Shielding is a measure for people who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 (coronavirus) to take extra steps to reduce the risk of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus. This has included staying at home as much as possible.
The shielding guidelines are recommendations that are designed to help you keep yourself safe, and not laws. You can’t be fined or sanctioned for not following the shielding guidance. This means that it’s up to you to decide whether you stick to the guidelines, and how far. Recently shielding guidelines have changed and it’s understandable that these recent changes might mean that you feel pressure to make a decision about whether you can, or should, leave your home, and be anxious about whether this is safe for you.
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Information is correct as of 10 July 2020
Since March, at a time when the rate of Covid-19 (coronavirus) infection was high and continuing to grow, shielding was recommended for people who were considered extremely vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus. This included women with ovarian cancer who are having chemotherapy or some other targeted cancer treatments, including PARP inhibitors.
The latest scientific evidence shows that the chance of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus has continued to decline. As a result, the government believes that the time is now right to relax the advice to those shielding, so people who have been shielding can start to regain a degree of normality in their daily lives.
While some people will welcome this opportunity to get out and about, it’s natural to worry about the risk of coronavirus to you and want to know your level of risk. While it’s not possible to exactly predict anyone’s risk, your healthcare team will be able to talk you through your level of risk and what that means for you.[ER1] [KM2]
If you have any specific questions or concerns about your own situation you can contact our confidential nurse-led support line by calling 020 7923 5475, Monday to Friday, 9am – 5.30pm.
- From 6 July, you can meet in small groups of up to six people outdoors
- You no longer need to observe social distancing with your own household
- If you’re an adult living alone or with dependent children under 18, you can form a ‘support bubble’
From 1 August, the government is then pausing shielding in England. This means that you’re advised to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures. If the level of the disease in the community rise in the future, the government may advise that some measures are reintroduced for those at highest risk to keep themselves safe.
The government will be writing to everyone on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and the ongoing support that will be available to them.
- From 10 July, you no longer need to socially distance from the people you live with
- If you are visiting another household’s outdoor space you can use their toilet
- You can travel further than 5 miles from your house, as far as you want
- You can book places to stay, such as self-catering accommodation, or travel to a second home, provided neither has shared facilities – with your household or extended household
- You can form an extended household. That means, if you’re living alone, or living only with other people who are under 18 years of age, you can join another household. You and the members of that extended household do not need to physically distance from each other, and you can stay the night in each other’s houses if you choose. Households must only join with each other – you can only form an extended household with one other household and them with you.
- If there are children in your household who are under 12, they no longer need to physically distance from other children outside, as long as they themselves are not shielding.
- Like those who are following social distancing guidelines, you meet in groups of only 8 people, and don’t meet any more than two households each day, and only outdoors
Everyone on the shielding list in Scotland will receive a letter in the coming days outlining the changes announced.
- If you have been shielding you can now form an extended household with another household. However, social distancing within an extended household should continue where possible.
- You can continue to leave home to exercise or meet outside with people from another household.
- You should follow physical distancing (2 metres) and practice good hygiene using a hand sanitiser and avoiding touching things touched by others.
A date for pausing shielding in Wales has not yet been announced. However, current advice will stay in place until at least 16 August.
- From 6 July, you are able to meet up to six people outside of your home, as long as you social distance.
- If you are shielding alone, you can also form a support bubble with one other household. The household that you choose to ‘bubble’ with can be of any size and you don’t need to social distance within your support bubble. But both households should not be part of more than one bubble.
This will continue to be reviewed and shielding may be paused in Northern Ireland from 31 July, if the risk remains low.
From 1 August, where shielding is to be paused, if you need to work and can’t do so from home you will be able to return to work as long as your workplace is ‘COVID secure’, following the guidance available.
Current advice for people in Scotland who are shielding is that you should work from home if you can, until advice is reviewed again.
If you received a shielding letter from NHS Scotland, show this to your employer as evidence you can’t work outside your home.
While shielding guidelines remain in place, you shouldn’t go to your normal place of work and should work at home until at least 16 August (when shielding will be reviewed), if you can do so. You do not need to get a fit note from your GP.
From 31 July, when shielding is to be paused, employers have a 'duty of care' for staff, customers and anyone else who visits the workplace. This means they should be taking all steps they reasonably can to support your health, safety and wellbeing.
If you are unable to follow guidance on social distancing at work or during travel to work, it’s important to tell your employer that you need to follow government advice and avoid these risks.
Uncertainty about returning to work
We know that some people may feel uncertain about returning to work. The government is asking employers to make sure that appropriate measures are put in place for those currently shielding to return to work when they are able to do so. You should contact your employer and discuss your situation, agree a plan for returning work and confirm that appropriate adjustments have been made before you return.
If you have concerns or questions about whether it’s safe for you to go to work, speak to your healthcare team.
The Government shielding support package will remain in place in England until the end of July when the shielding scheme is paused.
From 1 August, you will no longer be advised that you need to shield. However you can still keep your priority for supermarket delivery slots, and will still be able to access help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments.
When you registered online as needing support with food deliveries, your data will have been shared with supermarkets. This means if you make an online order with a supermarket (as both a new or existing customer), you will be eligible for a priority slot.
There are also many commercial options now available for accessing food, including telephone ordering, food box delivery, prepared meal delivery and other non-supermarket food delivery providers. Your local authority and local charities can provide a list of options.
NHS Responder Programme
The NHS Volunteer Responders programme will also continue to run in England after 1 August for those who need help with shopping, a prescription collection, transport to a medical appointment or who want a friendly chat. Either visit their website or call 0808 196 3646 for more information.
NHS Medicine Delivery Service
The NHS Medicine Delivery Service will continue to be available from local pharmacies. The service delivers medicines to you where family, friends or volunteers can’t collect them. Contact your local pharmacy if you would like to use this service.
The Scottish Government will continue to support those who have been advised to shield until 31 July. This includes:
- priority access to supermarket delivery slots
- weekly grocery boxes (these will stop once shielding is paused)
- prescription deliveries
- access to cash
The Welsh Government will continue to support those who have been advised to shield, at least until shielding is paused. Details about food and medication deliveries can be found within the Welsh shielding guidelines.
If you are shielding and have previously registered your need for a food box through the Community Helpline you will automatically continue to receive this until 31 July.
Work is also happening to provide a range of support that will be available for you once shielding ends. You should receive a letter with details of this soon.
If you need urgent help and have no other means of support, you should contact your local authority to find out what support services are available in your area.
Please remember that you can always call our nurse-led Support Line on 020 7923 5475 (9am-5.30pm, Mon-Fri) if you have any concerns or questions or just need someone to talk to.