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Staying safe and government guidance

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Coronavirus guidance for adults at high risk

This page explains government guidance in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for adults at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus.

What is self-isolation, social distancing and shielding?

Last updated: 16 August 2020

Everyone in the UK is being told to limit their social interaction, and people with blood cancer are advised to be particularly stringent about this.

In some parts of the UK experiencing local lockdowns or local restrictions, people with blood cancer are advised to take further steps to limit their risk of exposure to coronavirus – this is known as ‘shielding’.

Self-isolation means staying away from other people because you, or someone you live with, have symptoms of coronavirus or have tested positive for coronavirus. While you’re self-isolating, you should not leave your home or have visitors – except for people providing essential care. You should follow this advice for at least 10 days and anyone else you live with should follow this advice for 14 days. If someone vulnerable lives with you, they should stay somewhere else if possible for 14 days. If this isn't possible, you should keep away from each other in the house and not share things like towels or cutlery. The government provides more detailed advice on self-isolation.

Social distancing means limiting social interaction and maintaining a 2 metre distance from other people. Everyone in the UK is being told to do this. In England, you may now maintain a 1 metre distance from other people, where 2 metres isn’t possible, if you’re also taking other steps to limit the risk of infection. If you are over 70, have an underlying health condition (such as blood cancer), or are pregnant, you should follow the advice as strictly as you can. The government provides more detailed advice on social distancing for people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Shielding means staying at home as much as possible and minimising interaction between you and others. UK governments are now advising that the only people who need to shield are those at high risk of coronavirus who are living in certain areas affected by local lockdowns or local restrictions. If you’re not sure whether or not you should continue to shield, read the government guidance below and speak to your healthcare team.

Shielding has now paused

Across the UK, shielding has now paused. In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland this happened on 1 August 2020, and in Wales, on 16 August 2020. There are a few exceptions to this, where local restrictions mean shielding has re-started. For the latest information, you should check your local authority's website.

Where shielding is paused, people with blood cancer are no longer advised to shield. Instead, you should strictly follow the same guidance as the wider population. This page explains the latest government guidance in each of the four UK nations, along with practical things you can do to protect yourself.

Making sense of government guidance

Last updated: 16 August

As we move through the pandemic, guidelines are changing, becoming less consistent across the UK, and may even be conflicting with what your clinical team are saying.

This can make it difficult to think through it all and decide what’s best for you.

It’s important to remember that these are guidelines. They are intended to be informative, and to guide you and your clinical team, but not to dictate what should happen in individual situations.

There are guidelines that explain which adults are at high risk. And there are guidelines that explain what those at high risk should do to stay safe, which is covered on this page.

Guidelines can help you understand your risk to some extent. But everyone with blood cancer is different. Your healthcare team can give you the most personalised advice about your individual risk and sensible precautions.

We hope the guidelines we share here are helpful, but always talk to your clinical team for the best advice.

Although the chance of you coming into contact with coronavirus is lower now that less people in the UK are infected, the risk to you if you get coronavirus as someone with blood cancer has not changed. So it’s really important that you continue to take steps to reduce the risk of catching the virus and maintain strict social distancing while outside.

Government guidance in the UK

Last updated: 16 August

As of 16 August, the following are the government guidelines for people at high risk of coronavirus throughout the UK.

We have separate information about which adults are at high risk.

What you choose to do, or not do, to limit your risk of catching coronavirus is a personal choice. We have separate information to help you understand your level of risk and decide what's right for you.

From 1 August, people at high risk of coronavirus living in areas unaffected by a local lockdown are advised to follow the same guidance as the wider population. This means:

  • You do not need to follow previous shielding advice.
  • You can go outside as much as you like, but you should still try to minimise your social interactions.
  • You should work from home wherever possible, but can go to work if your workplace is 'COVID-secure'.
  • You should continue to wash your hands well and often.
  • Keep frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace as clean as possible.
  • You should not visit an area experiencing a local lockdown, where the risk of catching coronavirus is higher.

Seeing other people

  • Two households can form a support bubble, as long as one of the households is a single adult living alone or with children - a support bubble counts as one household.
  • You can socialise indoors with one other household. This could be in the home or in any indoor public place like a restaurant, for example. This can only be with one other household.
  • You can stay overnight with one other household, but no more than that. This can be at home or on holiday.
  • You can socialise outdoors in a group of up to six people from different households - if a gathering is larger than six people, it should only include two households.
  • Avoid sharing a private vehicle with anyone outside your household.
  • Childcare provided by one other household is allowed, but only if the carer and child can maintain social distancing. Childcare provided by someone in your support bubble does not require social distancing.

Going out

  • You can visit supermarkets, shops, pubs etc, but should follow strict social distancing (this means keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible, or 1 metre where this isn’t possible but you can take other precautions like wearing a face covering).
  • Anywhere you go, you should maintain strict social distancing from anyone outside of your household or support bubble.
  • You should wear a face covering on public transport and in indoor public places, unless you are exempt - see the government's face coverings guidance.

