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.

Some people with asthma are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. These people belong to a group described as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV)’, formerly known as the ‘shielding group’.

On this page


If you are in the CEV group and think you have coronavirus symptoms…

such as a fever, new continuous cough, or a loss or changed sense of smell or taste, get advice from the NHS 111 online service or call NHS 111. Do this as soon as you get symptoms.

What should people who are clinically extremely vulnerable do now?

We should all be doing what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to help protect ourselves and others. Each UK nation has different guidance and restrictions and it’s important to follow the guidance for where you live and work:

Socialising with family and friends

Restrictions are easing across the UK. This means it’s now possible to meet up with friends and family. Guidance on the amount of people you can meet and where will depend on where you live. If you are CEV, you may want to take extra precautions when meeting up with people. There are things you can do to make meeting friends and family safer, such as:

  • meeting outside where possible
  • if you meet inside, making sure the space is well-ventilated
  • considering your own and other people’s vaccination status – we are all best protected from the vaccine around two weeks after the second dose
  • asking people to take lateral flow tests before visiting you (if they can access them)
  • having an open conversation about social distancing with friends and family – it’s important you feel comfortable with the social contact you have, and it’s OK to ask people to keep their distance
  • regularly washing your hands and avoid touching your face.

There are also things you can do to prevent the spread of the virus and keep yourself and your loved ones well:

  • take the vaccine (including the booster) when offered, and encourage others to do the same
  • make sure you get your second dose of the vaccine to get the best protection
  • continue to wear a face covering in crowded or enclosed spaces – read our full guidance on face coverings
  • maintain good hand hygiene and regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched, like door handles and light switches
  • isolate if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 and order a PCR test
  • if you live in England, make use of the free lateral flow tests that are available and test yourself twice a week – even if you don’t have symptoms.

It’s also important you keep active and find ways to boost your mood, as this will help you stay fit and well.

Help if I’m feeling worried or anxious

The coronavirus outbreak has been difficult for everyone, but especially if you’ve been shielding. You may have felt worried, lonely, stressed, anxious and bored during the pandemic. And coming out of shielding may have felt terrifying.

The easing of restrictions may be a cause for celebration for some, but not everyone will see the easing of restrictions in the same way. It’s important to respect and be considerate of people who want to take a more cautious approach as restrictions are lifted.

We have advice about things you can do to be safer when meeting family and friends and some suggestions for how to navigate social situations with friends and family.

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

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

Attending medical appointments

You should still get the usual care for your asthma during the pandemic, but some parts of it might be done a bit differently. Some healthcare professionals might still be doing their appointments over the phone or by video. But as restrictions ease, we’re likely to see the return of more face-to-face appointments.

In England, the NHS has advised that patients, staff and visitors must continue to wear face coverings in health care settings, unless they are medically exempt. Health care settings include hospitals, GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies. Social distancing rules will also be in place in these settings. This is to protect patients as well as staff.

If you notice your symptoms getting worse and need immediate medical attention, don’t delay getting help.

Should I wear a face covering?

We strongly encourage that everyone who can wear a face covering should continue to do so, in enclosed or crowded spaces. We have more guidance on face coverings.

Going into work if I’m clinically extremely vulnerable

Your employer has a duty of care to protect employees from risks to their health and safety. Employers should do all they can to enable you to work as safely as possible. This might include moving you to another, non-public facing, role if possible. If you’re concerned about going into work, we would advise in the first instance you have an open dialogue with your employer to discuss your options. If you can’t find a resolution, you should contact your trade union, Health and Safety Executive, get advice from ACAS or Citizens Advice.

If you do go into work, think about how you will get there. Walk or cycle, if you can, or drive in your own car. If you need to use public transport, try speaking to your employer about changing your working hours so you can travel at quieter times of the day.

You might also think about trying to reduce the number of people you spend time with. Your employer could support you in this by changing shift patterns so you’re with the same people each time, or by working in smaller teams.


In England, social distancing measures are not a legal requirement in the workplace and it’s no longer advised that everyone should work from home where possible. This includes people who are CEV.

