Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19


What has changed

The government has updated its guidance for people who are shielding taking into account that COVID-19 disease levels are substantially lower now than when shielding was first introduced.

People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions but can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing. If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household. If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household. Ideally, this should be the same person each time. If you do go out, you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart. This guidance will be kept under regular review.

Read further information on schools and the workplace for those living in households where people are shielding. This guidance remains advisory.

Who this guidance is for

This guidance is for people including children who are clinically extremely vulnerable. It’s also for their family, friends and carers. People who are clinically extremely vulnerable are at high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus (COVID-19). They should have received a letter advising them to shield or have been told by their GP or hospital clinician.

This includes clinically extremely vulnerable people living in long-term care facilities for the elderly or people with special needs. If you have been told that you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you should:
• follow the advice in this guidance
register online for support even if you do not need additional support right now

This guidance is still advisory. You will not be fined or sanctioned if you prefer to follow the guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing). You may also choose to remain in your own home at all times if you do not feel comfortable with any form of contact with others. However, careful time outside in the fresh air is likely to make you feel better in yourself

Looking after your mental wellbeing

The government has advised that those shielding can now spend time outdoors if they wish to do so. Despite these measures, however, continued social isolation, reduction in physical activity, and changes in routine can all contribute to increased stress. Many people, including those without existing mental health needs, may feel anxious. Reasons for increased anxiety may include potential effects on support with daily living, ongoing care arrangements with health providers, support with medication and changes in daily routines. It is important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and that you get further support if you need it.

Follow the advice that works for you in the guidance on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Constantly watching the news can make you feel more worried. If you think it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limit this to a couple of times a day. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as where you get information from and actions you can take to help you feel prepared. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.

If you’re still struggling after several weeks and it’s affecting your daily life, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

If you are receiving services for your mental health, learning disability or autism and are worried about the impact of isolation, contact your key worker, care coordinator or provider to review your care plan. If you have additional needs, contact your key worker or care coordinator to develop a safety or crisis plan.

Staying mentally and physically active

There are simple things you can do that may help you to stay mentally and physically active during this time such as:
• you can find free 10 minute workouts from PHE or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio
• spend time doing things you enjoy such as reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to favourite radio programmes or watching TV
• try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs