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Shielding and support for you

We're here for you if you want to talk

0808 2080 888

[email protected]

How to shield

This page explains how to shield if you are at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus.

What is self-isolation, social distancing and shielding?

Last updated: 6 July 2020

Everyone in the UK is being told to limit their social interaction. But people with blood cancer are advised to be particularly stringent about this – this is known as ‘shielding’.

Self-isolation means staying away from other people because you have symptoms of coronavirus. You should not go out at all, except for exercise once a day as long as you are 2 metres away from anyone else. You should follow this advice for 7 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 if someone has coronavirus symptoms.

Social distancing means avoiding interaction with other people as much as possible, 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, 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 minimising interaction between you and others. There is slightly different advice in the different countries of the UK about what this means. This web page explains how to shield and protect yourself, wherever you live. If you’re not sure whether you should shield, read our information about who is at high risk.

Pausing shielding in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1 August 2020

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, governments have announced that if infection rates remain low, shielding for adults and children could be 'paused' from 1 August.

We are aware these announcements may worry people shielding across the UK.

It's important to remember:

For more information about the pause to shielding, your work rights and financial support after 1 August, see our page about what happens after shielding is paused.

Making sense of shielding advice

Last updated: 22 June

For many people, recent changes to shielding advice will be welcome, but for many they have also caused confusion and worry.

When guidelines differ around the country, or are communicated without enough explanation, it's hard to make sense of what's best for you.

It's important to remember that shielding guidelines are advice, they are not enforced. It is up to you how strictly you shield.

Guidelines give advice to huge numbers of people, who are all individual in their condition and health. So while this can give you some idea about your level of risk, shielding, and how you shield, is a personal choice. Ultimately, it is about keeping yourself safe and making your own decisions about how you'll do this. We advise you speak to your healthcare team to get the most personalised guidance on this.

The reason for the relaxation in shielding advice is that there are fewer people with coronavirus now than when shielding was introduced, and so there is less chance of catching coronavirus. We also know that the risk of catching coronavirus when outside is low as long as social distancing and good hygiene is followed.

We agree that being able to go outside will improve mental well-being for many people, as long as it is done safely. But people shielding are still at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they do get coronavirus, so they should maintain strict social distancing whilst outside.

How to shield

Last updated: 6 July

As of 6 July, the following are the government guidelines for shielding in each country.

Whether you follow these guidelines (or how closely you follow them) is a personal choice. We have separate information to help you understand your level of risk and decide what's right for you.

From 6 July until 31 July, people shielding in all parts of England except Leicester and certain surrounding areas are advised:

  • You no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of your household.
  • You can spend time outdoors in a group of up to 6 people from different households, whilst maintaining strict social distancing.
  • If you live alone or are a single parent with children under 18, you can create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household of any size – this means you can go inside each other’s homes, stay over, and you do not need to keep 2 metres apart. You can only do this with one other household, and they must not ‘bubble’ with any other households.
  • If you don’t live alone, you can create a ‘support bubble’ but only with someone else who does live alone – this means you can go inside each other’s homes, stay over, and you do not need to keep 2 metres apart. You can only do this with one other person, and they must not ‘bubble’ with any other households.
  • You must follow social distancing advice strictly whilst outside - for example, keeping a 2 metre distance from other people.
  • You should not go to work, shops or pharmacies.
  • You should not go to other people's homes, or have visitors.
  • You should go to any medical appointments your healthcare team ask you to.

If you live in Leicester or certain surrounding areas, you should follow the stricter guidance below, until the localised lockdown ends:

  • If you live with other people, you can go outside with them, once a day.
  • If you live alone, you can meet one person from another household outside, once day (ideally you should keep meeting the same person, not different people on different days).
  • You must follow social distancing advice strictly whilst outside - for example, keeping a 2 metre distance from other people.
  • You should not go to work, shops or pharmacies.
  • You should not go to other people's homes, or have visitors.
  • Avoid close contact with other people inside the home.
  • You should go to any medical appointments your healthcare team ask you to.

From 1 August:

From 1 August, the government has announced that it will pause shielding advice in England. Instead, you’ll be advised to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population, and to follow social distancing measures as strictly as possible.

At this stage, government support such as food parcels and Statutory Sick Pay for those shielding will also end.

It’s important to know that you’ll still be able to access practical support in the following ways:

We’re currently seeking clarity from the government on what other forms of support will be available from 1 August.

More information: Shielding in England.

Until 31 July, people shielding are advised:

  • You should stay at home as much as you can.
  • You should avoid close contact with other people inside the home.
  • You can go outside for unlimited exercise.
  • You can take part in non-contact outdoor activities such as golf, hiking, outdoor swimming.
  • You can meet outdoors with people from 1 other household, in a group of no more than 8 in total, once a day.
  • You should not enter indoor areas or meet other people inside.
  • You should avoid busy places and follow strict social distancing outside (staying 2 metres away from others).
  • You should always keep your hands clean and wash them thoroughly when you return from being outside.
  • You should not go to work, shops or pharmacies.
  • You should not go to other people's homes, or have visitors.
  • You should go to any medical appointments your healthcare team ask you to.

