THOUSANDS of Inverclyde residents are so at risk of catching Covid-19 that they may have to isolate themselves for more than a year, council officials say.
A report prepared for Inverclyde councillors reveals that the number of people who have been advised to ‘shield’ themselves is now around 3,000.
The shielding level of self-isolation is for those with health conditions which make them extremely vulnerable to the infection.
In Inverclyde a Humanitarian Assistance Centre and associated helplines have been set up to support them.
The report explains: “This has involved direct contact, as far as has been possible, with all of those in the Shielding group to establish their needs and ensure that they are aware of the service, together with the development of a number of support pipelines for various possible support needs.
“For a large number of these needs we have worked closely with CVS Inverclyde who have co-ordinated the delivery of volunteers and groups to support the Shielding group.
“The initial advice to individuals to shield was for a 12-week period. It is very likely however that this may be extended, potentially for over a year.”
It continues: “This extended period will be a challenge for the ongoing delivery of services to the group and will undoubtedly also be very challenging for those called upon to isolate for a very long period.
“It is likely that the needs of this group will develop over this time with a greater need for psychological support being one likely outcome.
“From a local authority point of view it will also be necessary to develop this into a sustainable service over this period.”
Initially around 1,600 people in Inverclyde were identified as being in the shielding category but subsequent additions to the list have been made by doctors and hospital clinicians, almots doubling the total.
Officials state: “Direct phone contact has been attempted with all of those on the list although there has been a small proportion whom we have not been able to contact.
“All reasonable efforts have been made to contact everyone on the list, and where this has not been possible, to gain some confidence that they have been in contact with other services, both NHS and council.
“A large number of letters have been hand-delivered to those we could not contact by phone which havs provoked a reasonable response.
“We will have to accept that there may be a small number of people who may be isolating elsewhere or for whom contact details are incorrect but we are working to minimise this.”