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’.

On this page:

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 small 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:

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 should continue to be cautious when meeting up with people and think about the risk of catching or passing on the virus, both to yourself and to people you meet. 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
  • keeping your social interactions low
  • 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 when offered, and encourage others to do the same
  • make sure you get your second dose of the vaccine to get the best protection
  • 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.

When can I get the coronavirus vaccine?

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.

If you live with someone who is CEV, you will not be able to get your vaccine early – everyone will be vaccinated when they fall into the category of people being vaccinated. This is except if the person you live with is immunosuppressed, as these people are now being prioritised for the vaccine. This is because data has shown the virus doesn’t pass as easily in those who are vaccinated. By vaccinating close contacts of immunosuppressed people (who may not benefit fully from vaccination) this will help reduce the risk of infection in them.

You can read more about the coronavirus vaccine in our dedicated FAQ page.

Going into work if I’m in the shielding group

Wherever you live in the UK, you should work from home if you can. But if you cannot work from home, you can go into work.

Your employer has a duty of care to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, 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 returning to work, we would advise in the first instance to have an open dialogue with your employer to discuss your options. COVID-secure rules on social distancing continue to apply in the workplace and you should always follow the guidance for wherever you live.

Think about how you’re getting to and from work. If you have to use public transport, consider travelling outside of peak hours to avoid the amount of people you come into contact with. You might find this guidance from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust useful to read through. It gives tips on things you should do when you come in from home.

If you’re concerned about your health and safety in the workplace, you should speak with your employer in the first instance. If you can’t find a resolution, you should contact your trade union, Health and Safety Executive or get advice from ACAS.

Children going into school

Throughout the spring, schools are reopening across the UK at different times depending on the child’s age and the nation you live in.

Evidence has shown there is a very low risk of children becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, even if they have an existing health condition. Most children who were originally identified as clinically extremely vulnerable have been removed from the shielded patient list, and no longer need to follow the advice for this group. But if your child is still considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and their school is open, you should consider the guidance for CEV children for where you live. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, children who are CEV can now return to school or college, when appropriate for their year group. If you’re unsure if your child still falls into the CEV category, speak to your GP or hospital clinician.

What support can I get?


As shielding has now been paused, it's advised that you can go to the shops and pharmacy, but you should try and go at quieter times. Priority slots for food deliveries will be available until 21 June (step 4 of the government road map) and all retail stores will be operating to social distancing guidelines.

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.


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:


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.

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.

Help if I'm feeling worried

We know you might be feeling anxious about what the next few months might look like. If you have concerns, contact your GP. We will continue to make sure the voices of our supporters are heard, so everyone gets the support they need.

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.

You can also get support from these organisations:

To understand more about your COVID-19 risk, including advice on how you can reduce the risk of catching the virus, take a look at this webpage


What to read next:

Last updated: Friday 14 May 2021

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We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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