Coronavirus: What does shielding mean?

Find out more about shielding, who it applies to, and what to do if you're a shielder.
shielding

Last updated 13 October 2020

Changes to shielding advice

From 1 August 2020, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable were advised that shielding has been paused. With the introduction of the three COVID-19 alert levels, the guidance has been updated.

From 13 October

Clinically extremely vulnerable people in England will receive new guidance to help them reduce their risk from coronavirus, tailored to the risk of their local area.

A Very High COVID-19 alert level does not mean you have to shield. Shielding is considered as an additional intervention agreed by ministers under advice from local public health experts and the Chief Medical Officer or Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

The Government will write to people at the highest risk of serious illness in areas of very high infection rates if they are advised to adopt formal shielding again.

Advice based on the COVID-19 alert levels

The advice for the clinical extremely vulnerable set out in the Local COVID-19 Alert Levels framework includes:

  1. MEDIUM
    Strictly observe social distancing, meet others outside where possible, limit unnecessary journeys on public transport and work from home where possible, but you can still go to work and children should still attend school.
    This is on top of restrictions for everyone to only meet in groups of up to six people.
  2. HIGH
    Reduce the number of different people met outside, avoid travel except for essential journeys, work from home where possible and reduce the number of shopping trips made or go at quieter times of the day. You can still go to work if you cannot work from home because all workplaces should be COVID-19 secure, and children should still attend school.
    This is on top of restrictions for everyone to not meet other households indoors, unless part of a support bubble, and to only meet in groups of up to six people outdoors.
  3. VERY HIGH
    Work from home, in general stay at home as much as possible, and avoid all but essential travel. You should significantly reduce shopping trips, and if possible use online delivery or ask people in your household, support bubble or volunteers to collect food and medicines. People in these areas are encouraged to still go outside for exercise, and can still go to school and to work if they cannot work from home. It's recognised that a small number of individuals may require additional support to follow the guidance at this alert level, and they are advised to contact their local authority if they need assistance.

What support will I be able to access as a 'clinically extremely vulnerable person'?

More advice on shielding

Tell us about your experience of care while shielding

Has your health and/ or social care been disrupted by COVID-19 while shielding? Whether it’s good or bad, we want to hear from you.

It only takes five minutes and your feedback can help NHS and social care services understand the steps they can take to improve care for you and your loved ones.

Tell us your experience

Am I still classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable? 

Yes. The categorisation of ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ will remain in place and people in this group should continue to follow their specific guidance specific, available here

You should have been written to about these changes. If you haven’t been contacted, please contact your GP. 

Will I be told to shield again? 

There will not be national advice to shield but people in exceptionally high-risk areas may still be advised to adopt formal shielding in the future. This includes:

  • advise to stay at home, not go to work or school
  • limit social interactions to their own household and support bubble.

If shielding advice is reintroduced in their area, people who are shielding will be eligible for a support package. This includes:

  • food access support
  • medicine deliveries
  • any additional care or support required

People who are shielding may also be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance.

Shielding guidance has been and continues to be advisory. 

Why is the advice changing? 

As the rate of infection has increased, the restrictions that have been introduced are designed to protect people while enabling them to carry on with their lives.

Frequently asked questions

The following Q&A, based on information provided by the Government, aims to help you get some of the answers you need, to know about what shielding means in practice.

What does ‘shielding’ mean? 

Shielding is the word used to describe how to protect those at highest risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. You can shield yourself following the Government guidance, and shield others by minimising all interaction between yourself and those who are most at risk.

How long do I shield myself for?

The Government has currently paused it's advice over the need to shield.

There is specific guidance on what will happen if there is a local lockdown in your area.

This guidance is government advice and it’s your personal choice whether to follow it.

Why do I no longer need to shield?

The Government has currently paused it's advice over the need to shield.

This is because the rates of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community have fallen significantly.

Will I be asked to shield again?

You could be advised to shield again if the situation changes and there is an increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

Your name will be kept securely on the shielded patient list by NHS Digital. We will write to you if the advice changes. Any national changes will be reflected in this guidance.

In the event of a local lockdown, see the Government's advice and visit Slough Borough Council's website for further guidance.

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