People who were previously shielding “should no longer attend work or school outside the home” due to the surge in coronavirus cases in Wales, the country’s Health Minister has said.
Vaughan Gething said the change in advice for clinically vulnerable people was also down to increasing pressures on the Welsh NHS and would be reviewed every three weeks.
Letters being sent by the country’s chief medical officer confirming the advice can be used as evidence for claiming statutory sick pay, he added, but will be “unavoidably delayed” in arriving due to the Christmas period.
Mr Gething said in a statement: “This decision has been taken based on a number of factors but has been influenced most recently by the significant recent growth in rates of infection, possibly due to the new variant of the coronavirus.
“We have also taken account of the pressures we see on our health service with increasing hospitalisations. This advice will be reviewed on a three-weekly basis aligned to the Welsh Government reviews of alert levels across Wales.”
Mr Gething said the advice was particularly for “those whose work requires them to be in regular or sustained contact with other people, or where individuals share a poorly ventilated workspace for long periods”.
People in the group can still go outside to exercise and also to attend medical appointments, while they can also remain part of a support bubble if they are isolated.
Responding to the announcement, the Welsh Conservatives’ shadow health minister, Andrew RT Davies, said: “I’m pleased that the Welsh Government has thought about the most at risk in our communities, however, today’s announcement does not go far enough.”
Wales entered its highest level of restrictions, effectively a lockdown, on Sunday, while relaxed restrictions allowing two households to meet up over the festive period has been cut from five days to just Christmas Day.