settings and public transport and from 24 July they will also be required in all shops and supermarkets. It’s also recommended in other enclosed spaces where you can’t easily socially distance. Don’t forget though that some people are exempt. Read our article Let’s talk face coverings! for more information and a guide to making one yourself.

Not ready to go out?

After such a long time at home it’s natural that you might feel unsure about going out but remember there are some huge benefits. You can catch up with friends and family that you haven’t seen for months (from a distance of course!), have a picnic at one of the Best picnic spots in East Sussex or enjoy a walk.

If you’re nervous about getting back to normal, talk to a neighbour, friend or family member. Ask them if they’ll accompany you on your first trip out, or when the quietest time to visit the shops might be. Many shops are offering priority opening hours for elderly or vulnerable shoppers. Contact your preferred store or check their website for details.

It’s a good idea to speak to your GP or specialist about your individual circumstances if you are extremely worried about going out or if you need further support.

Every Mind Matters also have some top tips on dealing with anxiety.

Can I still get food delivered?

Perhaps for now you’d rather stay safe at home and get food deliveries, that’s fine too. If you are on the Government shielded list and have been receiving a Government food parcel, these are due to stop at the end of July. Being on this list means you will already be registered to access priority food deliveries from supermarkets. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable but haven’t been receiving a food parcel you can still try to access supermarket delivery slots but won’t be eligible for priority access.

There is more information available online about shopping and food deliveries in East Sussex.

Worried about affording food?

If you are worried about how you will pay for food you could speak to someone about money and benefits. Your local foodbank may also be able to help you. There is more information about affording food on the East Sussex County Council website.

I don’t have anyone to ask for help

If you’re finding all of this overwhelming and you don’t have any neighbours, family or friends you can ask for help – your Community Hub is still here for you. Contact your local Community Hub if you need help getting food or medicine or for signposting into other services.

There is also lots of extra support available to help you if you’re struggling and have no one else to help and even support you to adjust to life after shielding – check out the Extra Support Information Leaflet from East Sussex County Council for more information.