From 1 August:

From 1 August, shielding advice in Scotland will be paused, if infection rates remain low. Instead, you’ll be advised to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population, and to follow social distancing measures as strictly as possible.

At this stage, government support such as food parcels and Statutory Sick Pay for those shielding will also end.

It’s important to know that you’ll still be able to access practical support in the following ways:

We’re currently seeking clarity from the government on what other forms of support will be available from 1 August.

More information: Shielding in Scotland.

Until 16 August, people shielding are advised:

  • You can go outside for unlimited exercise.
  • You can meet people from another household, but only outside.
  • You must maintain good hygiene (frequent hand cleaning) and social distancing (keeping 2 metres away from other people).
  • You should not go to work, shops or pharmacies.
  • You should not go to other people's homes, or have visitors.
  • You should avoid close contact with other people inside the home.
  • You should go to any medical appointments your healthcare team ask you to.

A letter is being sent to everyone in Wales who is shielding to tell them this new advice, and that they should follow it until 16 August. There will be another letter later, advising what to do after 16 August.

More information: Shielding in Wales.

From 6 July until 31 July, people shielding are advised:

  • You no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of your household.
  • You can spend time outdoors in a group of up to 6 people from different households, whilst maintaining strict social distancing.
  • If you live alone or are a single parent with children under 18, you can create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household of any size – this means you can go inside each other’s homes, stay over, and you do not need to keep 2 metres apart. You can only do this with one other household, and they must not ‘bubble’ with any other households.
  • If you don’t live alone, you can create a ‘support bubble’ but only with someone else who does live alone – this means you can go inside each other’s homes, stay over, and you do not need to keep 2 metres apart. You can only do this with one other person, and they must not ‘bubble’ with any other households.
  • You must follow social distancing advice strictly whilst outside – for example, keeping a 2 metre distance from other people.
  • You should not go to work, shops or pharmacies.
  • You should not go to other people's homes, or have visitors.
  • You should go to any medical appointments your healthcare team ask you to.

From 1 August:

From 1 August, the government has announced that shielding advice will be paused in Northern Ireland.

Instead, you’ll be advised to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population, and to follow social distancing measures as strictly as possible.

At this stage, government support such as food parcels and Sick Pay for those shielding will also end.

It’s important to know that you’ll still be able to access practical support in the following ways:

We’re currently seeking clarity from the government on what other forms of support will be available from 1 August.

More information: Shielding in Northern Ireland.

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

Last updated: 6 July

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.

Throughout the UK, shielding guidance is changing and you can now go outside.

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 support bubble)
  • 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:

  • going out when it’s quieter (for example, first thing in the morning or in the evening)
  • avoiding places that you know will be busy
  • wearing gloves
  • wearing a face mask.

If you live with other people, including children, below are some precautions you could take.

Work and school

  • children should only go to school where stringent social distancing can be followed - if it can't, children should continue learning at home
  • people you live with should be supported by their employer to work from home, to shield you
  • people you live with who can't work from home may be eligible for the furlough scheme due to you shielding - they should ask their employer about this
  • people you live with who can't work from home or get furlough should only go to work if stringent social distancing can be followed.

In the home

If you live in Scotland or Wales, you’re advised to observe social distancing with other members of your household. Where possible, this means you should:

  • minimise time spent in shared spaces, and keep shared spaces well ventilated
  • keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other
  • use separate bathrooms (or clean after each use) and use separate towels
  • sleep separately
  • don't use the kitchen together or eat together
  • use separate cutlery, dishcloths and tea towels
  • clean door handles and kitchen and bathroom surfaces regularly
  • people you live with should take hygiene precautions when leaving and entering the home to keep you protected.

In England and Northern Ireland, from 6 July you no longer need observe social distancing in the home. However, it’s a good idea to:

  • 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 you live with someone who has to go to work, they should be following the strict advice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus during their work. When they get home, they should wash their hands thoroughly. Inside the home, you should consider the precautions above for 'If you live with other people'. If these measures aren't possible or you are still worried, you may want to consider living separately. 

Visits from people who provide essential support such as healthcare, daily needs or social care should continue, but not if they have any symptoms.

People should only visit your home if absolutely necessary. They should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds on arrival, and regularly whilst they are there. They should also keep 2 metres away from you.

Children who are at high risk from coronavirus and are shielding should not attend school. We have more information about coronavirus and children with cancer.

Face masks and coverings can help reduce the risk of passing on coronavirus if someone has it but isn’t showing any symptoms. So although wearing a mask doesn’t stop you getting coronavirus, it's good for everyone to wear face coverings in public spaces to stop the virus spreading.

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.

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 there are people you would normally visit or help during this time, there are other people and services that could help, and you can still 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 (unless you’re in a bubble with them).
  • 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.

Practical support for people shielding

Although shielding guidance is changing, you can still access practical support.

Coping with shielding and the easing of lockdown

Shielding has been difficult for lots of people, and many people will welcome the changes to government guidance across the UK.

But we also know that these changes can be worrying and create anxiety for people who are shielding.

If you’re worried about what happens next, we have tips and tools to help you cope with the emotional impact of shielding and the easing of lockdown.

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.