£
Donate

We're here for you if you want to talk

0808 2080 888

[email protected]

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.

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 and is waiting for a covid test, 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 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 get a vaccine.

What happens now shielding is paused and lockdown is easing?

Last reviewed: 17 May 2021

Shielding has now been paused across the UK because the rates of coronavirus in the community have reduced.

Even though shielding is pausing, it's still important to make sure you are on the 'shielding list'. This is because the shielding list may be used for future covid vaccine booster doses, or if shielding is ever brought back due to high covid rates in the future.

Now that shielding is paused, if you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you will be still be advised to take extra precautions to avoid coronavirus, but you will no longer be advised to stay off work if you can't work from home or be on furlough.

Whether shielding is in place or not, what you to do protect yourself is still up to you. You will still be advised to follow social distancing guidance as strictly as you can. Depending on your personal level of risk and feelings, you may still choose take extra precautions beyond the current government restrictions.

If there are cases of a variant of concern in your local area (such as the Delta variant which originated in India), you may want to be extra strict about what you do until the situation changes or more information is available.

You might find it helpful to read our page about coping with risk and uncertainty as lockdown eases.

Should I be going to work?

Last reviewed: 17 May 2021

From 1st April in England and Wales, from 12th April in Northern Ireland, and from 26th April in Scotland:

  • Shielding will be paused, because covid rates in the community are now lower than they were.
  • Anyone who can work from home should still continue to work from home.
  • You can also continue to use the furlough scheme until 30 September 2021 if you are clinically extremely vulnerable.
  • If you can't work from home or go on furlough, you are no longer advised to stay off work.
  • You should only attend work if your workplace is COVID-safe however.
  • You will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) solely on the basis of being advised to shield.
  • You do still have rights as someone with cancer however. Your employer has a duty to treat you fairly. You may be able to request adjustments to your role, or have time off, to protect your health. If you're worried about your health or safety when returning to work, read our Money and work page.

Nobody with blood cancer should be going to work if their workplace isn't COVID-safe, regardless of whether shielding has been paused or not.

If you are worried about your health or safety at work, there are other options available such as requesting adjustments to your role, having time off, or accessing sick pay or other financial support. See our page on money and work for more detail about your rights and options, during and after shielding.

Practical ways to protect yourself

Last reviewed: 29 March 2021

Here are the things you can do to reduce your risk of catching coronavirus.

Remember the main ways to avoid catching coronavirus are still:

  • Avoid close contact with other people
  • Keep your hands clean
  • Don't touch your face with your hands
  • Good ventilation

Continuing to do these things will reduce your risk. If those you live with also do these things when they are out, they will reduce their risk of catching coronavirus.

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, such as door handles
  • keeping shared spaces well ventilated - open windows or doors to allow air to flow through.

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 taking more precautions in the home, for example:

  • keeping 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other
  • reducing the amount of close contact with other members of your household, even if it's not possible all the time
  • using separate bathrooms (or cleaning after each use)
  • using separate towels
  • 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
  • sleeping separately
  • asking people 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.

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

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 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 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
  • avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes
  • avoid touching surfaces others could touch, like traffic lights or park benches (if this is unavoidable, use medical gloves, or use hand sanitiser straight after)
  • 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
  • wearing a face mask or covering
  • changing your clothes when you get home (there is some evidence to suggest that coronavirus can stay on fabrics)
  • washing clothes worn outside more regularly.

If you are allowed to meet people outside your household, it’s important to take extra precautions:

  • always keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other - the risk of infection increases the closer you are to someone
  • shorter meet-ups are safer than longer ones - the risk of infection increases the longer you spend with someone
  • keep the number of different people you see lower - the fewer people you mix with the lower your risk
  • outside is safer than inside - even if guidance allows mixing indoors, you might want to continue only seeing people outdoors
  • wear masks - wearing face masks indoors and outdoors can reduce the risk of someone passing on coronavirus if they don’t know they have it
  • sitting or standing side-by-side is safer than face-to-face
  • don’t share food, cutlery, tea towels, bath/hand towels, or other things that touch your face
  • avoid shouting or singing near each other - there is some evidence to suggest that these activities can increase the risk of the virus spreading
  • although it might feel strange, you might want to think about prioritising who you choose to spend time with in person - this might be based on who is most important in your life, where people live, how much they themselves are mixing with others, or whether they've had their vaccine yet
  • if you do decide to meet inside, keep the area well ventilated by opening windows or doors, keep visits shorter, and don’t stay overnight.

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.

Coping with the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people

Last reviewed: 17 May 2021

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

After spending so long shielding, the pausing of shielding may feel like a relief, or it may make you feel more anxious, especially as we don't fully understand how well the covid vaccine works in people with blood cancer.

Moving from strict shielding advice, to being asked to decide for yourself what measures you will and won't take, may feel stressful. You might also find it difficult if there are risks you can't completely remove, for example if you are going back to work. If friends and family, or people around you, start changing their behaviour, this can also cause anxiety. It’s important to know that there’s no ‘normal’ way to feel in response to all of this change. Whatever you are feeling is valid and these emotions are natural.

It's important to remember that while the risk of you catching coronavirus has significantly decreased, as there are fewer people in the community who have it, the risk to you if you get coronavirus as someone with blood cancer hasn't changed. People with blood cancer are still at a higher risk of getting seriously ill if they do catch coronavirus, so you should still remain cautious.

