In light of communications yesterday from UK Central Government, we wanted to share information with you to help your understanding about social distancing, a term you may have heard in the news. 

Here is the latest Government advice, issued on 16/3/2020

Please review this advice regularly, as it is being continually updated.

Here are the key points:

What is social distancing?

Social distancing outlines the steps you should take to reduce social interaction between people. This will help reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). The advice will remain in place for some weeks. Everyone in the UK, is being advised by the Government to follow these measures as much as is pragmatic. (Non UK community - check Government advice from your own country for the latest local measures.)

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough

  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, avoid rush hour, when possible

  • Work from home, where possible

  • Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs

  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media

  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

  • The government have also now advised against all but essential travel abroad

The advice is intended for people living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers; if you live in a residential care setting guidance is available. 

Stronger message for vulnerable groups

For those over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, it is strongly advised that you follow the above measures, and significantly limit face-to-face interaction with friends and family.

The UK Government advises those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in social distancing measures.

This group includes Multiple Sclerosis at no.7; full list below. 

  1. aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)

  2. under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds)

  3. chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis

  4. chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

  5. chronic kidney disease

  6. chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis

  7. chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy

  8. diabetes

  9. problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease

  10. a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy

  11. being seriously overweight

  12. those who are pregnant

Strengthen your MS support networks

It is crucially important for the MS community to support and help each other through these difficult times.  Here, we offer some practical thoughts, not medical advice, which we hope may be useful:

Question whether something is critical or an emergency, and if not: 

  • Work from home wherever possible. Set up a defined workstation, which has effective seating for good posture, take regular breaks from the screen, hold virtual meetings and interactions with co-workers. Be prepared to share responsibilities and to muck in to help departments function

  • Meditate - look after your mental health, focus on positive thoughts of what you can do and what you have to appreciate

  • Keep moving - in your home, garden and in the countryside (as long as you are social distancing). Enjoy the Spring sunshine and appreciate nature. The NHS offers some exercises here and on there are many videos on the OMS website here

  • Spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to the radio or watching TV programmes

  • Use technology and stay connected - set up FaceTime gatherings, a WhatsApp group, Facebook group and talk regularly with friends, family and neighbours

  • Social media - avoid distracting information but find MS communities online - OMS regularly posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Join our conversations

  • Eat healthily and drink water - for groceries, ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home

  • Join an OMS Circle and find people online locally who have MS. Share information about where to find groceries to support the plant-based diet, share recipes and support each other in times of need

  • Be kind - to yourself, to others. People will have their own, different challenges. 

OMS cannot, and will not, offer any individualised advice about Covid-19, as it is not our place to do so, but will share pertinent information and help you understand the advice of your medical team or government. As always, please ensure that you only share information from reputable sources with others. 
We will try and share tips on how best you can follow the OMS programme and cope with the uncertainty.

For medical advice, please first ask your medical team, we have shared the latest advice from the MS Society in the UK on DMTs in this blog (13 March):

This blog was published at 6pm on 17 March 2020