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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?

Everyone in the UK is being told to limit their social interaction. But people with blood cancer are advised to be particularly stringent and 'shield' themselves from the general population.

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 meters 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. 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.

Announcements about pausing shielding in England and Northern Ireland from 1 August 2020

On 22 June, the government announced changes to advice for adults and children shielding in England and Northern Ireland.

We are aware this announcement may worry people shielding across the UK.

These changes only apply to England and Northern Ireland. And it’s important to remember:

We are working closely with government to clarify what other support will be available from 1 August.

For the latest advice if you are shielding in England or Northern Ireland, select your country from the drop-down menu below.

Making sense of shielding advice

Last updated: 18 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.

We are currently seeking clarity from the government on the evidence behind recent changes. But so far, we understand 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.

As of 22 June, the following are the government guidelines in each country.

Until 5 July, people shielding are advised:

  • 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.

If you live in Leicester or certain surrounding areas, shielding guidance is not changing in line with the rest of England. People who are shielding in these areas should continue to follow the guidance above after 5 July, until the 'localised lockdown' ends.

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 meters 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 meters 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.

This new guidance applies to all parts of England except for Leicester and certain surrounding areas.

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 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.

From 19 June until 31 July, people shielding are advised:

  • To stay at home as much as you can
  • 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.

Shielding in Scotland is set to continue until at least 31 July.

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.

Until 5 July, adults and children shielding are advised:

  • 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 school, 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 6 July until 31 July, adults and children 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 meters 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 meters 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 school, 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.

Support for people shielding

Help with food and medication deliveries for people shielding remain unchanged.

Support with work and finances (including furlough) for people shielding also still apply.

How to shield

Last updated: 22 June

The shielding advice below includes precautions you can take to reduce your risk of catching coronavirus. 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.

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 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
  • 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. If these are not possible, then the people you live with may want to consider shielding with you.

Whether you follow these guidelines (or how closely you follow them) is a personal choice. Speak to your healthcare team if you have any questions.

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

  • minimise time spent in shared spaces, and keep shared spaces well ventilated
  • keep 2 meters (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.

There's more detailed instructions in the government's information about Living with other people.

If you live with someone who has to go to work, they should be following the general advice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus extremely strictly 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 meters 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.

Last updated: 3 April 2020

Can pets spread coronavirus?

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.

How can I walk my dog?

If you are not leaving the house, ask someone else to walk your dog. Whoever walks your dog should wash their hands before and after, and keep 2 meters away from other people and animals, including you when collecting the dog. Similarly, you should wash your hands before and after the dog is collected/returned.

PDSA have more information about pets and coronavirus.

Last updated: 3 April 2020

If there are people you would normally visit or help during this time, but you are also staying at home, there are other people and services that could help, and you can still help by being in regular contact.

We are currently looking at what we can do as a charity to bring more support to people staying at home.

  • Call your relative every day or more to check in 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.

Coping with shielding

We have more tips and tools to help you cope with shielding, both practically and emotionally.

Update on text messages about removal from the shielding list - 29 May 2020

Some people have received text messages telling them they are no longer on the shielding list. If you receive one of these and you haven’t spoken to your GP or treating team yet - please continue to shield until you have been able to speak to them.

If you are struggling to get a letter

Contact us on 0808 2080 888 or [email protected]

In England, show your clinical team the letter from the Clinical Director for Cancer in England (see below).

Who needs to shield?

Last updated: 7 May 2020

Adults and children with blood cancer may have a compromised immune system and therefore be at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus. If any of the following apply to you, you should be contacted directly by the NHS about shielding:

  • you currently have any type of blood cancer, whether you are having treatment or not
  • you have had an autologous transplant (using your own stem cells) in the last year
  • you have had an allogeneic transplant (using donor stem cells) in the last two years
  • you are on immunosuppression medication after a transplant, you have GvHD, or you have ongoing immunodeficiency after a transplant

We have more detailed information about who is included in this high risk group and about the risk to children with blood cancer.

If you think you should have received a letter and you haven't, contact your hospital team or GP. They can add people to the list. The letter can help you access the support you need while shielding.

Blood Cancer Medical Information Card

We’ve made this card so you can keep important details like your NHS number and your medical team with you at all times. This could be especially important if you’re admitted to a different hospital for any reason. It should help ensure your usual doctor or hospital team is aware and involved in any discussions about treatment or care.

Blood Cancer Medical Information Card

To use this card:

  1. Download it and fill in your details (you’ll need to open it in Adobe Acrobat Reader)
  2. Print it, or take a photo on your phone and ‘favourite’ it
  3. Tell family and friends where your card is

Download your card here:

Working with Government on access to shielding letters

On 7 May, Peter Johnson (Clinical Director for Cancer in England) sent out this letter to cancer teams across England. This letter urges cancer teams to continue identifying patients at high risk from coronavirus and urging them to shield. It includes links to how GPs and hospital teams can add patients to the list for a shielding letter. It states that the process for adding patients to this list will continue to be open throughout the COVID-19 incident. The letter also clarifies who is at risk in the blood cancer community, specifically including people with MDS and those being ‘managed expectantly’ (on watch and wait).

In view of the concerns we had from people with blood cancer in Wales, we worked with Angela Burns, a member of the Senedd, to contact the Minister asking about people with CLL and MPNs. We recieved this response, which indicates that some people with CLL and MPN should be included in the shielding guidance:

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.