From 1 August, shielding around the UK has been paused. This means people who were previously advised to shield will be able to return to normal activities. You will now be able to interact more with friends, family and colleagues.
We are all still encouraged to follow social distancing measures, wash our hands regularly and wear a mask or face covering in line with ongoing advice in relation to COVID-19.
The decision to pause shielding has been taken because the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the community has reduced. Infection is less common among the general population and has become less of a danger to those who may be immune-supressed or have limited respiratory function due to lung cancer.
We recognise that after many months of shielding, this may be a relief for many, but it may also cause others to be worried about their safety.
You may receive a letter from your treatment team or GP if there is any advice specifically relevant to your health situation. If you have very recently had treatment, you may still be advised to take extra precautions to allow your immune systems to recover and minimise risk of any socially contracted infections.
If you are about to have surgery and other treatments, you may be advised to self-isolate for 14 days beforehand to make sure your treatment can go ahead as planned.
If you are travelling on public transport or visiting shops or restaurants there is new guidance in place on wearing face coverings. Exemptions are available if you are unable to cover your face because of a medical condition, including breathing difficulties.
Shopping delivery services that were set up to support people will be paused with the suspension of shielding. Your local authority and local charities may still be able to offer support if shopping is difficult because of mobility or other health problems. Many supermarkets will continue with online deliveries and priority times for vulnerable groups or key workers.
You may want to increase your social contact with friends and family bit by bit. It is up to you how much contact you want so do what feels right. You can also choose how often you have social contact with larger groups, such as going to the cinema, going for a haircut, attending your place of worship or going out for a meal. Businesses are carrying out additional cleaning, hygiene and distancing measures in line with advice from Government.
People who have been shielding may now be able to go back to work. There is still guidance in place to encourage working from home where that is possible. The Scottish Government have designed a questionnaire so that, if you are being asked to return to work from shielding, you and your employer can assess how best to support you and highlight any risks to be considered when doing so.
If you are employed and unsure about going back to your workplace, speak to your employer, professional society/organisation or Trade Union about the process. This will depend on whether you have been furloughed or signed off work through sickness.
Returning to work may feel like a big step. Most organisations will do their best to support staff and offer a flexible approach as we recover from the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown.
If you are due follow‑up scans or treatment for your cancer, these will take place under the new COVID-19 guidance. It is expected more medical checks will be done by telephone or video consultation in the months ahead.
Efforts are also being made to make sure hospital and primary care services have areas that are “COVID safe” where people can receive treatment for cancer and other health conditions. Visits to the hospital or doctor will be part of your cancer care and will be provided as safely as possible.
Despite all the efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, the pandemic changed many things and created a lot of fear.
People with cancer are still at risk of more severe reaction if exposed to the virus. Though the risk of exposure is decreasing, it is unclear whether it will return to zero. It will take time for people to find a balance of social and public activities that allow us to go about our daily lives “normally” and happily without our being too fearful about COVID-19 infection.
This will be shaped by Government advice, people’s changing behaviour and individual choices. You can check Government websites for regular updates on COVID-19 advice and we will continue to update our online information on how this is impacting on people with lung cancer.