What is shielding and does it still apply?

Shielding is a measure introduced by the Government on Sunday 22 March 2020 to protect people classed as 'extremely vulnerable' who are at a very high risk of becoming severely unwell if they were to contract COVID-19. Around 1.8 million people in the UK have been identified as being 'clinically extremely vulnerable'. Anyone identified as such received a letter confirming this or were told directly by their doctor or hospital clinician.

After a period where shielding was paused, people who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable are being asked to reduce their social contact again to varying degrees in light of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and in addition to the national restrictions implemented.

In England, if you have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, the government is advising you to stay at home as much as possible, except for exercise or to attend essential health and medical appointments. You should try to keep contact with others to a minimum, avoid busy areas and maintain strict social distancing and hand washing routines. 

In Wales, shielding measures have not been reintroduced and you should follow the same rules as the rest of the population of Wales but to minimise risk, you are advised to keep contact with anyone outside of the household to a minimum, avoid busy areas, wear a face covering where required if possible and maintain strict social distancing and hand washing routines. 

For up to date guidance for those identified as 'clinically extremely vulnerable', visit the Government web pages here for England and here for Wales.


Are you 'clinically extremely vulnerable' if you have Huntington's disease?

The NHS made contact with clinically extremely vulnerable people to provide further advice on how to stay COVID safe in March 2020. This included many people with Huntington's disease.

As Huntington’s disease is a progressive illness, the risk to someone who carries the gene or has very early symptoms is not increased, unless they have another underlying health condition. However, as the disease progresses, people may have swallowing difficulties, become prone to chest infections, have weakness of the respiratory system; all of which could make them much more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

For further information read our news article - Clarification of COVID-19 ‘high-risk’ Huntington’s texts/letters


Obtaining essential items - food and medication

In England, you are currently advised not to go to the shops. You should shop and place orders online if you can or ask friends, family or a volunteer (NHS Volunteer Responders) to collect and deliver shopping to you. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you can get a priority delivery slot with your supermarket. If you cannot access food, your local council can offer support. This may include helping you to request a priority supermarket delivery slot (if you do not already have one) or help with shopping. You can register for support here.

If you cannot arrange for a friend, family member or volunteer to collect your medicines for you, you should contact your pharmacy to inform them you are clinically extremely vulnerable and need medicines delivered and they will arrange this free of charge. 

In Wales you can continue to shop for yourself and pick up your own medication if you wish to, however you are advised to do this at quieter times of the day if you cannot do this online.


Care and support

It is important to continue to receive the care and support you need to help you stay safe and well. You should continue to seek support from the NHS or other health providers for any health concerns. There are a range of NHS services available from home. If you need care in person, your local NHS services are well prepared and have measures in place to keep you safe. 

Any carers or visitors who support you can continue to visit. They should follow social distancing guidance where close or personal contact is not required. 



In England, you are currently advised to work from home if you can. If you cannot work from home you should not attend work and you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer or may be able to claim certain benefits or take part in the COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme (Furlough). Further information can be found here

In Wales, you are advised to work from home if you can. If you cannot work from home, your employer should ensure your workplace is COVID-secure and should discuss measures to ensure your safety such as altering start and finish times to avoid public transport in peak times.


Are you 'clinically extremely vulnerable' and think you have COVID-19 symptoms?

If you are identified as 'clinically extremely vulnerable' and think you have developed symptoms of COVID-19 seek clinical advice using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111. You should do this as soon as you get symptoms.

If you are seriously ill and in an emergency, call 999. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

The Government advises that you should prepare a hospital bag containing the following items to help the NHS provide you with the best care if you need to go to hospital:

  • your emergency contact
  • a list of the medications you take (including dose and frequency)
  • any information on your planned care appointments
  • things you would need for an overnight stay (for example, pyjamas, toothbrush, medication)
  • your advanced care plan (only if you have one)

If you must interact with NHS staff or emergency services at this time, you can use our 'COVID-19 letter for NHS and emergency services' to explain what Huntington's is, how it might affect you and how COVID-19 can affect someone with the disease.