Shielding advice for very high-risk groups

What to expect and how to get support as shielding begins to wind down across the UK.

The coronavirus outbreak is a rapidly developing situation and the most up-to-date information for people in the UK can be found on the NHS website.

Changes to shielding in England

From 1 August

Shielding in England has been paused. If you have been shielding, you should now adhere to strict social distancing, rather than full shielding measures. This includes keeping 2 metres or three steps away from other people outside your home, whenever possible, and limiting the number of people you meet, shops you visit and non-essential journeys you make.

However, if you have asthma it’s likely that you will still be at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus. So it’s worth considering your level of risk and thinking about how you can protect yourself. 

If you are on the shielding list in England, you should have received a letter outlining these new changes. It’s worth remembering that you might be asked to shield again if there is an increase in coronavirus cases. Some people may need to shield past 1 August, if they have been told by their GP that they need to do so.

Read the guidance for after shielding has been paused in England.

These rules apply in England, but there may be different rules in the city or area you live or work in. Check your local council website to find out the rules where you are. 

Support after shielding is paused in England 

If you have been shielding in England, you won’t continue to receive food boxes and medicine deliveries from the National Shielding Service.

The NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme will continue to offer support after shielding is paused. They can support you with:

  • collecting shopping, medication and other essential supplies
  • a regular, friendly phone call, which can be provided by different volunteers each time, or by someone who is also shielding and will stay in contact for several weeks
  • transport to medical appointments.

You can ask for this support by visiting the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme website or by calling 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm. To arrange transport to medical appointments, speak to your health care professional.

After shielding is paused, you will still have access to priority delivery slots at 7 supermarkets, provided you have already signed up for this help.

Changes to shielding in Northern Ireland

From 1 August

Shielding in Northern Ireland has been paused. If you have been shielding, you should now follow strict social distancing, which means trying to keep 2 metres away from people outside your household, wherever possible. You should also try to limit the number of people you meet, shops you visit and non-essential journeys you make.

You should have received a letter from the Department of Health explaining these changes.

Read the guidance for after shielding has been paused in Northern Ireland.

Support after shielding is paused in Northern Ireland 

The information on what support is available now that shielding has been paused is in the letter that should have been sent to you by the government. You can also find more advice for vulnerable people on the NI government website, which includes the COVID-19 Community Helpline.

Changes to shielding in Scotland

From 1 August 

Shielding in Scotland has been paused. This means you can now follow the same guidance as the rest of Scotland, which includes physical distancing and hygiene measures. Read more about what the pausing of shielding means in Scotland.

If you have been shielding, you should have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, with the details.

Support after shielding is paused in Scotland


The national COVID-19 helpline will remain open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, on 0800 111 4000.

SMS Shielding Service

If you’ve been shielding in Scotland, you will still get updates from the SMS Shielding Service.

The Scottish government is also developing a COVID forecasting service for shielding. This will allow you to sign up to an SMS update telling you about your risk of being exposed to the virus in your local area. For more information on Scotland’s COVID forecasting service, visit the government’s website.

You will also be able to access guidance on returning to work or school. Read more about the support you’ll carry on getting if you live in Scotland.

Read more guidance on shielding in Scotland

Changes to shielding in Wales

If you are shielding in Wales, you can:

  • meet another household outdoors. You should keep 2 metres apart and practise good hygiene.
  • exercise on your own or with members of your own household.

If I'm shielding in Wales, can I be part of an extended household? 

Two households in Wales can form one extended household. This means that people can meet indoors and stay overnight. You can only be in one extended household, and it must contain the same people once it has been set up. If you are shielding, you can be part of an extended household.

From 16 August 

Shielding in Wales will be paused from 16 August. If you are currently shielding, you will be sent a letter to confirm this.

From this date, you should be able to return to work, but only if you can’t work from home. Your employer should support you to transition back into work safely.

If you are receiving food boxes, you will continue to receive them until the week ending 16 August. After this date, you will still be able to benefit from priority supermarket delivery slots. The volunteer medicine delivery scheme will also be available until the end of September.

If you receive a letter through the post, it means you are still on the shielding list. Shielding guidance will continue to be updated and you will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer if there are any significant changes to the guidance. 

I'm worried about coming out of shielding

This relaxation and pausing of shielding guidance allows you to see more people, enjoy the summer and be more active. However, shielding is a personal decision and if you have concerns, speak to your doctor or specialist about what is right for you.

We realise that for some people the pausing of shielding will be welcome news, while others will be understandably anxious. We’ll continue to make sure the voices of our supporters are heard so people get the support they need.

Should I go back to work if I'm shielding?

If you’ve been shielding, you can go into your place of work after shielding has been paused. However, this should only be done if your workplace has set up measures to ensure employees can social distance.

Each of the 4 nations has specific guidance on returning to work:

Check if you should go back into work in England

Advice for workers in Northern Ireland  

Returning to work in Scotland – which includes a workplace risk assessment tool

Work, skills and financial support in Wales

The Government advice is that employers must support vulnerable and at-risk workers to protect themselves. The Asthma UK Helpline nurses are unlikely to be able to advise about specific employment situations, but there is helpful guidance from ACAS about coronavirus and employment issues.

You can also get support from the mutual aid network or your local council.

Should my child go to school, college or nursery if they've been shielding?

Children will return to school, college or nursery when they reopen in August (for Scotland and certain year groups in Northern Ireland) or September (for England and certain year groups in Northern Ireland).

Shielding in Wales is currently expected to be paused on 16 August, with schools due back again after the summer break, in September.

When schools go back in August and September, parents will be legally required to ensure their children go to school and may face fines for keeping them at home.

Free flu vaccines for shielding people

The seasonal flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19. However, it does help stop flu, which is common in the autumn and winter and can make your asthma symptoms worse and even cause asthma attacks. This year, if you live in England and Wales, are on the shielded patients list, both you and your whole household will be offered the seasonal flu vaccine.

If you’ve been shielding in Northern Ireland or Scotland, you’ll be able to get the free flu vaccine, but it’s not been decided if households of people shielding will be able to get one as well.

Read more about flu vaccinations if you've got asthma

Anxiety about the end of shielding  

The coronavirus outbreak has been difficult for everyone, but especially if you’ve been shielding. Over the last few months, you may have felt worried, lonely, stressed, anxious and bored. And coming out of shielding may feel terrifying. If you’re extremely anxious, to the point where you don’t want to leave the house, please speak to your doctor. They will be able to help you find strategies to cope with your anxiety.

If your mental health has suffered because of shielding,there is lots of help available:

Every Mind Matters

Clear Your Head (Scotland)



Mental Health Foundation

Last updated on: Friday 31 July

We hope you have found this content useful

Our team of health experts is working tirelessly on a daily basis to provide the latest and most up to date health advice concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19) for people with asthma.

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