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Coronavirus and COVID-19

Guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable (the shielding group)

Some people with long-term lung conditions are at extremely high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. These people belong to a group described as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV)’, formerly known as the ‘shielding group’. If you have previously received a letter asking you shield, you will be included in this group.

If you are in the CEV group and think you have developed symptoms of coronavirus, such as a fever or new continuous cough or a loss or changed sense of normal smell or taste, get advice from the NHS 111 online service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

What should people in this group do?

We should all be doing what we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus to help protect ourselves and others. Each UK nation has different guidance and restrictions – it’s important you follow the guidance for where you live and work:

Socialising with friends and family

Restrictions are easing across the UK. This means it’s now possible to meet up with friends and family – guidance on the amount of people you can meet and where will depend on where you live. If you are CEV, you may want to take additional precautions when meeting up with people and think about the risk of catching or passing on the virus. There are things you can do to make meeting friends and family safer, such as:

  • meeting outside where possible
  • if you meet inside, making sure the space is well-ventilated
  • considering your own and other people’s vaccination status – we are all best protected from the vaccine around two weeks after the second dose
  • asking people to take lateral flow tests before visiting you (if they are able to access them)
  • having an open conversation about social distancing with friends and family – it’s important you feel comfortable with the social contact you have, and it’s OK to ask to continue to keep your distance
  • regularly washing your hands and avoid touching your face.

There are also things you can be doing to prevent the spread of the virus and keep yourself and your loved ones well:

  • take the vaccine (including the booster) when offered, and encourage others to do the same
  • make sure you get your second dose of the vaccine to get the best protection
  • continue to wear a face covering in crowded or enclosed spaces (unless medically exempt) – read our full guidance on face coverings 
  • maintain good hand hygiene and regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched, like door handles and light switches
  • isolate if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 and order a PCR test
  • if you live in England, make use of the free lateral flow tests that are available and test yourself twice a week – even if you don’t have symptoms.

It’s also important you keep active and find ways to boost your mood, as this will help you stay fit and well.

Help if I'm feeling worried or anxious

We know you might be feeling anxious about what the next few months might look like. If you have concerns, contact your GP. If you’re feeling low, please take a look at our information on dealing with your mental health while living with a lung condition. The government has also created guidance for people to help look after their mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The easing of restrictions may be a cause for celebration for some, but not everyone will see the easing of restrictions in the same way. It’s important to respect and be considerate of people who want to take a more cautious approach as restrictions are lifted. Have a read through:

You can also get support from these organisations:

Our friendly helpline team are there for you, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Call 03000 030 555

Attending medical appointments

You should still get the usual care for your condition at this time, but some parts of it might be done a bit differently. Some health care professionals might still be doing their appointments over the phone or by video. But as restrictions ease, we’re likely to see the return of more face-to-face appointments. If you notice your symptoms getting worse and need immediate medical attention, don’t delay getting help.

In England, the NHS has advised that patients, staff and visitors must continue to wear face coverings in health care settings, unless they are medically exempt. Health care settings include hospitals, GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies. Social distancing rules will also be in place in these settings. This is to protect patients as well as staff.

Should I wear a face covering?

We strongly encourage that everyone who can wear a face covering should continue to do so, in enclosed or crowded spaces. Wearing a face covering reduces the risk of spreading infection and protects people you come into contact with. Read our full guidance on face coverings.

Going into work if I’m in the shielding group

Your employer has a duty of care to protect their employees from risks to their health and safety, and employers should do all they can to enable you to work as safely as possible. This might include moving you to another, non-public facing, role if possible. If you’re concerned about going into work, we would advise in the first instance to have an open dialogue with your employer to discuss your options. If you can’t find a resolution, you should contact your trade union, Health and Safety Executive, get advice from ACAS or the Citizens Advice.

If you do go into work, think about how you will get there. Walk or cycle, if you can, or drive in your own car. If you need to use public transport, try speaking to your employer about changing your working hours so you can travel at quieter times of the day.

