People at higher risk of catching coronavirus are being asked to shield, following the government's decision to impose a new national lockdown amid rising Covid-19 cases.
The rules around shielding are slightly different to when they were enforced in March 2020, when the clinically extremely vulnerable were told to stay at home at all times.
The latest advice allows outside exercise and medical appointments to be attended, though much of the other guidance around shielding remains - as well as general habits around washing hands and maintaining social distancing.
So, what does this mean for you day-to-day?
How do I know if I should be shielding?
Those being asked to shield this time around are the same group as before who received a letter from the NHS recommending they stay at home.
A new letter will be posted to those being asked to shield this time around.
In his address to the nation on Monday 4 January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, we are advising you to begin shielding again and you will shortly receive a letter about what this means for you.”
Should I still go to work?
Everyone is being asked to work from home where possible and this is the same for those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
However, if you’re shielding and cannot work from home, you are advised not to attend work and speak with your employer about a change in responsibilities to allow working from home, or alternative government schemes.
These include being placed on furlough through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended to the end of April 2021, claiming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
Can I still do my shopping?
The latest government advice recommends those shielding not to go to the shops.
Instead, it advises either asking friends or family for help or contacting the NHS Volunteer Responders.
The responders can assist with a variety of tasks to help avoid busy places, such as picking up shopping or prescriptions, offering lifts to medical appointments or maintaining regular contact.
Alternatively, shoppers can request priority home delivery slots from supermarkets.
Can I socialise if I’m shielding?
Those being asked to shield can still mix with their own household and can go outside for exercise but must take extra precautions to avoid busy areas.
If you’re shielding you can still meet up with someone in your support bubble but you cannot meet with friends or family you do not live with or form part of their household.
Who is classed as clinically extremely vulnerable?
|People classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus include:
- solid organ transplant recipients
- people with specific cancers
- people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
- people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
- people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppressive drugs
- people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- people with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell disease)
- people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
- problems with your spleen, for example splenectomy (having your spleen removed)
- adults with Down’s syndrome
- adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage 5)
- women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
- other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decisions
Do I have to shield if I’m over the age of 70?
There is no current guidance to suggest people aged 70 and over need to shield.