Your questions answered and all the latest guidance explained.
Page updated on 31 March 2021
We updated this page on Wednesday 31 March with the changes to social distancing rules in Northern Ireland and on Monday 29 March information for England and Wales has been updated to reflect the latest easing of lockdown measures.
Our COVID-19 advice for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England has been updated to reflect the changes announced about the pausing of shielding in England and Wales and changes to social distancing and shielding in Scotland.
We will continue to review the situation on a daily basis and will update this information as the advice continues to change.
The government has published ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’, which sets out the roadmap out of the current lockdown in England. This explains how restrictions will be eased over time. You can find these rules by searching for ‘roadmap’ on www.gov.uk/coronavirus.
You must continue to follow the national restrictions, which apply to everyone. We are also advising clinically extremely vulnerable people to continue to take extra precautions to protect themselves. You are advised to follow the practical steps described below to minimise your risk of exposure to the virus.
Please check out our FAQs to get the advice you may need. Read our COVID-19 vaccine frequently asked questions.
Shielding advice is being paused nationally from 31 March. From 1 April you are no longer advised to shield, but you must continue to follow the rules in place for everyone under the current national lockdown guidance, which has been set out by the government and applies to the entire population.
Read the shielding guidance if you are clinically extremely vulnerable. Everyone on the shielding list will get a letter confirming the latest advice. The letters were sent out in the week ending Friday 19 March. At the moment, you can still show your previous shielding letter to your employer instead of a GP fit note.
Current shielding advice includes avoiding large gatherings and keeping socially distanced - including from people in your own household where possible. It also highlights support for mental health and wellbeing.
Click here to read the latest clinically extremely vulnerable national FAQs from the UK Government to help with any specific questions you may have.
On 16 February 2021 the government announced another 1.7 million people in England will be added to the shielding (also known as clinically extremely vulnerable) list and will move into vaccine group 4. If you're moved into the shielding list the government will contact you to let you know.
Guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people
Why has shielding advice changed again?
The advice if you’re considered clinically extremely vulnerable is changing because there are fewer people with COVID-19 across the country, and because lots of people have now been vaccinated.
The full guidance can be found online at gov.uk/coronavirus. This is additional guidance specifically for clinically extremely vulnerable people, to help you protect yourself from the virus by following these shielding measures.
This guidance applies to clinically extremely vulnerable individuals only. Others living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not advised to follow this guidance.
The new national lockdown guidance, which applies to everyone, means that you must not leave or be outside of your home and garden, except for limited purposes which are set out in that guidance.
We are advising clinically extremely vulnerable people to stay at home as much as possible.
You can still go outside for exercise or to attend health appointments, but try to keep all contact with others outside of your household to a minimum, and avoid busy areas.
You can still meet with your support bubble, but you cannot meet others you do not live with unless they are part of your support bubble. Outdoors, you can meet one person from another household for exercise. This is part of the wider national regulations that apply to everyone.
Try to stay 2 metres away from other people within your household, especially if they display symptoms of the virus or have been advised to self-isolate.
One of the changes in the government advice will be around work. People considered clinically extremely vulnerable will be able to return to the workplace if they can’t work from home. Until then, the advice is still not to go into work if you’re shielding, even if you’ve had both your doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Currently, you are strongly advised to work from home because the risk of exposure to the virus in your area may be currently be higher. If you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work.
You may want to speak to your employer about taking on an alternative role or change your working patterns temporarily to enable you to work from home where possible.
If you need support to work at home you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work will provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) has been extended until 30 September. You may continue to be eligible throughout this period, even when shielding is paused, providing your employer agrees. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has also been extended until 30 September.
From 1 April you will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) on the basis of being advised to shield. You may be eligible for SSP or ESA if you are sick or incapable of work, either due to coronavirus or other health reasons, subject to meeting the eligibility conditions. If you have concerns about your health and safety at work you can raise them with your workplace union, HSE or your local authority.
Currently, as you are being advised not to attend work, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The formal shielding letter you receive will act as evidence for your employer and the Department of Work and Pensions that you are advised to shield and may be eligible for SSP or ESA.
Members of the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home, in line with the wider rules set out in the national lockdown guidance.
Clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and students should return to their school or other educational setting from 1 April 2021. Children who live in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not advised to shield and should have returned to school or college on 8 March.
