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Covid 19 (Coronavirus) - Information for Shine Members: December 2020

2nd December 2020


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Regular updates on Covid-19 (Coronavirus) can be found below.

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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)


21st December 2020

Coronavirus cases and hospital admissions are rising very sharply again, and restrictions are tightening all over the UK. The changes include the introduction of strict Tier 4 measures in some areas, which are equivalent to lockdown restrictions. To find out the restrictions in your area you should check the government websites for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Part of the reason for the rapid increase in coronavirus cases is the emergence of a strain that spreads more easily between people. There is no evidence to suggest that this strain causes more severe disease or that it will affect the effectiveness of the vaccine.

In our update from the 2nd of December we described the government’s plans for a UK-wide relaxing of the coronavirus regulations over Christmas; these plans have now changed as a result of the increasing coronavirus spread.

The new Christmas rules mean that for the parts of England in Tier 4 there will be no relaxation of the rules over the holiday period, people will not be allowed to go inside houses outside their own/their support bubble. In the rest of England, the relaxation of the rules i.e. the “Christmas bubble guidelines” will be for Christmas day only.

In Wales, which is now in lockdown, the relaxation of the rules will also be just for Christmas day, and only two households (plus an additional one-person household) in total will be able to meet.

In Northern Ireland, the Christmas bubble rules have also been limited to one day only but people can choose which day between the 23rd and 27th that they come together.

The Executive have also agreed that a 6-week National lockdown will begin on the 26th of December. It may be worth checking out our September update for ideas on useful things to stock up on to make sure you have everything you need and want during a lockdown.

The scientific advice for making Christmas plans is clear: while the strictness of rules may be reduced in some areas over Christmas, the risk from coronavirus will not be.

Public Health Expert Devi Sridhar has warned:

“Coronavirus rapidly spreads indoors and in poorly ventilated settings, particularly in households, when people gather together informally in comfortable and close conditions. Disinfecting surfaces and sitting 2 metres apart just isn’t going to stop transmission. It’s best to imagine the virus like cigarette smoke: if one person in the room is smoking, you’re likely to smell the smoke. It’s the same with this coronavirus: if one person is infected, you could also become infected from the aerosols emitted when they breathe and talk.”

We understand that the change in rules and inevitable change in Christmas plans is frustrating, but these measures have not been introduced lightly, they are necessary to protect the elderly and the vulnerable from a very serious illness.

The safest approach this Christmas to reduce spreading or catching the virus is to not see anyone outside of your household or support bubble, as people in Tier 4 areas will now have to do. We do understand this may be extremely difficult for some so we urge our members to think very carefully about the balance of risks when planning Christmas celebrations, and to act with as much caution as possible.

To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, and to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread, it is important to always observe good hygiene, to minimise contact with people outside your household, and if you are around others, to follow social distancing practices and wear a mask indoors where possible.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies have issued these extra tips for making Christmas celebrations safer:

- Celebrate virtually/with a phone call wherever possible. Zoom have announced there will be no time limit on video meetings over Christmas.

- Stop all unnecessary social contact outside your household as soon as possible and for at least five days before you meet other households in your bubble.

- Keep in-person Christmas meet ups as short, as small, and as local as possible.

- Outside spaces are much safer places to meet than indoors, particularly if elderly or vulnerable loved ones are attending celebrations. If you cannot meet outside, keep indoor spaces as well ventilated as possible by keeping windows open to let in plenty of fresh air.

- Keep sanitizer by the front door if you are having visitors, some spare masks may also be helpful.

- Wear masks / face coverings indoors.

- Organise seating to be socially distanced.

- Don’t kiss/hug/touch to avoid contact transmission.

- Avoid singing and shouting which can release a lot of saliva particles that may be infectious.

- Don’t share food / drinks.

- Post gifts rather than delivering in person.

- Don’t meet others if you, or anyone in your household is feeling unwell.

Over Christmas, we will be closed from 5pm on Wednesday 23rd December and will reopen at 9am on Monday 4th January.

During this period, for health advice, Shine advises you to contact your G.P. or your local out of hours service or call NHS Direct on 111.

In the event of an emergency, we advise you to call 999 or attend your nearest accident and emergency department.

For emotional support and well-being, you may find these numbers useful:

· Samaritans - Available 24 hours 116 123

· Text SHOUT to 85258 for crisis support

· Silver Line – free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year 0800 470 8090.

For urgent COVID-19 support and advice you can contact the Scope helpline from the 27th December 0808 800 3333. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 6pm.

Wishing all Shine members, family and friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


10th December 2020

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine has begun in the UK. The first vaccinations of priority group 1 individuals started taking place around the nation on Tuesday 8th of December. We do not yet have any dates for when vaccination of the other priority groups will start – we expect most of our members, who are not vaccinated sooner due to age or having been part of the shielding group, will be offered the vaccine in priority group 6.  

We have received queries from members around vaccine suitability, to reassure those who are concerned: the vaccine should be just as safe and effective in people with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus as it is for other people, and this includes those with or without shunts or other treatments.  

You may have seen news reports that two people have experienced allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. They had significant histories of severe allergies, were immediately treated, and are recovering well. As a precautionary measure, the MHRA have advised that while they investigate this further, the vaccine will not be given to people with a history of serious allergic reactions to vaccines, medicines, and food. This means people with a history of anaphylactic reactions and/or those advised to carry an adrenaline autoinjector “Epipen”. We don’t yet how those with latex allergy will be affected. The MHRA’s response is a standard precautionary measure, common with new vaccines, and is not cause for alarm. It also doesn’t affect most of our members as they will not be receiving the vaccine for a little while yet, by the time other priority groups are vaccinated we should have more information.  

