A badge created by a Doctor in Wales to encourage ongoing social distancing has received widespread endorsement ahead of shielding measures being ‘paused’ in Wales on 16th August.
Dr Helen Iliff, a trainee anaesthetist at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and current Bevan Exemplar, created the badge as a polite prompt to encourage people to maintain a respectful distance as shielding comes to an end in Wales later this month. The badge and campaign has been adopted by NHS Wales and approved by Welsh Government, as well as the UK Department of Health and Social Care. With more than 300,000 badges being distributed in health boards across Wales, thousands of lanyards in production and national charities adopting the symbol for their own merchandise, a Twitter emoji has even been launched to support the #DistanceAware hashtag at the heart of the campaign.
Dr Iliff, who is herself preparing to return to work at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil after shielding at home since the start of lockdown, said: “The Distance Aware campaign has really captured the public imagination and now it’s wonderful to see it has its own emoji! The emoji came about thanks to Kidney Care UK, which was one of the first two charities to adopt the badge, and I’m so grateful for their support.
“We have had fantastic support from Welsh Government from the start; now we are seeing an overwhelmingly positive national response too and I’m delighted to announce that the DHSC is now formally backing the campaign. For many who have been shielding since March, the anxieties around going out and integrating back into day to day life are very real, and it’s particularly important to keep each other safe by maintaining ongoing social distancing.”
The campaign has received endorsement from the Welsh Government, ahead of their change in advice on 16th August which allows shielded people to go to work, school or go shopping. The advice however does emphasise that people should continue to take steps to protect themselves, including keeping a 2 metre distance from others, with the badge aiming to encourage people to be ‘distance aware’.
Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething said:
“I’m very pleased that this campaign created in Wales and very much championed by the Welsh Government, is now being supported and used in other parts of the UK. I fully support the Distance Aware campaign and I’m proud to wear a badge to highlight the scheme.
“Social distancing is a vital measure in helping to stop the spread of this terrible virus and the badge is a helpful reminder of how we can keep everyone safe. I want to thank everyone who continues to abide by social distancing to help protect themselves, their communities and the NHS.”
Parliamentary under-secretary for health Jo Churchill said:
"I understand how difficult this period has been, especially for those who have been shielding, and we want everyone to feel comfortable going outside as restrictions are eased.
"It is absolutely vital for everyone to follow the social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings in shops, supermarkets, transport hubs and other public areas to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but this initiative will help encourage people to be more aware of others.
"I fully support the Distance Aware campaign and hope the badges help reassure people and give them the confidence to take steps back to more normal activities in the safest possible way."
Following initial funding by an NHS Wales supplier for 130,000 badges, Welsh Government has now pledged to fund a further 200,000 badges and 40,000 lanyards for NHS staff in Wales. In addition, members of the public can order their own badges and lanyards. Supermarket giant Asda has shown support for the scheme by briefing staff in every store across the UK, while London retailer Harrods is introducing the badges for staff returning to work after shielding.
The idea for a simple badge, showing a yellow shield on a white background, was sparked by a discussion between Dr Iliff and fellow anaesthetists about the need to protect those coming out of shielding. The shield signifies protection, while blue chevrons around the edge symbolise the NHS and the continued need to be alert. The shield is also available in a range of other colours to ensure maximum inclusivity and the symbol can be used on lanyards, stickers, posters and other merchandise.
Dr Iliff, a Bevan Exemplar, teamed up with her Bevan Commissioner mentor, life peer Baroness Ilora Finlay, to launch the campaign, gaining widespread coverage in the media and from retailers and partner organisations. Shops and charities can download posters and other accessories from our dedicated webpage to tell customers that they support the Distance Aware campaign, while members of the public can buy badges from Kidney Care UK or Marie Curie and lanyards from We Print Lanyards.
Notes to editors:
The badges were designed by The Hungry Creatives, three advertising professionals who were made redundant due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
For more information or to interview Dr Iliff, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org