Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable

Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. Updated 1 April 2021

Easy read: Getting NHS help when you need it during the coronavirus outbreak (opens in a new window)

Translated content: Shielding vulnerable people guidance

In this section

Definition of clinically extremely vulnerable

Website: Definition of clinically extremely vulnerable groups from GOV.UK (opens in a new window)

People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. There are three ways you may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:

  1. you have one or more of the conditions listed on the Government website, Website: Definition of clinically extremely vulnerable groups from GOV.UK (opens in a new window)
  2. your hospital clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded patients list from NHS (opens in a new window) because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at higher risk of serious illness if you catch the virus
  3. You have been identified through the COVID-19 Population Risk Assessment (opens in a new window) as potentially being at high risk of serious illness if you catch the virus

If you do not fall into any of these categories and have not been informed that you are on the Shielded patients list, follow the national restrictions.

Who is this guidance is for?

This guidance is for everyone who has been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable. If you are in this group, you will previously have received a letter from the NHS or from your GP telling you this. You may have been advised to shield in the past.

Although clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, we still recommend that you take extra precautions to protect yourself while the virus is still spreading in our communities. The updated guidance provides practical steps that cover things like socialising, travel and going to work and school. These are not rules but advice, so you can choose whether you wish to follow them or not. In addition to this advice, you must continue to follow the regulations that are in place for everyone during the pandemic. This includes rules on mixing with people from other households.


Ongoing advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people (1 April 2021)

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 restrictions.

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’ at GOV.UK Coronavirus (COVID-19) (opens in a new window).

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.

Socialising inside and outside the home

Continue to maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face.

Continue to minimise the number of social interactions that you have. The fewer social interactions you have, the lower your risk of catching COVID-19.

When the rules allow you to meet with others from outside of your household, your risk of catching COVID-19 is lower if you meet them outdoors.

When you are allowed to meet others indoors, keep the area well ventilated with fresh air, for example by opening the window. Please see the COVID-19: ventilation of indoor spaces (opens in a new window) guidance for more information.

Try to reduce the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing, or where other people’s activities may reduce the likelihood of individuals maintaining social distancing.

You can continue to form or maintain existing support bubbles from GOV.UK (opens in a new window) and childcare bubbles from GOV.UK (opens in a new window).


Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible.

If you cannot work from home, you should go to work. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work. Some employers may introduce regular testing of employees as part of these measures. You may also want to consider how you get to and from work, for example, if it is possible to avoid using public transport during rush hour.

Separate Government guidance has been issued on how employers can make workplaces COVID-safe (opens in a new window) including how they can maintain social distancing and a system of risk management in your workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers (opens in a new window), including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplace (opens in a new window).

If you need support to work at home or in the workplace you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work may 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) (opens in a new window) 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) (opens in a new window) 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. Where employers are not managing the risk of COVID-19, HSE and local authorities will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply with enforcement notices, this could lead to prosecution.

The existing employment rights framework provides protections against discrimination, unfair dismissal and detriment. Specific guidance has been published for employers and workers on work absences due to coronavirus (COVID-19) (opens in a new window).

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau (opens in a new window) also has information about your rights at work and how to solve problems in the workplace. If you have concerns you can also get advice on your specific situation and your employment rights by visiting the Acas website (opens in a new window) or calling the Acas helpline on 0300 123 1100.

School, college and other educational settings

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 (opens in a new window) 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 (opens in a new window) 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


If you need to use public transport, you must wear a face covering (opens in a new window) unless you are exempt. Consider travelling outside peak hours to reduce the number of people with whom you come into contact.

If you need to travel, walk or cycle if you can. For longer journeys, or if you are unable to walk or cycle, try to minimise the number of people you come into close contact with.

Please do not car share with people from outside your household or support bubble and ensure you use a face covering when using taxis.

Going to shops and pharmacies

While you are not advised to avoid going to the shops, you may wish to continue using online delivery for food and essential shopping, or to rely on family and friends.

If you do go out to the shops or pharmacy, consider going at quieter times of the day. You must wear a face covering in all shops unless you are exempt.

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 require additional care and support

It is important that you continue to receive the care and support you need to help you stay safe and well. Providers of social care and medical services are making every effort to ensure services remain open and as safe as possible.

You should continue to seek support from the NHS for your existing health conditions. 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 Health at home from the NHS (opens in a new window), or download the NHS App (opens in a new window). If you have an urgent medical need, call NHS 111 or, for a medical emergency, dial 999.

It is also important to look after your mental health. Go to the Every Mind Matters (opens in a new window) website for advice and practical steps that you can take to support your wellbeing and manage your mental health during this pandemic and beyond. The Let’s Talk Loneliness (opens in a new window) website also has a variety of tips, advice and further resources that you may find helpful.

If you or someone you care for experiences a mental health crisis, we urge you to make contact with a local health professional (opens in a new window) immediately. NHS Mental Health Trusts have established 24/7 telephone lines to support people of all ages to get the help they need, when they need it.

Any carers or visitors who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit. They should continue to follow social distancing guidance from GOV.UK (opens in a new window) where close or personal contact is not required.

You can also access additional support from your energy supplier. Energy suppliers are required by the regulator, Ofgem, to hold a register of customers in a vulnerable circumstance, called a Priority Service Register. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you can be added to this register. For information about how to be added to the register and the additional services your supplier can provide you, please visit Ofgem’s website (opens in a new window) website.

Telecom providers are also required by their regulator, Ofcom, to support their vulnerable customers. For information about the additional services your supplier can provide you as a vulnerable customer, please visit Ofcom’s website (opens in a new window).

Worcestershire County Council’s Here2Help service is still available to help support those who need it. Volunteers can collect and deliver shopping, medication and other essential supplies and we can also make referrals to other services if you need support. You can contact us by visiting Here2Help or by calling the a dedicated number on 01905 768053 and pressing option 3. The Here2Help opening hours are Monday to Thursday 9.00am to 5.00pm and Friday 9.00am to 4.30pm.