Your questions about PH & coronavirus Reviewed 27th November 2020 at 9.41am Are people with pulmonary hypertension classed as extremely clinically vulnerable? After the National PH Centres Directors’ submission to NHS England, in April people with pulmonary hypertension were recognised in the extremely vulnerable group of patients. What should people with PH do after 2nd December? The below information is taken directly from gov.uk: General advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people at all tiers These general principles apply at all local tiers. In addition to the rules you and your community must follow at each level, you can take additional precautions to protect yourself. Socialising inside and outside the home Continue to maintain strict social distancing, 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. Avoid gatherings with large numbers of people, especially indoors, because it significantly increases the risk of viral transmission. If the rules allow you to meet with others outside your household, your risk of catching COVID-19 is lower if you meet them outdoors. If you meet indoors, keep the area well ventilated with fresh air, for example by opening the window. You can also go out and exercise in an outdoor public place; further information on how you can keep fit and healthy is available. Continue to observe strict social distancing with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. The more you socially distance from others, including your own household, the less likely you are to catch COVID-19. You should always stay at least 2 metres away from other people visiting your home. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing, or where other people’s activities may reduce the likelihood of individuals maintaining social distancing. Work Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible. As a general principle, working from home reduces the chance of you being exposed to the virus. If you need support to work at home or in the workplace you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work will provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide. If you cannot work from home, you can still go to work in all tiers. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work. Where employers are not managing the risk of COVID-19, the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply with enforcement notices, this could lead to prosecution. If you have concerns about your health and safety at work you can raise them with your workplace union, the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority. Consider how to get to and from work. If you need to use public transport, you must wear a face covering unless you are exempt. Consider travelling outside peak hours to reduce the number of people with whom you come into contact. If you have concerns you can get advice on your specific situation and your employment rights by visiting the Acas website or calling the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100. If you cannot make alternative arrangements, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of March 2021. You should have a conversation with your employer about whether this is possible. Education The UK Chief Medical Officers have issued a statement on schools and childcare reopening which states that there is a very low rate of severe disease in children and young people from COVID-19. Schools have their own measures in place to limit the risk of transmission which can be found in guidance on reopening of schools. All pupils and students should continue to attend education settings at all local tiers unless they are one of the very small number of pupils or students under paediatric or other NHS care and have been advised by their GP or clinician not to attend an education setting. Children and young people whose parents or carers are clinically extremely vulnerable can also continue to go to school. What should people with PH be doing right now? People living in the UK with underlying health conditions like PH are not currently required to shield. IN ENGLAND You can access the government letter sent to people in England identified as clinically extremely vulnerable here. In line with a national lockdown, new guidance which came into force on 5th November, advises that the clinically extremely vulnerable should stay at home at all times, unless for exercise or medical appointments. Furthermore, those who cannot work from home should not go to work, but people in the same household may enter their usual work place in line with the national restrictions. School children who previously self-isolated can still attend school, unless informed otherwise. What happens when the English lockdown ends? The Government’s new COVID-19 Winter Plan states: “As the national restrictions end, the guidance to the clinically extremely vulnerable not to go to work or school will also end. The Government will reintroduce the specific advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people on how they can protect themselves at each tier.” IN SCOTLAND In Scotland, people are not currently being asked to shield, and to follow the same rules as everyone else in the 5-tiered system. IN WALES In Wales, people are not currently being asked to shield, with the Government hoping that the latest guidance on 23 October strikes the right balance between protecting the clinically extremely vulnerable from the virus and the harms of restrictions. IN NORTHERN IRELAND In Northern Ireland, the Chief Medical Officer recommended on 23 October that shielding continues to be paused, although the Government will keep the situation under constant review. We have produced a poster that you can display in your window to show visitors that you are unable to answer the door. Download it here If you are isolating and need help, the NHS Volunteer Responders programme is available to help support those who need it. Volunteers can collect and deliver shopping, medication and other essential supplies. Call 0808 196 3636 between 8am and 8pm, 7 days a week to self-refer or visit www.nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk for further information. When can I get a vaccine and should I be worried about having one? Our interview with expert Dr Mark Toshner answers these questions and many more. Click here to watch, listen or read. Do I need to wear a mask? If you have pulmonary hypertension or another condition that makes wearing a face covering difficult, you do not have to wear a face covering. According to the UK Government website, “people are not required to prove they are exempt and it is for individuals to choose how they would want to communicate this to others”. We have created an exemption notice that you can carry with you and choose to show if you wish. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE NOTICE The British Lung Foundation has the following advice about face coverings: Wearing a face covering may reduce the risk of spreading infection by protecting people you come into contact with. Face coverings do not replace social distancing. People with breathing problems and children under 2 or others who may find it difficult should not use face coverings. If you feel comfortable wearing a mask when you’re in a public place and it’s hard to keep 2 metres away from other people, and you choose to wear a mask, please use a cloth covering and not a mask designed for clinical use. The NHS needs these supplies. You should also wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off. What should I do about work? Government is advising those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to work from home from 5th November. If you cannot work from home, you are advised not to go to work. Click here for information on benefits that may be available if you cannot work because of coronavirus. You can get advice on your specific situation and your employment rights by visiting the Acas website or calling the Acas helpline, 0300 123 1100. How can I minimise the risk of spreading or contracting coronavirus? Regular hand washing is still the most effective thing that you can do to decrease your risk of infection. Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, in particular after being in public places. Avoid touching your face as much as possible. Make sure everyone around you is practising good hand washing techniques.Carry hand sanitiser with you outside of the home and use it regularly, especially if you are unable to wash your hands.Observe social distancing in line with government advice (ideally 2 metres)Make sure you have been fully vaccinated against other preventable infections, including the influenza vaccination.Eating a good diet, getting enough sleep and taking regular exercise (within your capabilities) all help to ensure you stay as well as possible. Can I get tested for coronavirus if I think I have symptoms? Yes. Everyone in the UK is now able to be tested for coronavirus if they are experiencing symptoms. The main symptoms of coronavirus are: A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms. This link explains how to go about getting a test.