Explained – rules on 'shielding' in lockdown 3 for most vulnerable
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
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.
As such, the government reintroduced ‘shielding’ at the start of the third national lockdown to help keep the most vulnerable safe.
Shielding was in place during the first lockdown, but the requirements this time round are different. So, what are the rules?
Who has to shield?
Some people with certain medical conditions are already classed as extremely clinically vulnerable, while doctors and health workers will also add individuals to the Shielded Patient List if those people are thought to be at “very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus”.
The list of people includes solid organ transplant recipients, people with respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
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Different types of cancer patients are included depending on which stage of treatment they are at.
For example, those undergoing active chemotherapy are on the list, as are patients at any stage of treatment for blood or bone marrow cancers like leukaemia.
Adults with Down’s syndrome or those with chronic kidney disease are also on the list.
For a full list, see the government website.
If I’m shielding, can I go outside?
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.
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”.
So, does that mean I can go to work?
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”.
People who are advised not to attend work are eligible for statutory sick pay, although they might be able to come to an arrangement with their employer about working from home or being furloughed.
Is that the same for clinically vulnerable children going to school?
Yes – the government says: “Clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people should not attend school or other educational settings, because the risk of exposure to the virus in the community is now very high.”
All students and pupils are being educated at home until February half-term anyway, apart from the children of key workers.
What if I need to get shopping?
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”.
Those who have to shield can request priority access for supermarket delivery slots. They will be asked for their NHS number when registering.
What if I need care at home?
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.