The use of rapid lateral flow tests allows us to identify individuals with coronavirus (COVID-19) who do not have symptoms, which make up around a third of all cases. Finding asymptomatic cases, along with other infection prevention and control measures such as social distancing, can help us manage the spread of the virus.
Therefore to safeguard the health of the teaching workforce and keep as many staff, pupils and students in school and college as possible, we have made rapid lateral flow coronavirus (COVID-19) tests available to schools and colleges. Lateral flow tests can also be accessed directly for households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary school pupils and for households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary school staff. This testing will also help keep safe those in the community who are clinically extremely vulnerable and their families.
In addition to asymptomatic testing, secondary schools and colleges are continuing to put in place a range of protective measures to help minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19. These include social distancing, handwashing, use of face coverings in specific situations, bubbles, enhancing cleaning and ventilation and managing confirmed cases
You are advised to stay at home as much as possible and not to travel unless essential (e.g. to attend health appointments).
You are advised not to go to the shops. Use online shopping if you can, or ask others to collect and deliver shopping for you (friends and family, local volunteers or NHS Volunteer Responders).
If you have already registered for priority access to supermarket delivery slots using the Shielding Support website or through your council by 31 March, then we can confirm that the participating supermarkets will continue to offer priority access until 21 June. After this date individuals can continue to book deliveries from a supermarket.
If you need support to access shopping for food and essentials before 31 March, and are unable to arrange this yourself or through friends, family, or other support networks, you can still register to request priority access to a supermarket delivery slot at the Shielding Support website, www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support by 31 March. You will no longer be able to register using this website after midnight on 31 March.
If you need other forms of help, including support to register for priority access to supermarket delivery slots, you should contact your local council directly. Find out how your local council can help.
You are strongly advised not to go to a pharmacy.
In the first instance, you should ask if any friends, family or volunteers can collect medicines for you.
If friends and family are not able to collect your medicines for you, and you and/or the pharmacy are unable to arrange for a volunteer, then you will be eligible for free medicines delivery. Please contact your pharmacy to inform them that you are clinically extremely vulnerable and need your medicines delivered, and they will arrange this free of charge.
Accessing care and support
You can still receive informal care at home from people within your support bubble.
You can still receive care at home from professional social care and medical professionals.
We urge you to continue using the NHS and other health providers for your existing health conditions and any new health concerns.
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 www.nhs.uk/health-at-home, or download the NHS App. If you have an urgent medical need, call NHS 111 or, for a medical emergency, dial 999.
If you do need to receive care in person, you can. Your local NHS services are well prepared and will put in measures to keep you safe.
It is also really important to look after your mental health. Go to the Every Mind Matters website for advice and practical steps that you can take to support your wellbeing and manage your mental health during this pandemic. If you or someone you care for are experiencing a mental health crisis, we urge you to make contact with a local health professional immediately.
Any carers or visitors who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit. This also applies for those of a child or young person in your care. They should follow social distancing guidance where close or personal contact is not required.
You should continue to access support from local charities and organisations, as well as NHS Volunteer Responders. As well as helping with shopping and medicines delivery, NHS Volunteer Responders can help with a regular, friendly phone call, and transport to and from health appointments.
Call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm to arrange support or visit NHS Volunteer Responders website.
Registering for additional support
If you have yet to register for support but are in need, please do so online at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-supportby 31 March. If you do not have internet access, please contact your local council who will be able to connect you to the support that is available in your local area.
When registering you will be asked for your NHS number. You can find it on any letter the NHS has sent you, or on a prescription. It is helpful if you register even if you do not have any support needs at this time. You can log in and update your needs if circumstances change at any time.
Should I get the seasonal flu vaccine?
The seasonal flu vaccine won't protect against COVID-19, but it helps to stop flu that's especially common in the autumn and winter. With autumn now firmly upon us, we are also facing the onset of the winter flu season. If you have systemic sclerosis and/or certain other conditions you may be at a higher risk of developing a more serious illness if you catch flu. You may even have received a letter from the NHS informing you that you are eligible for a free annual flu jab. In England this year, if you're on the shielding list, your whole household will be offered the vaccine, as well as yourself.