As lockdown eases, you may be faced with making decisions about what you will and won't do. This will depend on your personal feelings about different risks and the disadvantages of shielding. Remember, not all risks are equal. There may be some things you want to start doing again, and other things you don't. Read our page about coping with risk and making decisions as lockdown eases.

Thinking about risk and making decisions

As covid rates in the community continue to decrease, so does your risk of coming into contact with the virus. However, there is still a risk you could catch coronavirus, and the risk of getting seriously ill with covid if you do catch it as someone with blood cancer hasn't changed. This is why it's so important to continue being cautious.

What many of us are now having to do is think about the risk coronavirus poses to us as individuals, whilst also thinking about our mental health and other parts of our life, to try to make decisions about what we will and won't do. It is down to you as an individual to decide the right balance for you, between protecting yourself from the virus and maintaining your quality of life. This balance is likely to shift over time as well.

What you do to protect yourself and your loved ones is a personal choice. Some people will want to carry on limiting their contact with other people, while others will want to start making changes to how they've been living. Everyone's personal situation is different, and you need to do what's best for you overall. Some people will feel comfortable starting to see a few more people outdoors, some may decide to only see one extra person for now, and others might feel better continuing to shield for a bit longer.

Make sure you feel comfortable with your own decisions, and that you don’t feel pressured into doing anything you’re uncomfortable with.

Whatever you choose to do, read the section above on 'Practical ways to protect yourself' to make sure you stay as safe as possible.

Things that might help you make decisions:

  • Understand the level of risk - understanding your own personal risk might help you feel more in control. Everyone's level of risk is unique to them and depends on many things. Not everyone with blood cancer has the same level of risk of getting seriously ill if they get coronavirus.
  • Ask your healthcare team any questions you have - if you can't talk to them straight away, can you or a relative email them your questions? They can give you advice that's tailored to your personal situation.
  • Think about your personal feelings about different risks - different activities have different risks, and have different levels of importance in your life. You may be able to find some things that are lower risk or very important to you, that you'll choose to do, whereas other things may feel less important or too risky. Read our page about comparing different risks and making decisions as lockdown eases.
  • Talking to someone can help you work things out - talk to other people with blood cancer in our online forum, or talk to us.
  • Look after your mental health - whatever you choose to do, there are also things you can do to look after your mental health and feel more in control.
  • If you're worried about returning to work, read our Money and work page.

If you do decide to start going outside more or seeing more people, see the above section on 'Practical ways to protect yourself'.

You can also contact our Support Services Team to talk about any of this, and get help thinking through your risks and decisions.

Jade with her dog.jpg

Coping with uncertainty and vulnerability

First blood cancer, then coronavirus... Jade talk about how she's learnt to cope with the challenges of both.

Jade's story

Ongoing worries about coronavirus

If you want to continue shielding, or taking very strict precautions, this is your personal choice. There are practical tips above about precautions you can take. Make sure you look after your mental health too.

Some elements of shielding may remain difficult to do. 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 remove every single risk from your life, there will be lots you can control. See the section above on 'Practical ways to protect yourself' for guidance about the best ways to avoid coronavirus and living with other people.

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 or [email protected]. Whatever you want to talk about, we are here.

You can also 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.

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:

Paul Carless outside.jpg

My mental health and coping strategies for shielding

Paul shares how the pandemic is affecting his mental health and how he's managing without his usual coping mechanisms.

Paul's story

Government guidance

Last reviewed: 17 May 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

  • Shielding has been paused. You should still take precautions to avoid coming into contact with the virus, but you'll no longer be advised to stay off work if you can't work from home.
  • Shielding guidance in England - specific advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people.
  • Money and work - our page about financial support, help talking to your employer, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.
  • Coronavirus restrictions in England - explains what you can and cannot do under the current national restrictions.
  • England's roadmap out of lockdown - a summary of the four-step roadmap out of lockdown in England.
  • General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for England including social distancing, self-isolating, work, financial support, businesses, schools and travel.

Scotland

  • Shielding has been paused. You should still take precautions to avoid coming into contact with the virus, but you'll no longer be advised to stay off work if you can't work from home.
  • Shielding guidance in Scotland - specific advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people.
  • Moving to Level 3 - The Scottish government's summary of what changed on 26 April 2021, including the pause of shielding.
  • Money and work - our page about financial support, help talking to your employer, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.
  • 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. There's specific advice for vulnerable people in each Level.
  • 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

  • Shielding has been paused. You should still take precautions to avoid coming into contact with the virus, but you'll no longer be advised to stay off work if you can't work from home.
  • Shielding guidance in Wales - specific advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people.
  • Money and work - our page about financial support, help talking to your employer, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.
  • Alert level 2 - explains what you need to do at Alert level 2. Currently all of Wales is in Alert level 2.
  • 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

  • Shielding has been paused. You should still take precautions to avoid coming into contact with the virus, but you'll no longer be advised to stay off work if you can't work from home.
  • Shielding guidance in Northern Ireland - specific advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people.
  • 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.
  • General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for Northern Ireland including testing and tracing, financial support, face coverings, travel, work, businesses and schools.
Jamie with a cake he baked

Leukaemia and isolation - what I've learned from experience

Read Jamie's story about coping with isolation during lockdown.

Jamie's story

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 support line on 0808 2080 888. 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]