Explained - who is included in new shielding list

Stay Home Save Lives advert at an Ipswich bus stop. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More people are being asked to 'shield' to reduce their risk of catching coronavirus - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Another 1.7million people nationwide have been warned to stay indoors after the list of those deemed to be extremely vulnerable from coronavirus was expanded - but who is included in the new list?

What is shielding?

Tough lockdown restrictions are in place to ensure people stay at home as much as possible amid Covid-19 – but for people classed as extremely clinically vulnerable, the rules are even tougher. 

That is because those people are believed to be at “higher risk of serious illness if you catch the virus”, meaning extra measures are needed to protect them. 

Coronavirus signs in The Buttermarket in Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

1.7million more people nationwide are being asked to shield - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Why has it been expanded?

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The current shielding list includes people with single risk factors such as those with various cancers, people on immunosuppression drugs or those with severe respiratory conditions.

But as the pandemic has progressed, medics have found that some people are at higher risk than others because they have multiple risk factors.

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Using medical records, the new tool assesses which people are at higher risk based on multiple factors including age, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), other health conditions and also postcode, which is indicative of levels of deprivation.

As a result, 1.7m additional people in England will be sent letters asking them to shield.

Around 2.2m people are currently on the list in England, which will expand to almost 4m when the additional people are included.

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Who has to shield?

High-risk categories include:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients
  • Some people with cancer who are undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • People with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma
  • People who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months
  • People on immunosuppression drugs
  • Women who are pregnant and have heart disease
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and COPD
  • Some people with rare diseases such as severe combined immunodeficiency
  • Adults with Down’s syndrome
  • Adults on dialysis or with stage 5 chronic kidney disease

If I have to shield, what are the rules?

During the first lockdown, people who were shielding were urged not to go outside at all for several months. 

However, this time round there are more freedoms for people forced to shield. 

While the most vulnerable are advised to “stay at home as much as possible”, people can still go out for exercise and attend healthcare appointments. 

When outdoors, they can meet one other person for exercise – provided they stay socially distanced at all times. 

If they meet the criteria, people who are shielding can also form support bubbles which enable them to stay with people from one other household. 

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However, the government guidance does say that people who are shielding should “try to keep all contact with others outside of your household to a minimum”. 

The government strongly advises people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to work from home – and if they cannot work from home, they “should not attend work”. 

Even though the latest rules do allow more time outside, people who are shielding are advised not to go to the shops. 

Instead, they are asked to use online shopping where possible or ask friends and relatives to collect items for them. 

People who are shielding are also “strongly advised not to go to a pharmacy”. 

Shielders can still receive informal care from people in their support bubble, as well as care at home from medical professionals. 

If they receive professional care, they can still form a support bubble if eligible.

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