Support

  • You will no longer receive free food parcels, medicine deliveries and basic care from the National Shielding Service.

You can still access:

  • prescriptions, essential items and food delivered by NHS Volunteer Responders
  • priority supermarket slots (if you previously registered for these)
  • local volunteer support - search online or ask your local council.

Find out more about practical support if you're at high risk of coronavirus.

More information: Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.

Local lockdowns

Currently, some areas of England are experiencing local lockdowns, with shielding re-instated. If you live in one of these areas, you should follow the latest guidance on your local authority's website.

From 1 August, people at high risk of coronavirus are advised to follow the same guidance as the wider population. This means:

  • You do not need to follow previous shielding advice.
  • You can go outside as much as you like, but you should still try to minimise your social interactions.
  • You should work from home wherever possible, but can go to work if your workplace is adhering to government guidance.
  • You should continue to wash your hands well and often.
  • Keep frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace as clean as possible.
  • You should not visit an area experiencing a local lockdown, where the risk of catching coronavirus is higher.

Seeing other people

  • You can meet indoors with up to 8 people from 2 other households, whilst social distancing (keeping 2 metres apart) - this includes overnight stays.
  • You can meet outdoors with up to 15 people from 4 other households outdoors, whilst social distancing (keeping 2 metres apart).
  • You should not share food or utensils with anyone outside of your household.
  • Children from your household can receive childcare from someone outside of your household - there's more guidance on childcare from Parent Club.
  • Two households can form an extended household, meaning they count as one household. Only adults that live alone, adults that only live with children under 18, and couples who live separately with or without children can form extended households.

Going outside

  • You can take part in non-contact outdoor activities and outdoor spots, where social distancing can be maintained (keeping 2 metres apart).
  • You can go inside shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, museums, libraries and cinemas (sometimes 1-metre distancing is allowed, but this will be clearly marked).
  • You can visit public gardens, and attend places of worship.
  • You can use public transport.
  • You must wear a face covering in shops, on public transport, in train or bus stations, and in airports.
  • You should always keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone outside of your household or extended household.

Support

  • You will no longer receive weekly grocery boxes from the government.

You can still access:

Find out more about practical support if you’re at high risk of coronavirus.

More information: Coronavirus guidance for adults at high risk in Scotland.

From 16 August, people at high risk of coronavirus are advised to follow the same guidance as the wider population. This means:

  • You do not need to follow previous shielding advice.
  • You can go outside as much as you like, but should still try to generally minimise social interactions.
  • You should work from home wherever possible, but can go to work if your workplace is adhering to government guidance.
  • You should continue to wash your hands well and often.
  • Keep frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace as clean as possible.

Seeing other people

  • Two households can form an extended household, meaning they count as one household. Anyone who does this can stay with their extended household overnight.
  • You can meet with people outside of your extended household, but only outdoors. You should follow social distancing (keeping 2 metres apart) when doing this.
  • You can take part in outdoor gatherings and organised activities (including team sports and classes) of up to 30 people, but should follow social distancing.
  • You should not meet anyone who's not part of your household or extended household indoors, unless there is a 'reasonable excuse' for this.

Going out

  • You should maintain social distancing with anyone who's not part of your household or extended household.
  • You can go to shops, but should follow social distancing.
  • You must wear a face covering on public transport - find out how to make a face covering. You should avoid non-essential travel on public transport, wherever possible.

Support

  • You will no longer receive weekly grocery boxes from the government.

You can still access:

Find out more about practical support if you’re at high risk of coronavirus.

More information: Guidance for people extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 who have been shielding.

From 1 August, people at high risk of coronavirus are advised to follow the same guidance as the wider population. This means:

  • You do not need to follow previous shielding advice.
  • You should still stay at home as much as possible.
  • You should limit contact with other people and follow strict social distancing if you do go out (this means keeping 2 metres away from others).
  • You should work from home wherever possible, but can go to work if your workplace is adhering to government guidance.
  • You should continue to wash your hands well and often.
  • Keep frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace as clean as possible.

Seeing other people

  • You can meet indoors with up to 10 people from 4 other households, whilst social distancing (keeping a 2-metre distance).
  • Up to 30 people can meet outdoors, but you should maintain social distancing.
  • Childcare can continue - see the Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice about childcare.

Going out

Support

  • You will no longer receive weekly grocery boxes from the government.

You can still access:

Find out more about practical support if you’re at high risk of coronavirus.

More information: Coronavirus (COVID-19): pausing of shielding for extremely vulnerable people.

Practical things you can do to protect yourself, as guidelines change

Last updated: 16 August

As guidelines change, it can be difficult to understand how to apply them in practice. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of catching coronavirus, in addition to the guidance set out above.

If you go outside, it’s important to follow social distancing measures carefully and maintain good hygiene. This means you should:

  • keep 2 metres away from other people (unless they are in your household, support bubble or extended household)
  • avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes
  • avoid touching surfaces others could touch, like traffic lights or park benches (if this is unavoidable, you should use hand sanitiser/wash your hands as soon as you can).
  • wash your hands thoroughly (for around 20 seconds) as soon as you get back.

