Coronavirus guidance for very high-risk groups

What to expect and how to get support across the UK if you’re in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group.

On this page

What is shielding?
Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England
Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Northern Ireland
Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Scotland
Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Wales
When will I get my COVID-19 vaccine if I'm clinically extremely vulnerable?
I’m worried about my mental health – what can I do?
What help can I get if I'm clinically extremely vulnerable?
Should I go to work if I'm clinically extremely vulnerable?
Should my child go to school, college or nursery if they're clinically extremely vulnerable?
Getting the flu vaccine if you're clinically extremely vulnerable
What can I do if I have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine?

 

If you are not eligible yet

Wait to be contacted. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable (in priority group 4) and have not had your vaccine, you should contact the NHS to arrange your jab. The advice for everyone else is to wait until you're invited. Our sister charity, the British Lung Foundation, has a COVID-19 vaccine FAQ, which will help to answer some of the questions you might have.

 

What is shielding?

Shielding means staying at home and avoiding contact with other people as much as possible. It’s used to protect people at highest risk of severe illness if they catch COVID-19, known as the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ group.

We're getting quite a few questions from people on whether they're clinically extremely vulnerable. It’s worth noting that if you were classed as clinically extremely vulnerable earlier in the pandemic, you still are now, unless you have been told otherwise by your GP or hospital clinician. If you're added to the clinically extremely vulnerable list, you'll be sent a new letter in the post outlining the advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people in your area of the country.

Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England

England is no longer under a national lockdown. However, there are still restrictions in place covering the number of people you can meet up with and places that can reopen.

To find out more about what the restrictions are in England, visit the government website

Shielding in England has now been paused. If you are on the shielding list, your name will be kept on the list, so you’re invited for the COVID-19 vaccine at the right time and in case shielding needs to be reintroduced.

Now that shielding has been paused, the advice for clinical extremely vulnerable people is to:

  • maintain strict social distancing, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. The more you do these, the less likely you are to catch COVID-19
  • keep the number of social interactions you have low and reduce the amount of time you spend in situations where you can’t social distance
  • shop at quiet times if possible, but priority supermarket deliveries will be available until 21 June
  • work from home, if you can. If you can’t work from home, you can return to your place of work. SSP and ESA will no longer be available, although you can stay on furlough for as long as the scheme lasts.
  • return to school, if you or your child hasn’t already.  

It’s important that you follow this advice and the government restrictions, whether or not you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccine.

You should receive a letter in the post outlining the guidance clinically extremely vulnerable people are now advised to follow.

There's still help available if you're climically extremely vulnerable and still need essentials delivered, such as food and medicines. NHS Volunteers, for example, will continue to offer help and support. Read more about the help you can continue to receive

We know that the pausing of shielding might be worrying for some people. But we also know that for some people, the easing of restrictions will be a welcome start to getting back to normal. If you are feeling anxious about what the pausing of shielding means for you, speak to your GP. 

Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Northern Ireland

There is a gradual easing of the restrictions for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable in Northern Ireland, starting with advice around going into work. You can read more about the updated advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people on the NI government website.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to be particularly careful in following the advice on social distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene.

Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Scotland

The guidance for everyone in Scotland now is to ‘stay local’. The First Minister has set out a timetable for the reopening of parts of society, which you can read about on the Scottish government website.

From 26 April, it’s expected that all areas of Scotland that are Level 4 will move to Level 3. This means that CEV people can return to work (if they can’t work from home), college and university. You’ll receive a letter detailing this new guidance.

Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Wales

All of Wales is now under Alert Level 3. Travel restrictions have been lifted within Wales, with schools, garden centres and libraries among the places that can reopen. For a full list of what can reopen and what must stay closed in Wales, see the government website.

The guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable in Wales has been paused. This means that clinically extremely vulnerable people who can’t work from home can now return to their workplace, if they can’t work from home. Everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will be sent a letter explaining the new guidance.

You can read the full set of guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable on the Welsh government website. 

When will I get my COVID-19 vaccine if I'm clinically extremely vulnerable?

If you have received a letter from the government stating that you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you are in vaccine priority group 4 and should have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine. If you haven’t, you should book it now. You can do this online at the national booking service. If you can’t book your vaccine online, you can phone 119 free of charge, any time between 7am and 11pm, 7 days a week.  

The advice for everyone who is not currently eligible for vaccination is to wait until you’re invited.

Even if you have been vaccinated, we urge people to continue following the guidance in their area of the country, alongside social distancing, hand washing and other hygiene measures that will help protect us against COVID-19.

We have a blog explaining the priority groups and what this means for people with asthma.  

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.

I’m worried about my mental health – what can I do?

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. 

Try to stay in touch with friends and family by phoning, texting or talking to them online. Keeping in touch with people is an important way to look after your mental wellbeing. 

There are also lots of organisations and resources available to help with your mental health and wellbeing:

Let’s Talk Loneliness

Every Mind Matters

Clear Your Head (Scotland)

Rethink

Mind

Mental Health Foundation

Samaritans

NHS Volunteer Responders can also help through their ‘check in and chat plus’ service, which offers regular check-ins with a volunteer by telephone over 10 weeks. To arrange support for yourself or someone else call 0808 196 3646.

