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Coronavirus: Health officials prepare to send letter to high risk patients across Northern Ireland


Coronavirus test swabs (Ben Birchall/PA)

Coronavirus test swabs (Ben Birchall/PA)

Coronavirus test swabs (Ben Birchall/PA)

Health officials have produced a letter to be sent to high risk patients across Northern Ireland explaining in detail how to protect themselves from Covid-19.

Family doctors are currently in the process of working through their practice lists to identify which patients should receive the letter.

It is understood patients, including those with lung failure, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis and diabetes, will begin to receive the letters in the coming days.

It warns anyone who is high risk that they should remain at home for the next 12-weeks and anyone living in the same household should follow strict social distancing measures.

They should contact NHS 111 immediately if they begin to experience a new and continuous cough and/or a high temperature – above 37.8 degrees.

“Do this as soon as you get symptoms,” it says.

The letter begins: “You are receiving this letter because you, or someone you care for, has an underlying disease or health condition.

“This means that if you catch the virus, you are more likely to be admitted to hospital than others.

“The safest course of action is for you to stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks from today, except from carers and healthcare workers who you must see as part of your medical care.

“This will protect you by stopping you from coming into contact with the virus.”

It stresses that the patient or their carer should strictly avoid anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms and not leave their home.

They should not attend any gatherings or go out for shopping, leisure or travel.

When arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door, it says.

Patients and their carers who are staying at home for 12 weeks should keep in touch with family and friends using telephone, social media and internet.

It continues: “Use telephone or online services to contact our practice or other essential services.

“Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds,” it continues.

“Ask carers or support workers who visit your home to do the same.

“Anyone else in your household should support you to stay safe and stringently follow guidance on social distancing, reducing their contact outside the home.”

Further steps high risk patients and their carers should follow include minimising the time spent with others in shared spaces, keeping two metres away and sleep in a different bed where possible.

Use separate towels and bathroom from the rest of the household, if possible.

It continues: “If the rest of your household are able to follow this guidance, there is no need for them to take the full protective measures to keep you safe.”

The letter also reveals the Department of Health is in the process of developing an app that can help with information about what to do if a high risk person develops coronavirus symptoms.

The Executive is also setting up a freephone community helpline for everyone to access advice, help and guidance, and it will be available from tomorrow.

The service will initially be available daily from 9am to 5pm by ringing 0808 802 0020, by emailing covid19@adviceni.net or text ACTION to 81025.

There are plans to increase operating hours in the coming days.

The letter also asks all high-risk groups to ensure they make arrangements for medications to be delivered to their homes.

If any patient is concerned about their existing medical condition, they should contact their GP or specialist hospital care team by telephone.

“If we decide you need to be seen in person, we will contact you to arrange your visit to the surgery or a visit in your home.

“To help us provide you with the best care, if you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, we ask that you prepare a single hospital bag.

“This should include your emergency contact, a list of the medications you take, any information on your planned care appointments and things you would need for an overnight stay.

“If you have an advanced care plan, please include that.”

Belfast Telegraph