You may also want to consider:

  • avoiding places that will be busy
  • avoiding public transport, where possible
  • washing clothes worn outside more regularly (there is some evidence to suggest that coronavirus can stay on fabrics for a few days)
  • wearing a face mask or covering (unless you are exempt).

In some areas of the UK affected by local lockdowns or local restrictions, shielding has been re-instated. If you live in one of these areas, you should stay at home as much as possible, but you do not need to observe social distancing with other members of your household, support bubble or extended household.

To protect yourself at home, you should:

  • keep following the advice to regularly wash your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser
  • continue to avoid touching your face with your hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.

If members of your household are going out to work or school, they should be following the strict advice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus in those settings. When they get home, they should wash their hands thoroughly.

If you're still worried, you may want to consider restricting your household's movements outside the home, living separately, or taking more precautions in the home - for example:

  • minimising time spent in shared spaces, and keeping shared spaces well ventilated
  • keeping 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other
  • using separate bathrooms (or cleaning after each use) and using separate towels
  • sleeping separately
  • not using the kitchen together or eating together
  • using separate cutlery, dishcloths and tea towels
  • making sure that your household takes hygiene precautions when leaving and entering the home to keep you protected.

Your treating team are the best people to advise on the specific precautions you could take.

In each of the four UK nations, you can now physically meet up with people outside of your household, support bubble or extended household. Each country has slightly different guidelines about how many people you can meet at any one time, and where you can meet them.

The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with coronavirus, and the longer you spend in close contact with them. So it’s important to take extra precautions when meeting anyone outside your household, support bubble or extended household:

  • keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other
  • if meeting inside, keep the area well ventilated
  • don’t share food or utensils
  • avoid being face-to-face (you can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-by-side)
  • avoid shouting or singing near each other (there is some evidence to suggest that these activities can increase the risk of coronavirus spreading between people).

Face masks and coverings can help reduce the risk of passing on coronavirus if someone has it but isn’t showing any symptoms. So it's good for everyone to wear face coverings in public spaces to stop the virus spreading. Face masks may also protect the wearer to some extent, but not completely - other measures like social distancing are also needed.

If you need to go to a medical appointment, or anywhere you may not be able to stay two metres away from other people, you should wear a face mask or covering. Make sure you wash your hands before and after you put it on, and avoid touching the mask while you’re wearing it. The government has guidance on how to make and wear your own face covering.

There are different rules about when you must wear face coverings across the UK. For the latest guidance, visit the relevant government page on face coverings in:

Current advice from the World Health Organisation and the British Veterinary Association is that there’s no evidence that pets can be a source of infection or become sick from coronavirus.

However, there is some evidence that coronavirus can survive on surfaces. This could include your pet’s fur, so it’s important to wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals. Avoid letting your pet touch your face, and avoid touching your own face with your hands.

PDSA have more information about pets and coronavirus.

If you live in an area where shielding has been re-instated, and you have vulnerable relatives outside of your support bubble or extended household, there are other people and services that can help. You can also help by being in regular contact.

  • Call your relative regularly to check in with them.
  • If your relative has a garden or nearby outdoor space, you could arrange to meet them outside, staying 2 metres apart.
  • Ask your relative's neighbours if they could help by bringing them supplies.
  • Ask other family members or friends who are not vulnerable themselves to drop off supplies.
  • Book online deliveries for your relative.
  • If you are worried about your relative getting supplies for home and don't have anyone nearby that can help, read our page on getting food and medication.
  • Contact their pharmacy if they need a volunteer to deliver their medication.
  • Contact their local council and tell them the situation.
  • Contact Age UK.
  • There are charities and groups in local communities working to support those who are vulnerable - look into anything happening in your relative's local area.

Tell us about your experience

You can help improve support for people with blood cancer by completing our impact of coronavirus survey. The results will help us understand the impact on people with blood cancer and help us support clinicians and the NHS.

Keep updated about coronavirus and blood cancer

Join our mailing list for key updates about coronavirus for people with blood cancer, what we're doing to help, and ways you can help, including campaigns you may be interested in.

Support for you

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0808 2080 888 from Monday to Friday, 10am to 7pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 1pm.

We are currently receiving a very high volume of calls related to coronavirus, so if you're not able to get through straight away, please leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

You can also email us if you prefer to get in contact that way. We'll usually get back to you within two working days, but due to the current rate of calls and emails we are currently receiving it may take us longer.

Talk to other people with blood cancer on our Online Community Forum – there is a group for coronavirus questions and support.

You can also find out what's helping other people affected by blood cancer through coronavirus and beyond in our pages on living well with or after blood cancer.

The following companies have provided funding for our coronavirus support, but have had no further input: AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Gilead, Incyte, Kyowa Kirin, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda.

We're here for you if you want to talk

0808 2080 888

[email protected]