Updated guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19
All of those identified have been added to the Shielded Patient List, and more information on the criteria used is available below. If you have been identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable, you will previously have received a letter from the NHS or from your GP telling you this. You may also have been advised to shield in the past.
This guidance applies to clinically extremely vulnerable individuals only. Others living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not advised to follow this guidance. They should instead follow the advice and restrictions that are in place for everyone in England.
There is different guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people living in Scotland, living in Wales and living in Northern Ireland.
What has changed
Since January 2021, cases of COVID-19 have fallen significantly across the country, reducing the risk of catching the virus for everyone, including the most vulnerable. Shielding has only ever been a temporary measure to protect the most vulnerable during peaks of the pandemic. The latest peak has now passed, and the prevalence of the virus is now low enough that we can advise people no longer need to shield.
The Government has outlined its roadmap out of the lockdown, with a gradual easing of restrictions over the next few months that will apply to everyone. In addition, the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out to everyone, with prioritisation based on the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). This will help pave the way for restrictions to be safely lifted.
Although the advice to shield has ended, clinically extremely vulnerable people must continue to follow the rules that are in place for everyone.
We are also advising clinically extremely vulnerable people to continue to take extra precautions to protect themselves. You are advised to follow the practical steps described below to minimise your risk of exposure to the virus.
Everyone on the Shielded Patient List should already have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine. If you have not yet received your first dose, please contact your GP. If you have received your first dose, you should still ensure you take up your second dose of the vaccine when it is offered to you. Having two doses should further increase your level of protection.
For children aged 12 to 15 years, vaccination may be appropriate for those with severe neuro-disabilities. This option should be discussed between parents/guardians and the child’s clinician or GP. For other children aged 15 and under, whilst further research is being done, vaccination is not yet recommended.
No vaccine is 100% effective and therefore even if you have had both doses, there is still no absolute guarantee that you will not become ill from COVID-19. As such, you should continue to take the extra precautions set out in this guidance to help protect yourself.
Socialising inside and outside the home
You should continue to maintain social distancing when both indoors and outdoors. However, you do not need to socially distance from members of your household or support bubble.
You should wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.
Continue to minimise the number of social interactions that you have, whilst also observing the rules on meeting people you do not live with. The fewer social interactions you have, the lower your risk of catching COVID-19. Your risk of catching COVID-19 is also lower if you meet with others outdoors rather than indoors.
You are encouraged to go outside for exercise and can do so with people from outside your household, subject to the wider rules on social contact. You can find tips and advice on staying active and eating healthily at NHS Better Health.
When it is allowed to meet people from outside your household or support bubble indoors, keep the area well ventilated with fresh air, for example by opening a window. Please see the COVID-19: ventilation of indoor spaces guidance for more information.
Try to reduce the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing, or where other people’s activities may reduce their likelihood of maintaining social distancing.
You can continue to form or maintain existing support bubbles, if you are eligible.
You can find more information online about how to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible.
If you cannot work from home, we are no longer advising that you do not attend the workplace. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work. Some employers may introduce regular testing of employees as part of these measures. You may also want to consider how you get to and from work including if it is possible to avoid using public transport during rush hour.
Separate government guidance has been issued on how employers can make workplaces COVID-safe, including how they can maintain social distancing and a system of risk management in your workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers, including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplace.
If you need support to work at home or in the workplace you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work may provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
If you have access to occupational health and employee assistance programmes in the workplace, these services can also provide you with a range of health support and advice for your physical and mental health needs.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) has been extended until 30 September. You may continue to be eligible throughout this period, even when shielding is paused, providing your employer agrees. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has also been extended until 30 September.
From 1 April you will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) on the basis of being advised to shield, given the lifting of shielding measures nationally. You may be eligible for SSP or ESA if you are sick or incapable of work, either due to coronavirus or other health reasons, subject to meeting the eligibility conditions.
If you have concerns about your health and safety at work then you can raise them with your workplace union, HSE or your local authority. Where employers are not managing the risk of COVID-19, HSE and local authorities will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply with enforcement notices, this could lead to prosecution.
The existing employment rights framework provides protections against discrimination, unfair dismissal and detriment. Specific guidance has been published for employers and workers on work absences due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Citizens Advice Bureau also has information about your rights at work and how to solve problems in the workplace. If you have concerns you can also get advice on your specific situation and your employment rights by visiting the Acas website or calling the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100.
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