You could also speak to your doctor if you feel that your mental health issues are taking over your life.

What help can I get if I'm clinically extremely vulnerable?

Support in England

It’s important that you continue to receive the care and support you need to help you stay safe and well.

If you have previously registered for support through the National Shielding Support website, you can continue to get priority supermarket delivery slots until 21 June.

NHS Volunteer Responders

The NHS Volunteer Responders service is continuing to offer support to people in England who need to self-isolate for any reason. They can also help people who choose to stay at home as much as possible because they are worried about going out during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The NHS Volunteer Responders service can support you with:

  • collecting shopping, medication and other essential supplies
  • a regular, friendly phone call
  • getting to medical appointments by offering lifts.


You can ask for this support by visiting the NHS Volunteer Responders Service website or by calling 0808 196 3646.

Help from local volunteers

You may also be able to get support from local volunteers – contact your local council for more details. You may also be able to get help and support from your local Mutual Aid group.  

Getting medical help

You can access a range of NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health professional through an online consultation. To find out more visit NHS Health at Home, or download the NHS App.

But remember, if you’re having a medical emergency, you need to call 999

Support in Northern Ireland

Details of the support that’s available to you will be in the letter you’ve been sent by the government. If you’re struggling and need support, you can contact the COVID-19 Community Helpline on the below:

  • phone: 0808 802 0020
  • text: ACTION to 81025
  • email: covid19@adviceni.net

Read more advice for clinically vulnerable people in Northern Ireland.

You may also be able to get help and support from your local Mutual Aid group.

Support in Scotland

The national COVID-19 helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, on 0800 111 4000. This is to provide help to people who may be at increased risk from COVID-19 and don’t have a support network.

This helpline connects callers to their local authority, who will help them access the service they need. This includes:

  • food and medication
  • links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults
  • emotional support.

Read more about what support you can get if you’re a clinically extremely vulnerable person in Scotland.

You may also be able to get help and support from your local Mutual Aid group.

Support in Wales

If you’re on the shielded patients list in Wales, you can still continue to get priority supermarket delivery slots after shielding is paused. Speak to your pharmacy if you still need help getting your medicines.

If you need it, you can also try getting help from your local authority or voluntary groups. Find your local authority in Wales if you’re not sure which one you’re in.

You can also get help and support from Third Sector Wales or your local Mutual Aid group.

Should I be going to work if I'm clinically extremely vulnerable?

Wherever you live in the UK, you should work from home if you can. This includes teachers and other school staff. 

England 

Now that shielding has been paused in England, you can return to your place of work if you can’t work from home.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) are no longer available, but your employer may be able to furlough you. If you have been furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you can stay on furlough for as long as the scheme lasts. We would encourage you to talk to your employer to discuss your options.

For more information on working in England if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, check the government website.

Northern Ireland 

Shielding in Northern Ireland has started to gradually ease, beginning with advice around going into the workplace. You can now return to work if you can’t work from home. However, your employer should make sure your workplace is COVID-safe and you should travel to work in a way that allows for social distancing. 

For more advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people in Northern Ireland, see the government website. 

Scotland

In Scotland from 26 April, it’s expected that people who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be able to return to work, if they can’t work from home.

For more information about returning to work safely in Scotland, see the government website. This includes a workplace risk assessment tool.

Wales

In Wales, shielding has been paused. This means that people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and can’t work from home can return to their workplace, if they can’t work from home.

For more information on working if you're clinically extremely vulnerable in Wales see the government website

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust has advice on what to do if you live in the same household as someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable and need to go out of the house to work.

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.

Should my child go to school, college or nursery if they're clinically extremely vulnerable?

Throughout the spring, schools are reopening across the UK at different times, depending on how old your child is and what nation you live in.

Evidence has shown there is a very low risk of children becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, even if they have an existing health condition. Because of this, most children who were originally identified as clinically extremely vulnerable have been removed from the shielded patient list and no longer need to follow the advice for this group.

But if your child is still considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and their school is open, you should consider the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable children for where you live and talk to their hospital clinician about whether they should be going into school. If you’re not sure if your child still falls into the clinically extremely vulnerable category, speak to your GP or hospital clinician.

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can return to school, as shielding has been paused or is gradually easing.

Getting the flu vaccine if you're clinically extremely vulnerable

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. It can make your asthma symptoms worse and even cause asthma attacks. This year, if you live in any part of the UK and are on the shielded patients list, both you and your whole household can get the free flu vaccine.

Read more about flu vaccinations if you’ve got asthma

What can I do if I have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are now being rolled out across the UK. These are being offered in stages and when it’s your turn to get the vaccine, you’ll be contacted. We know people have a lot of questions about the vaccine, which is why we’ve worked with our sister charity, the British Lung Foundation, to create a COVID-19 vaccine FAQ.

Questions we answer include:

  • When can I get the vaccine?
  • What is in the coronavirus vaccine?
  • Can I have the vaccine if I’ve had COVID-19?

Read the COVID-19 vaccine FAQ.

Last updated on: Wednesday 14 April

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