Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales is writing to everyone on the Shielding Patient List to inform them it will close on 31 March 2022.
Thanks to our very high vaccination rates and as levels of transmission fall in Wales, we are now preparing to move beyond the emergency response to the pandemic and to live safely with coronavirus in line with our new long-term plan.
The Shielding Patient List was created at the start of the pandemic and included people the four chief medical officers for the UK believed were at greatest risk of harm if they contracted coronavirus.
Almost two years have passed since the list was developed and we have learned a lot about the virus since then. Vaccination has changed the course of the pandemic and has severely weakened the link between coronavirus and serious illness and we now have access to new treatments which can also prevent serious illness, especially for people who are clinically vulnerable.
Over the course of the pandemic, the personal circumstances of some people on the shielding patient list have changed. Some people were added to the list because they were undergoing treatment for cancer, for example; today that treatment has ended successfully. Other people were added because they were on a particular course of medicine or because they had significant heart disease and were pregnant.
The NHS has information about people who are classed as clinically vulnerable and are eligible for the new Covid-19 treatments and for priority access to vaccine booster programmes. Many of these will have been on the Shielding Patient List, but not all.
I have therefore accepted the advice of the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, that the time is right to end the shielding programme.
Shielding advice was paused on 1 April 2021 and since then, everyone on the Shielding Patient List has been advised to follow the same advice as the general population. The Chief Medical Officer has indicated for some time that he had no intention of reintroducing shielding advice again due to the associated harms and our better understanding of how to keep safe. The main protection has been vaccination.
We are working with supermarkets, water companies and local authorities to bring the sharing of Shielding Patient List data to an end, and to ensure it is securely deleted. This is due to end by 31 March 2022.