Feeling unsure about venturing out again after months of shielding? We’ve got you covered with our tips for adjusting to life after shielding the second time around. We’ll tell you about help available if you’re feeling low or anxious, what to do if you’re worried about affording food, where to get information about work, and how to stay as safe as possible whilst making the most of the changes to Government guidance.

Just over 40,000 people in East Sussex have been asked to shield over the last few months, many for the second time. Over this time many of you will have received support from neighbours, friends and family or other volunteers. 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

From 1 April 2021, you’re no longer being advised to shield. You are still being advised to follow some precautions; this is advice rather than rules so you can choose whether to follow them. You must still follow the national restrictions that apply to everyone though.

You can read the guidance for people in the shielded group at GOV.UK, but here’s some important changes from 1 April, when you can:

  • go back to school or college
  • return to work if you can’t work from home – just speak to your employer to make sure your workplace is COVID-safe
  • go to the shops yourself to pick up essential groceries if you want to

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

What can you expect if you decide to pop out?

It’s understandable that you might feel unsure about venturing out and curious about how things may have changed over the last few months. 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 are still in place to keep everyone safe and keep bringing cases down.

To make social distancing easier many supermarkets and even some smaller shops are still limiting the number of people in their stores. Most 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.

Getting the vaccine

Most people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have now had the vaccine. If you’ve had your first dose, you should take up the second dose when it’s offered to you to get the most protection.

If you haven’t had it yet and would like to, visit: When will I get my jab? or contact your GP.

It’s really important you continue to follow the rules and socially distance, even if you’ve had the vaccine.

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, if you need to go in person. Some shops are offering priority shopping hours for elderly or vulnerable shoppers. Contact your preferred store or check their website for details.

Of course, you can still order shopping online or ask a family member or friend to pick up groceries or medicines for you. If you are on the Government shielded list and have registered for access to priority supermarket delivery, you’ll keep this until 21 June. You can also still get prescriptions, essential items and food you buy delivered by NHS Volunteer Responders (0808 196 3646) if you need to. They may also be able to help with transport to medical appointments and set up regular contact over the phone with a friendly voice if you’re lonely or isolated

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

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.

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.

Going to work

Everyone is being advised to carry on working from home if they can, but if you can’t work from home you should now go to work. Your employer must take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they’ve put in place to keep you safe at work.

We understand you may be worried about returning to work. There’s more information and guidance on work, including Access to Work, the furlough scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) in the shielding guidance on GOV.UK.

You can also find information on the support available around work and finances here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Work and financial support.

Look after your mind

Everyone has mental health as well as physical health, and we all go through low points at times. If you haven’t been feeling yourself, there is help available.

The NHS has a quiz you can do to help you understand more about how you’ve been feeling recently.

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

In East Sussex, you can find mental health and wellbeing advice and services on our website.

You can also phone the Sussex Mental Healthline 24/7 on 0800 0309 500 for mental health support and information, including urgent or crisis support. Get advice online if you are in a mental health crisis.

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.

You can also contact our Health and Social Care Connect (HSCC) service.