Shielding guidance for UK nations
In Wales, there are 4 different levels of alert (level 4 has the strongest restrictions). The whole of Wales is moving step by step from level 4 into level 3.
Changes in the rules and guidance includes an end to the 5-mile travel limit from 27 March. Travel in and out of Wales is still restricted until at least 11 April.
Also from 27 March, up to 6 people from 2 households can meet up. This total doesn’t include children under 11 or carers. Read the latest guidance on what this means for you the Gov Wales website.
From 1 April, shielding advice for people considered 'clinically extremely vulnerable' will be paused. You are no longer advised to shield, but you must continue to follow the rules in place for everyone under the current latest guidance, which has been set out by the government and applies to the entire population. To stay safe, you should strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures.
The newly-updated guidance to shielding for clinically extremely vulnerable people can be found Welsh government guidance for people considered 'clinically extremely vulnerable'
Read the latest FAQs from the Welsh Government to help with any specific questions you may have.
Note, shielding may continue if you live in one of the local areas with restrictions or lockdown. If you're advised to shield again, the support you receive may vary slightly depending on where you live. Find out more about the support services for people who are shielding.
In Scotland, there are 5 levels of alert for different areas of the country. They’re numbered 0 to 4. Level 4 has the most severe restrictions on social contact.
Everywhere in level 4 has ‘stay at home’ guidance until 2 April, when the message will be ‘stay local’ instead.
Some restrictions have already been eased, including allowing up to 4 adults from up to 2 households to meet outdoors.
The Scottish government has set out plans to ease restrictions further in the coming months. All changes depend on the situation with the virus continuing to improve as expected.
Right now, the message is for people to stay at home as much as possible. Essential reasons for leaving the home can include going to school, caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise and being part of an extended household.
The current ‘stay at home’ guidance includes further advice for shielding if you’re considered clinically extremely vulnerable to help protect yourself and others. The advice to shield is due to be paused from 26 April. Read more about shielding. For more details on the risk groups and protection levels, read the Gov Scot website information on the highest risk group.
The Shielding SMS service and the national helpline are available. For more information on support if you've been on a shielding list.
For the latest information on what you can and cannot do, check the guidance on Gov Scot website
To stay safe, you should strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures.
The Scottish Government have produced practical resources and guidance on how to keep safe. See below:
- guidance about the conditions for the six main shielding categories
- a workplace risk assessment tool to help you consider your individual risk when returning to work
Read the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels to find out:
- which tier you're in
- what you can and cannot do in your tier
- Read the Scottish government social distancing guidelines
You should strictly follow the Scottish Government recommendations for protecting others and keeping safe.
At the moment, these shielding changes are not recommended for people living in residential nursing or care homes.
The Scottish Government have produced practical resources and guidance on how to keep safe. See below:
Note, shielding may continue if you live in one of the local areas with restrictions or lockdown. If you're advised to shield again, the support you receive may vary slightly depending on where you live. Read the shielding information on the Gov Scot website.
From 1 April, there is some easing of the ‘stay at home’ restrictions.
This includes 6 people (including children) from 2 households being able to meet outdoors (with social distancing).
The Northern Ireland Government is recommending you follow the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable, if you are in this risk group. For more information on these groups read the following:
Social distancing should continue to be followed. People who are vulnerable should continue to take precautions. It is still best to stay at home as much as possible. Read the current Northern Ireland Public Agency social distancing guidelines
in Northern Ireland
You’ll need to arrange for food and essential supplies to be delivered and these should be left at your door to minimise contact with the delivery person.
Read the NI Direct guidance on self-isolating.
Note, shielding may continue if you live in one of the local areas with restrictions or lockdown. If you're advised to shield again, the support you receive may vary slightly depending on where you live. Read the latest guidance on the easing of lockdown and what the changes will mean for you.
Has Scleroderma & Raynaud's UK's guidance changed?
The governments from each of the devolved nations have provided guidance for people who are at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) from coronavirus (COVID-19). In places where there is a very high risk from coronavirus, you may get a letter advising you to follow stricter advice. This is called shielding. You only need to shield if you get a letter. This guidance is based on scientific advice and expertise. SRUK will always seek guidance from our experts to ensure we provide the most up-to-date information for our community. Further information on things you can do to help keep yourself safe can be found here.