Employers should still be taking steps to protect the health and safety of their workers and they should be able to explain to you the measures they are taking to keep you safe. The government has released guidance to help people work safely during coronavirus.


Workers in Scotland are still asked to work from home where possible, and this will be reviewed by 9 August 2021. Social distancing measures will still be in place in the workplace, including hospitality venues and retail shops.


In Wales, you are still being advised to work from home if you can. In situations where this is not possible, such as hospitality venues, public-facing essential services, and factories, measures should be in place to prevent virus transmission between workers and anyone else present.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, you are expected to work from home if you can. If this isn’t possible, social distancing measures should be in place to allow you to stay two metres away from your colleagues and customers.

Coronavirus vaccine and booster

Coronavirus vaccine

Everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable should have been offered the coronavirus vaccine. If you are CEV and have not had your vaccine you should contact the NHS. Some children aged 12 to 15 who are at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19 are now being offered the Pfizer vaccine. Teenagers aged 16 or 17 in the high-risk group should have already been offered their vaccination. Find out more in the vaccine FAQ from our sister charity, the British Lung Foundation. 

All coronavirus vaccines effectively reduce your risk of becoming ill with the virus should you get COVID-19. It’s also now known that being vaccinated reduces your risk of becoming infected with the virus. But it doesn’t mean you cannot get the virus.

Booster vaccines

The JCVI has provisionally advised that booster vaccines should be offered from September 2021 to people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 ahead of the winter months. They have advised that the booster vaccine should be offered in two stages.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you will be offered the booster COVID-19 and a flu vaccine from September, under stage 1.

Stage 2 includes everyone aged 50-69 and adults aged 16-49 who are offered a free flu vaccine each year. People in these groups will be offered a booster COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible and practical after stage 1. They will also be offered a flu vaccine, where appropriate.

The final advice from the JCVI will be released before September and will take into account the latest scientific evidence. It will then need to be made official. The final decision could change as further data is analysed.

For more advice on the COVID-19 vaccine, take a look at the vaccine FAQ from our sister charity, the British Lung Foundation.

What help can I get if I am clinically extremely vulnerable?

Support in England

Priority delivery slots are no longer available, but you can still choose to have your food shop delivered to you in the usual way from the supermarket. CEV people in England are now being advised to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population, but you may wish to go to shops and pharmacies at quieter times.

NHS Volunteer Responders

The NHS Volunteer Responders service is there to support people who need it in England and this service will continue indefinitely. They can help you by:

  • collecting food, medicine, and other essential supplies
  • providing regular phone calls with their ‘check in and chat’ service
  • helping you get to medical appointments.

Ask for support from the NHS Volunteer Responders by visiting their website or 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 can also register for support from your local COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group.

Getting medical help

You can access a range of NHS services from home, including ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting your health care professional for an online consultation. Visit the NHS Health at Home website for more information, or download the NHS app.

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

Support in Scotland

In Scotland, the national COVID-19 helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. The number for this helpline is 0800 111 4000. People who have been shielding in Scotland can continue to get updates from the SMS Shielding Service.

Read more about the continued support for the clinically extremely vulnerable group in Scotland.

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:

Support in Wales

CEV people in Wales can still benefit from priority supermarket delivery slots if they don’t feel comfortable going to the shops. If you need help getting your medicines, you should speak to your pharmacy.

If you need support and don’t have anyone to help you, you should speak to your local council. Local councils have a list of people who are CEV in their area and will be able to help arrange support where you need it.


Last updated on: Monday 19 July

Free advice for everyone - but at what cost?

As a charity, Asthma UK provides free health advice to millions of people through our Website and our specialist nurses Helpline - a team dedicated to offering life-changing advice over the phone.

As the UK's leading asthma charity, now more than ever before people need our help, yet COVID-19 has devastated our ability to raise vital funds! For us to continue being there for everyone who needs us, we need your support.

If you've benefited from this advice on face coverings today, if you can please make a small donation to help ensure we can give you the support you need now and in the future.


Did you find this information helpful?

Step 2

Would you use our information again or recommend it to a friend?
Please choose the option that best describes you