Be assured that we will keep monitoring the situation and will report any important information in these coronavirus updates. 


2nd December 2020

Coronavirus restrictions 

From the 2nd of December, the government will be reintroducing the three-tier coronavirus alert system for England that depends on the number of cases in your area and on how fast cases are rising. 

What you should and shouldn’t do depends on the alert level in your area which you can find out on the government website by entering your postcode.    

Follow the links below for a visual summary of the rules and restrictions at each alert level. The alert levels are:  

Shielding has been paused but the government have produced additional guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. Clinically extremely vulnerable people will also receive a letter explaining the guidance in more detail. 

The coronavirus regulations and guidance for Wales apply to the country as a whole, there is additional guidance for protecting extremely clinically vulnerable in Wales from coronavirus. 

The regulations and guidance for Northern Ireland apply to the entire country, there is guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people available.

Christmas plans 

England, Northern Ireland, and Wales will all have the same regulations for Christmas and will see the current coronavirus rules relaxed nationwide for five days. 

Up to three households will be allowed to meet in each other’s homes between the 23rd and 27th of December and form a “Christmas bubble”. There will be no travel restrictions in the 5 day period and Northern Ireland will have a slightly extended timeframe of 22nd-28th of December, to allow time to travel between the nations. All the local rules (national, or local tiers) still apply, the only relaxation is with respect to the Christmas bubble.   
You cannot join a bubble if you are self-isolating. If someone in the Christmas bubble tests positive, or develops coronavirus symptoms within 48 hours of the Christmas bubble last meeting, everyone in the bubble will have to self-isolate. 
A Christmas bubble must be "exclusive", people must not get together with people from more than two other households. If you have already formed a support bubble, this counts as one household. Three households is not a target but a maximum, the smaller the bubble, the safer. Overnight stays within the three-household Christmas bubble will be allowed and social distancing will not be required. 

However, we would urge all members to act with caution and consideration. Social distancing within the bubble may be legally relaxed but the risk is not lower just because it is Christmas. Coronavirus often spreads from someone who hasn’t developed symptoms yet so you may not know if you or someone else is infected. The more close contact you have the higher the risk of catching or spreading coronavirus so it is up to you to assess the level of risk you’re comfortable with taking.  

Coronavirus vaccine 

Today the government have announced that the first coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK. A number of other coronavirus vaccines are being developed and are showing great promise in clinical trials. Coronavirus vaccines, like all vaccines, will only be used by the NHS after being thoroughly tested to make sure they are effective and safe.  

The fact that the vaccines have been developed quickly reflects the enormous scientific efforts and resources that have been directed at the vaccine development process, no corners have been cut. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have been monitoring all stages of the coronavirus vaccine development and testing. The MHRA only approve vaccines that pass all the clinical trials and safety steps that every other licenced medicine and treatment goes through. The coronavirus vaccine that has been approved is no exception and any other vaccines that are approved will all need to pass the rigorous testing and review process. Thousands of people have received a coronavirus vaccine as part of the clinical trials and no serious side effects have been reported while effective protection from the virus has been clearly demonstrated.  

People with stable neurological conditions, including spina bifida and hydrocephalus should follow the same vaccine schedule as everyone else. There is no reason to think that having spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus should prevent someone from having the coronavirus vaccine and we would urge any members offered the vaccine to have it. 

A provisional vaccination priority plan has been drawn up to show the order in which certain groups of people will receive the vaccine before the wider population.   

Click here to view the table.

The priority groups have been chosen by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and are ordered according to greatest need. We would expect most members (not already vaccinated due to age or living in residential care) to be eligible for vaccination in group 6. It has been announced that the vaccine rollout could begin as early as next week for group 1, but we don’t yet have a full timetable for when other priority groups will receive the vaccine. We understand that people will be contacted by the NHS when it is their turn to be vaccinated. 

Vaccines have been described as “the single most life-saving medical innovation ever in the history of medicine” such is their importance and impact on public health.  

Vaccines work by teaching the immune system to recognize and fight disease causing viruses or bacteria called pathogens. To do this we have to introduce part of the pathogen into the body that won’t cause the disease but will mean the immune system can recognise it if it encounters the real thing later. If that happens the immune system can quickly attack the pathogen and destroy it before it can spread through the body and cause disease. 

Vaccines are important because they protect individuals but when enough people have them they can protect entire populations, including people who can’t have a vaccine e.g. because of allergies, or people who haven’t been vaccinated yet. This is something called herd immunity and it can only really be achieved with vaccination if you want to prevent lots of people catching a potentially very dangerous disease. Herd immunity from vaccination is crucial for keeping people safe because it prevents a disease from getting the chance to spread. 

If not enough people get vaccinated then diseases can reappear and spread. There was a famously fraudulent study that claimed the MMR vaccine caused autism and despite being robustly disproved, MMR vaccine uptake reduced and has caused measles outbreaks.  

Shine welcomes the coronavirus vaccine progress, and we are grateful to all those involved in the development and testing process. 

Vitamin D 

There is some evidence linking low vitamin D levels to more severe coronavirus disease. There is currently not enough evidence to conclude that vitamin D can prevent or treat coronavirus. However, vitamin D can help prevent other respiratory infections and we know it helps normal immune function. We make vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight so many people in the UK do not get enough due to the climate and due to spending a lot of time indoors. Vitamin D also supports bone and muscle health. We recommend that all members take a 10ug supplement of vitamin D each day to prevent deficiency.   

You can buy vitamin D supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D (for under 5s) cheaply from most pharmacies and supermarkets. Women and children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free vitamins. The government have also announced that in England a free 4-month supply of daily vitamin D supplements will be offered to care home residents and to people that are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable i.e. those who previously had to shield.


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