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Here's what you need to know about the shielding changes

Lots of people have asked us questions about changes to the government’s shielding guidance from 1 June. We’ve gathered some of the questions we’re being asked. Our answers are below.

Do people in the shielding group need to continue shielding?

Yes. People who are extremely clinically vulnerable group continue to be advised to follow government shielding advice but changes to this are beginning to happen.

They should continue to take the precautions advised to prevent themselves from coming into contact with the virus, because they risk getting a serious illness if they get COVD-19. So they are advised to stay at home as much as possible and limit visits outside – for example once a day. They should also follow the general principles of handwashing and other measures to avoid spreading airway and chest infections (such as catching a cough or sneeze with a tissue, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces).

When will shielding end?

In England and Northern Ireland, the government is currently advising people to shield until 30 June 2020 and is monitoring the position. The next review in England is due in the week beginning 15 June.

In Wales, people are asked to shield until 16 August. In Scotland, people are asked to shield until 31 July.

What has changed in England?

On 1 June, Public Health England guidance changed. It said that people who are shielding can now leave their home – if they wish – as long as they maintain strict social distancing (staying 2 metres away from other people).

If they do want to go outside, it’s suggested they go once a day and this can be with:

  • other members of their household
  • or, if they live alone, with one person from another household. Ideally this should be the same person every time.

What has changed in Wales?

From 1 June, those shielding in Wales can now:

  • exercise outside, this is unlimited if they strictly follow the social distancing rules and hygiene practices. Exercise should be taken when it’s less busy to reduce risk of contact with others.
  • meet other people from another household, subject to following social distancing and hygiene rules as above. They must not go inside someone’s home or share food with them.

The remainder of the shielding guidelines continue to apply:

  • Do not attend work outside home or go shopping.
  • Continue to have food and medicine to be delivered.

What has changed in Northern Ireland?

From 8 June, people shielding in Northern Ireland may now go outside while maintaining strict social distancing:

  • with members of their own household
  • or, if they live alone, 1 other person from another household – preferably the same person each time

What has changed in Scotland?

For people shielding in Scotland, the guidance has not yet changed.

From 18 June, if the infection rate is low enough, people shielding will be able to go outside for exercise. But this will not apply to those shielding who live in care homes.

Why has the advice changed?

The government says it’s because COVID-19 disease levels are substantially lower now than when shielding was first introduced. Shielding was introduced to protect the most vulnerable from the peak of the virus when hospital beds were in high demand. Now the prevalence in the community is falling, the government says it is safe to ease some of the very strict shielding guidance.

But prevalence has not fallen enough to entirely lift the shielding advice.

The government says it is listening to medical advice about what to do if the prevalence of the virus continues to decline – or if it increases. It may tighten measures. The government might make changes to guidance again, as understanding of the virus increases.

Who do I speak to if I am not sure what to do?

If you’ re unsure about whether you’re ready to go outside, we would recommend you get in touch with your GP, consultant or specialist nurse to help you assess your personal risk.

Is support for the shielding group still available?

Yes. The core support offer remains as it is. The government will continue to make sure support is available for those who need it for as long as people are advised to follow shielding guidance.

The government’s offer to people shielding who request support is:

  • Essential supplies – a free, standardised weekly parcel of food and household essentials, and priority delivery slots with supermarkets.
  • Medicines – arrangements to have medicines delivered to people’s homes by local community pharmacies or their dispensing doctor.
  • Social contact – for example, emotional or social support such as people to talk to on the phone or over a computer.

Can people in the shielding group leave their home to go to work?

No. If you're shielding, you should not return to work.

People should work from home if possible, and your employer is expected to help you to do so.

If you can’t work from home, discuss and agree your options with your employer.

The government is clear that employers should support their staff to follow the shielding guidance.

We’ve pulled together this blog to help you find the answers you need quickly. Our coronavirus information about shielding has more information about who should shield and what shielding involves. We’ll keep our coronavirus information up to date.

Take a look at our full shielding information

Last updated: Wednesday 10 June

1 June 2020