Staying safe and government guidance
Coronavirus guidance for adults at high risk
This page links to government guidance in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for adults at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus, and explains what you can do to protect yourself.
What are self-isolation, social distancing and shielding?
Self-isolation means staying away from other people because there's a chance you could have coronavirus.
You should self-isolate if you, someone you live with, or someone in your support bubble, has had symptoms of coronavirus or has tested positive for coronavirus. You should also self-isolate if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace because you've been in close contact with someone who's tested positive for coronavirus.
While you’re self-isolating, you should not leave your home at all, not even for exercise, and you should not have any visitors – except for people providing essential care.
If you have symptoms, you should self-isolate for at least 10 days, and anyone you live with or in your support bubble should self-isolate for 14 days. You should also get a test.
If you have tested positive, you should self-isolate for at least 10 days, and anyone you live with or in your support bubble should self-isolate for 14 days.
If someone you live with or someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tests positive, you should self-isolate for 14 days.
If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace because you've been in contact with someone who's tested positive, you should self-isolate 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 can 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 (such as wearing a face mask). If you are on the shielding patient list (the list of people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus), are over 70, or are pregnant, you should follow the advice as strictly as you can. The government provides 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. At the start of the pandemic everyone who was considered clinically extremely vulnerable (such as people with blood cancer) was advised to shield.
Shielding is now paused in the UK, but depending on the local risk level, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable may be advised to take extra precautions. Below there are links to guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Should I be shielding?
Across the UK, formal 'shielding' (telling all clinically extremely vulnerable people to stay at home completely) has been paused. However, in England, clinically extremely vulnerable people are being told not to go out to work during the lockdown due to end on 2 December. In the rest of the UK, the advice remains to be as careful as possible and stay at home as much as possible. Below there are links to guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Should I be going to work?
Last updated: 9 November 2020
Across England, from 5 November, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to go out to work if they can't work from home. You can ask to be furloughed by your employer due to your vulnerability, or you may be eligible for your company's sick pay policy, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), or other benefits.
In Scotland, from 2 November, if you are clinically extremely vulnerable and live or work in a Level 4 area, you should not go out to work if you can't work from home. You can ask to be furloughed by your employer due to your vulnerability. You should also get a fit note to allow you to stay off work and access your company's sick pay policy, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), or other benefits.
In the rest of Scotland, and in Wales and Northern Ireland, you should still work from home if you can. If you can't, you can ask to be furloughed by your employer due to your vulnerability. If this isn't possible, and your workplace is open and COVID-safe, you can still go out to work if you are clinically extremely vulnerable. If you are worried about your health or safety at work, there are other options available such as requesting adjustments to your role or accessing sick pay.
The furlough scheme (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) has been extended until March across the UK. You could ask your employer about being furloughed. In this extension, people who have not been furloughed before can be furloughed for the first time, and employers who haven't used the scheme before can use it for the first time.
See our page on Money and work for more detail about your options.
Getting a letter from the government advising you not to go to work (in England) is important. It gives your employer proof that you should not be at work. Use this letter from Blood Cancer UK if you need help asking your GP for a letter:
What if I can't follow all of the shielding guidance?
Last updated: 9 November 2020
The latest guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable aims to help you reduce your risk of catching coronavirus as much as possible.
However, we understand there may be parts of the guidance which are difficult to follow. Keeping your distance from those you live with may not always be practical, particularly if you are providing care to someone or have young children. Staying at home as much as possible may be difficult if you have other commitments in your life, or if you have to go to work.
You might also be worried if those you live with are still going out to work or school and having contact with other people. Your family may be worried about catching coronavirus and bringing it home.
This is a really difficult situation to be in, and all these worries are hard to cope with. But even if you can't follow every single part of the guidance, there will be lots you can control.
Remember the main ways to avoid catching coronavirus
- Avoid close contact with other people
- Keep your hands clean
- Don't touch your face with your hands
These are still the main ways to avoid catching coronavirus.
If those you live with also do these things when they are out, they will reduce their risk of catching coronavirus.
Identify the things that are causing you worry, and see whether there is anything you can do to change this
If you are worried about your family going out to work, can they speak to their employer about adjusting their role to reduce contact with other people? See our information on Money and work for more ideas.
If you are worried about children going to school, speak to the school about your situation. They can explain what measures are in place to reduce risk. They may even be able to continue supporting home learning for your child. You could also read our page on what we know about coronavirus in schools.
If you are worried about going to work yourself, read our Money and work page to understand your rights and get tips on talking to your employer – there's also a fact sheet you can share with your employer.
Remember, it's difficult to be completely risk-free – think about your own personal feelings about different risks
Unfortunately, it's probably not possible to remove every single risk from your life. So there may be some risks you choose to remove, and others that you don't or can't remove.
