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.

From 1 August 2020 in England and 16 August 2020 in Wales, extremely vulnerable people who are most at risk from becoming ill from coronavirus no longer need to shield. As the rates of transmission of COVID-19 have fallen, it has been decided that shielding measures can be paused. This means:

  • You don't need to follow previous shielding advice
  • You can return to work, if you can't work from home, as long as your workplace is COVID-secure
  • Children who have been shielding should attend school in line with the wider guidance on reopening schools and education settings
  • You can go outside as much as you like but it is wise to minimise your social interactions
  • You can go shopping, and visit restaurants and pubs but should try to maintain two metre distance where possible
  • You should continue to use G.P and other health services - each GP practice, clinic or service will have their own measures in place to ensure they are COVID-secure which could mean some appointments are carried out over the phone or virtually.
  • You should continue to maintain good hygiene, washing your hands carefully and often and cleaning your home / workspace thoroughly, particularly frequently touched areas
  • You will no longer be able to receive free food parcels from the National Shielding Service. You can however obtain priority slots for supermarket deliveries (if you previously registered for free food parcels)
  • You can access local volunteer support. You can find out more by contacting your local authority
  • You can get help with prescriptions, food and essential item deliveries by NHS Volunteer Responders. Find out more here

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


What social distancing measures should you follow now shielding is paused? 

Take a look at our social distancing pages here for further information about spending time outside your home, forming a support bubble / extended household and wearing a face mask.

If you live in an area that is subject to local lockdown, you may be asked to continue to shield and avoid social contact. The Government will write to you, if this applies to you, with guidance on what you should do.


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


Will you have to shield again in the future?

If there is an increase in the transmission of COVID-19 in the community, the UK Government could ask you to shield again if you were previously identified as 'clinically extremely vulnerable'. Your name will be kept securely by the NHS on a Shielded patient list and you will be contacted if the guidance changes. 

If the area you live in has to implement a local lockdown, you may be asked to resume shielding. The Government will write to you and advise you on the measures you should take. 

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you should not enter any area subject to local lockdown where shielding advice is in place. 


Returning to work after shielding

You are able to return to work if your workplace is COVID-secure. Your employer should help you to transition back to work safely and support you to keep to social distancing in your workplace or support you to work from home, if you are able to do so.

If you live in an area subject to local lockdown where shielding measures have resumed, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if you have previously been furloughed since 1 March 2020. You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer as you are unable to work due to shielding because of your condition. You may also be eligible for benefits during this period.  


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.