Over the weekend, several substantial new items of government advice and regulation have been issued, all clearly aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus through social contact.

Shielding of ‘extremely vulnerable’ people

People who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus are being strongly urged to follow new advice to ‘shield’ themselves. The NHS is writing to people it knows to be in this category, and they are being asked to remain at home and avoid face-to-face contact with other people from 12 weeks starting when they receive the letter.

The full guidance contains details of who is in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group and what they should do. Shielding is not compulsory, but people are very strongly advised to follow the guidance.

They include people who have had organ transplants, people with severe respiratory conditions, people undergoing particular cancer treatments and some people on immunosuppression therapies.

For people who live with others, remaining strictly shielded will be practically very challenging. The guidance provides advice on taking as many steps as possible, including maintaining a distance of two metres (six feet) from family members, not using shared areas such as kitchens at the same time as others, and having separate towels both for personal use and to dry cutlery and crockery after washing up.

Support in obtaining food and medicines should be sought from family, friends, neighbours, local services, voluntary sector organisations or local support groups.

Business closures

Rules and guidance on business closures have been clarified and strengthened. It remains the case that pubs, cinemas, theatres and so on must remain closed, while restaurants, cafes and bars may not sell food or drink for consumption on the premises. Takeaway services may continue to operate as normal. The closure of venues including pubs is now compulsory and will be legally enforced.

Essential travel

The Government has issued further guidance, clarifying that ‘essential travel’ does not include visits to second homes or holiday destinations, and that people should remain in their primary residences.

Latest figures

The most recent official figures show that, as of 9am on Sunday 22 March, 78,340 people had been tested in the UK, of whom 5,683 were positive. A total of 281 people are confirmed to have died from coronavirus so far.