Sometimes, just thinking differently about things and changing what you focus on can help. For example, thinking about the benefits of your children attending school as well as the risks may help.
Everyone's personal situation is different, and you need to do what's best for you overall. What you choose to do will depend on:
- your understanding of your level of risk
- your healthcare team's advice
- the mental and practical impact of the measures you're considering
- your personal feelings about which risks you are willing to take.
You can contact our Support Services Team to talk about any of this, and get help thinking through your risks and decisions.
Living with other people
Practical things that can reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus at home include:
- Avoiding close contact with other members of your household where possible, even if it's not possible all the time.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home, such as door handles.
- Keeping shared spaces well ventilated
- Using separate towels
- Using separate cutlery, dishcloths and tea towels
You might also want to ask your family to get washed and changed when they get home from being out. We don't have strong evidence about how much this can reduce the risk further, but it may help.
Support for your family
Your family may be very worried about you as well. They might be feeling guilty or anxious if they have to go to school or work. Tell them to contact our Support Services Team. We can talk to them about how they are feeling and coping with this.
Coping mentally with all this worry is challenging. Even if you can't take all the risks and worry away, just talking to someone who understands can help.
Contact our Support Services Team on 0808 2080 888 (Mon-Fri, 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun, 10am-1pm). Whatever you want to talk about, we are here.
You can talk to other people with blood cancer in our online community forum. They probably have similar worries and could give you tips from experience.
It might also help to see our information and resources on coping with your emotions about coronavirus.
Last updated: 9 November 2020
Below you'll find links to the latest guidance in each of the four countries of the UK, both for the general population, and for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. You may also find it helpful to read our information on practical support and coping with your emotions.
- COVID alert levels (tiers) guidance - explains what you can and cannot do in each COVID alert level (tier) - there's also a postcode checker to see which alert level you are in.
- New guidance from 5 November 2020 - explains the guidance from 5 November when all of England went into national restrictions, including a section on 'Protecting people more at risk from coronavirus' - this guidance has replaced the COVID alert levels from 5 November.
- Shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable - specific advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people - updated on 5 November 2020
- General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for England including social distancing, self-isolating, work, financial support, businesses, schools and travel.
- Scotland's strategic framework - the table on page 43 explains shielding advice in each of the COVID protection levels.
- COVID protection levels - explains what you can and cannot do in each COVID protection level (0 to 4) - there's specific advice for vulnerable people in each level, and there's also a postcode checker to see which level you are in.
- Shielding advice and support - specific advice for people who were previously advised to shield.
- General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for Scotland including staying safe, testing and self-isolating, work, financial support, businesses, travel and school.
- Coronavirus regulations: frequently asked questions - explains what happens when the firebreak rules end on Monday 9 November.
- Guidance for people extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 who have been shielding - specific advice for people who were previously advised to shield.
- General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for Wales including protecting yourself and others, testing and tracing, work, financial support, businesses, volunteering, education and travel.
- Coronavirus regulations and restrictions - explains the national restrictions in Northern Ireland from 16 October for 4 weeks (until 12 November) - medically vulnerable people are advised to be extra cautious.
- Guidance for ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerable’ people - specific advice for people who were previously advised to shield.
- General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for Northern Ireland including testing and tracing, financial support, face coverings, travel, work, businesses and schools.
Using our blood cancer experience to help us through shielding
We asked people affected by blood cancer how they're coping during the coronavirus pandemic.
More practical tips to protect yourself
Last updated: 9 November 2020
Here are some more things you can do to reduce your risk of catching coronavirus, in addition to the guidance above.
If you go outside, try to go to places where there is more space and you won't be near other people.
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 or 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. In some situations, wearing a face mask is mandatory, unless you're exempt. See "Wearing a face mask or covering" below.
If you are trying to distance from people within your own household, here are some tips:
- 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 healthcare team are the best people to advise on the specific precautions you could take.
The restrictions on meeting up with people outside your household, support bubble or extended household are different in different areas. Check the links to your government's guidelines above
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 if you are allowed to meet people outside your household, support bubble or extended household, it’s important to take extra precautions:
- keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other
- if guidelines allow you to meet 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).
If you need to go to a medical appointment, into a shop, 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.
Wearing a mask is a good extra precaution, but won't necessarily stop you catching coronavirus. It's best to combine it with other safety measures such as keeping your distance and talking or walking side-by-side (rather than face-to-face) when you're with other people.
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 regulations, 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 you can catch coronavirus from a pet.
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're clinically extremely vulnerable and have vulnerable relatives living 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, as long as this is allowed in your current local guidelines.
- 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 and don't have anyone nearby that can help, read our page on practical support.
- 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.
Leukaemia and isolation - what I've learned from experience
Read Jamie's story about coping with isolation during lockdown.
Tell us about your experience
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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.