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How to keep the most vulnerable safe this Christmas

UPDATE: From 20 December, the whole of London moved into Tier 4 COVID-19 restrictions. The previous relaxation of rules over Christmas no longer applies and you must not mix with other households or form Christmas bubbles, but support bubbles remain in place.

Ealing and London have moved into Tier 3, the toughest of COVID-19 restrictions, to tackle the worrying exponential growth in infection rates across the capital.

Shielding has not been advised by the government for people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable because the Tier 3 restrictions (which came into effect on Wednesday, 16 December) are intended to protect everyone, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The latest government guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable outlines extra precautions you can take in addition to the Tier 3 rules to keep yourself safe:

  • Continue to maintain strict social distancing with anyone outside your household or support bubble
  • Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face
  • Try to keep the number of social interactions that you have low. The fewer social interactions you have, the lower your risk of catching COVID-19
  • If you need to travel, walk or cycle if you can
  • Consider shopping or going to the pharmacy at quieter times of the day.
  • Work from home where possible. If you cannot work from home, you can still go to work in Tier 3.

It is highly recommended that you to take these extra precautions on top of the Tier 3 guidance to further protect yourself from the virus.

Advice over the Christmas period

How to have a safe Christmas with your bubble
How to have a safe Christmas with your bubble

Current arrangements announced by the government for Christmas remain in place. Between 23-27 December, you can choose to form an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ and spend time indoors and outdoors with people from up to three households. You can watch the video at the top of this article from Ealing’s director of public health, Anna Bryden, for a simple break-down of the rules.

Forming a bubble does involve its own risks and you should continue to limit social contact with people you do not live with and consider taking extra precautions such as wearing a face covering indoors and keeping rooms well ventilated.

It is important that you and the other people in your Christmas bubble consider these risks carefully before agreeing to form a bubble. There may be a lot of expectation and pressure around celebrating Christmas together, but do not feel pressurised – you should do what you feel is right for you over this period.

If you do decide to form a Christmas bubble, it is advised that you:

  • Maintain social distance from those you do not normally live with at all times
  • Avoid physical contact
  • Everyone should wash their hands regularly
  • Keep the space well ventilated
  • Clean touch points regularly, such as door handles and surfaces
  • Think about who you sit next to, including during meals
  • Consider wearing a face covering indoors where social distancing may be difficult and encourage others to do the same.

Friends and family in a Christmas bubble with vulnerable people can play their part in protecting them by being extra vigilant in the days before everyone gets together, reducing any unnecessary contact with people and adhering to public health advice.

In the two weeks that follow Christmas, you should reduce your contact with people you do not live with as much as possible.

Help and support

Residents who are clinically extremely vulnerable can register for additional support on the new online service to get access to priority supermarket deliveries, ask for someone to contact you about any local support available and to update your details. If you have already registered to receive a priority online delivery slot, this will continue and no further action is required.

Call the council’s Ealing Together helpline on 020 8825 7170 for advice if you are worried about how you will source food and essentials. This service is open to all residents who are over 60, vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable or have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

Ealing Together may be able to put you in touch with local volunteers who can collect your shopping you have paid for on your behalf. It can also provide support if you are in financial crisis and cannot pay for food.

Community support directory

Looking for access to hot cooked meals, bereavement counselling or help with filling in forms for financial assistance? Find volunteer groups in your local area who are ready to help with this and more. Simply pop your postcode into Ealing Together’s online directory and choose the services you need. It’s very easy to use! Please note that some groups listed in the directory may not be operating over the Christmas and New Year period.

Ealing Together Helpline Christmas opening hours

Thursday 24 Dec – Limited service 9am-5pm
Friday 25 Dec – out of hours only
Saturday 26 Dec – out of hours only
Sunday 27 Dec – out of hours only
Monday 28 Dec – out of hours only
Tuesday 29 Dec – normal hours 9am-5pm
Wednesday 30 Dec – normal hours 9am-5pm
Thursday 31 Dec – normal working day 9am-5pm
Friday 1 Jan – New Year’s Day – out of hours only
Saturday 2 Jan – out of hours only
Sunday 3 Jan – out of hours only
Monday 4 Jan – normal hours 9am-5pm

Volunteer responders

If you are spending Christmas alone or feeling isolated over the winter period, the NHS Volunteers Responder Programme can help by pairing you up with a local volunteer to check in with you for a friendly chat over the phone. To find out more or to sign up call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm, seven days a week).

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