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Staying safe and government guidance

We're here for you if you want to talk

0808 2080 888

[email protected]

Coronavirus guidance for adults at high risk

This page is about the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable adults in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and practical ways to protect yourself.

Page updated 2 March 2021

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 10 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 10 days.

If someone you live with or someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tests positive, you should self-isolate for 10 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 10 days.

If someone vulnerable lives with you, they should stay somewhere else if possible for 10 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 wherever possible. You should also take other steps to limit the risk of infection, such as wearing a face mask. 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. It can mean things like avoiding shops, pharmacies, school and work.

Depending on the local risk level, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable may be advised to take extra precautions or to shield. Below you'll find guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How to get a vaccine if you have blood cancer

We have information on the coronavirus vaccine and blood cancer, and how to make sure you are on the shielding list to be invited for a vaccine, on our covid vaccine and blood cancer pages.

Should I be going to work?

Last reviewed: 2 March 2021

Everyone clinically extremely vulnerable should still be supported to work from home wherever possible, even if this involves changing your role. You can also ask to be furloughed based on your vulnerability. See our Money and work page for help talking to your employer about these options, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.

If you can't work from home or be furloughed, the advice about whether to attend work varies around the UK, but most clinically extremely vulnerable people are currently advised not to go out to work.

  • In England, clinically extremely vulnerable people are being advised not to go out to work.
  • In Scotland, most of the country is now in lockdown, except for some islands that remain at Level 3. In lockdown, clinically extremely vulnerable people are being advised not to go out to work. You will be sent a 'fit note' by the Chief Medical Officer to show your employer.
  • In Wales, the whole country is in Alert level 4, and this means clinically extremely vulnerable people are being advised not to go out to work.
  • In Northern Ireland, the whole country is under national restrictions, and clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised not to go out to work.

Nobody with blood cancer should be going to work if their workplace isn't COVID-safe, wherever they live.

Any government letter you receive about shielding and not going to work can act as proof to your employer, and help you access your company's sick pay policy, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), or other benefits. Use your previous shielding letter or email as proof, along with a link to your countries shielding guidance (see below), until the new letters arrive.

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 or other financial support.

See our page on money and work for more detail about your rights, your options, talking to your employer, and asking for a workplace assessment.

What are the rules and shielding guidance in your area?

Further down are links to the latest advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Coping with the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people

Last reviewed: 2 March 2021

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, it does suggest that people make their own decisions about how to protect themselves. This may feel like a burden, and it can be tricky to decide what you should do.

We also 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.

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 - open windows and allow air to flow through.
  • 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 know how much this can reduce the risk, but it may help.

Coping with your emotions

Read our information on coping with your emotions about coronavirus for stories from other people with blood cancer and suggestions for ways of coping with difficult feelings and feeling vulnerable.

If you or your family are still going out to work

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 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.

If your child is back at school

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.

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. We also have section on our website for family and friends.

Some children are struggling with worry themselves about putting their parent at risk. This is a difficult situation for both children and parents. Sometimes, your treatment team might have access to psychological support for your children or teenagers, or an option to get support as family – it's worth asking.

Below are some resources that may be helpful in supporting your child's mental health:

Government guidance

Last updated: 2 March 2021

Below you'll find links to the latest guidance in each of the four countries of the UK for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

You may also find it helpful to read our information on:

England

Scotland

  • In Scotland, most of the country is in lockdown (Level 4), except for some islands that remain at Level 3. In Level 4 areas, clinically extremely vulnerable people are being advised not to go out to work. You will be sent a 'fit note' by the Chief Medical Officer to show your employer. National restrictions are likely to start being relaxed towards the end of April.
  • Money and work - Our page about financial support, help talking to your employer, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.
  • Stay at home guidance in most of Scotland from 5 January 2021 - explains what you can and cannot do, and which venues are closed.
  • COVID protection Levels - which areas of Scotland are in which protection Level (0 to 4) and what you can and cannot do in each protection Level. Some parts of Scotland are still in Level 3. There's specific advice for vulnerable people in each Level.
  • Shielding advice and support - specific advice for people who were previously advised to shield.
  • Scotland's roadmap out of lockdown - First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlines a phased approach to easing lockdown in Scotland.
  • General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for Scotland including staying safe, testing and self-isolating, work, financial support, businesses, travel and school.
  • A list of all guidance - links to all published guidance, including staying safe, testing, businesses, employers, education, children, healthcare, religion, housing, hospitality and more.

Wales

  • In Wales, the whole country is in Alert level 4, and this means clinically extremely vulnerable people are being advised not go to work, shops or pharmacies, but you can go outside for exercise. National restrictions are being reviewed ever 3 weeks.
  • Money and work - Our page about financial support, help talking to your employer, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.
  • Alert level 4 - explains what you need to do at Alert level 4. Currently all of Wales is in Alert level 4.
  • Alert level 4: frequently asked questions - more detail on how to keep safe and the rules in place in Alert level 4.
  • COVID-19 Alert levels - explains the national guidance in different Alert levels. Currently all of Wales is in Alert level 4.
  • 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.

Northern Ireland

  • In Northern Ireland, the whole country is under national restrictions, and clinically extremely vulnerable people are being advised not to go out to work, shops or pharmacies, but you can go outside for exercise. This advice will be in place until 1 April, and will be reviewed by 18 March in line with the review of restrictions more generally.
  • Money and work - Our page about financial support, help talking to your employer, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.
  • Coronavirus regulations and restrictions - explains the national restrictions in place in Northern Ireland now.
  • 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.

What if I can't follow all of the shielding guidance?

It might not be possible to remove every single risk from your life. There may be some risks you choose to remove, and others that you don't or can't remove. Everyone's personal situation is different, and you need to do what's best for you overall. Think about your own personal feelings about different risks. 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.

Emotional support

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 may 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.

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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.
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Should I be taking vitamin D?

Talk to your healthcare team about whether it’s safe for you to take vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and is important for bone and muscle health. As we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight, we’re generally advised to take supplements throughout the winter.

But some health conditions, including some types of cancer, can lead to high levels of calcium. So vitamin D supplements may not be suitable for everyone with blood cancer.

The government is now offering clinically extremely vulnerable people 4 months’ supply of vitamin D for free. But if you have a cancer diagnosis, they advise checking with your healthcare team before you apply.

There’s been some publicity about vitamin D offering protection from coronavirus, but to date there’s no clear evidence to back up this claim.

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.

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Make a donation

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]