You might also think about trying to reduce the number of people you spend time with on a regular basis. Your employer could support you in this by changing shift patterns so you’re with the same people each time, or by working in smaller teams.

England

In England, social distancing measures are no longer a legal requirement in the workplace and it’s no longer advised that everyone should work from home where possible. This includes people who are CEV.

Employers should still be taking steps to protect the health and safety of their workers and they should be able to explain to you the measures they are taking to keep you safe. The government has released guidance to help people work safely during coronavirus, which you might like to read through.

Scotland

Workers in Scotland are still asked to work from home where possible, and this will be reviewed by 9 August. Social distancing measures will still be in place in the workplace, including hospitality venues and retail shops.

Wales

In Wales, you are still being advised to work from home if you can. In situations where this is not possible, such as hospitality venues, public facing essential services and factories, measures should be in place to prevent virus transmission between workers and anyone else present.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, you are expected to work from home if you can. If this isn’t possible, social distancing measures should be put in place to allow you to stay two metres away from your colleagues and customers at all times.

How at risk am I of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus?

Different factors affect your risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus. Having a long-term lung condition is one of them. But it isn’t the only factor that increases your risk. Age is the biggest risk factor, with those aged 80 and older at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus.

Everyone is different, and your own level of risk depends on different factors. This makes it difficult to give blanket advice about the level of risk from having a lung condition.

Coronavirus vaccine and the booster

Everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable should have been offered the coronavirus vaccine. If you are CEV and have not had your vaccine you should contact the NHS to arrange a jab.

All coronavirus vaccines are very effective at reducing your risk of becoming ill with the virus should you get COVID-19. It’s also now known that being vaccinated reduces your risk of becoming infected with the virus. But it doesn’t mean you cannot get (and therefore not spread) the virus.  This means it’s still important to take measures to protect yourself and others, such as good hygiene, regular testing and wearing a face covering.

The JCVI has provisionally advised that booster vaccines should be offered from September to people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 ahead of the winter months. They have advised the booster vaccine should be offered to CEV adults from September 2021 alongside the flu vaccine. 

The final advice from the JCVI will be released before September and will take into account the latest scientific evidence. It will then need to be made official. The final decision could change as further data is analysed. We will keep our supporters updated as soon as we hear any updates and you can read more about the coronavirus vaccine in our dedicated FAQ page.

What support can I get?

England

Priority delivery slots are no longer available, however you may still wish to choose to have your food shop delivered to you in the usual way from the supermarket. CEV people in England are now being advised to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population, but you may wish to go to shops and pharmacies at quieter times.

The NHS Volunteer Responders service is there to support to people who need it in England. They can help you by:

  • collecting food, medicine and other essential supplies
  • providing regular phone calls with their ‘check in and chat’ service
  • helping you get to medical appointments

Ask for support from the NHS Volunteer Responders by visiting their website or calling 0808 196 3646. You can also register for support from your local COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group.

You can access a range of NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health care professional for an online consultation. Visit the NHS Health at Home website for more information, or download the NHS app. If you struggle using technology, or would just like to become more digitally confident, take a look at our technology for lung health hub.

Scotland

In Scotland, the national COVID-19 helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. The number for this helpline is 0800 111 4000. People who have been shielding in Scotland can continue to get updates from the SMS Shielding Service.

Read more about the continued support for people in the shielding group in Scotland.

Northern Ireland

Details of the support that’s available to you will be in the letter you’ve been sent by the government. If you’re struggling and need support, you can contact the COVID-19 Community Helpline:

Wales

People in the shielding group in Wales can still benefit from priority supermarket delivery slots if they don’t feel comfortable going to the shops. If you need help getting your medicines you should speak to your pharmacy.

If you need support and don’t have anyone to help you, you should speak to your local council. Local councils have a list of people who are on the shielded patient list in their area and will be able to help arrange support where you need it.

What to read next:

Last updated: Wednesday 21 July 2021

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Last medically reviewed: July 2021. Due for review: July 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.