Key questions answered as advice updated for people shielding

Advice for people shielding has been updated. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Along with the wider easing of coronavirus restrictions, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and have been shielding for the past 10 weeks have been told they can now leave their homes in England and Wales.

Here are some of the key questions around the updated guidance for those shielding from the pandemic.

  • What is the new guidance?

Under the new guidelines, people shielding are now allowed to venture outdoors once per day, either with members of their household or one person from another household – as long as social distancing and strict hygiene is maintained.

There is no limit to the amount of time they can now spend outdoors, however it is advised that at-risk people avoid crowds or crowded areas (including private gatherings) and strictly avoid contact with others, especially if they are displaying symptoms of the virus such as a continuous cough or fever.

  • Who does the guidance apply to?

The shielding guidance applies to anyone who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable, as well as their family, friends and carers.

This includes organ transplant recipients, people with specific cancers and people on immunosuppression therapies as well as those in long-term care facilities for the elderly or with special needs.

There are believed to be 2.2 million at-risk people who were shielding in England.

While around 130,000 people in Wales considered most at risk from coronavirus.

  • What is the science behind the updated guidance?

The governments in England and Wales have said the change in guidance stems from the substantially lower level of Covid-19 transmission compared to when the lockdown was first introduced.

However a number of charities have called for the government to be more specific in their scientific basis for updating the guidelines, citing “confusion” caused by the sudden announcement.

“The way it has announced this on a Saturday night, with no warning or consultation with charities and clinicians, has created confusion,” said Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK said of Boris Johnson's announcement for England.

“Until we get (clarity), we advise people to speak to their healthcare teams before making any changes.”

Global coronavirus cases and deaths Credit: PA Graphics
  • When will the guidance be updated next?

The next review of shielding measures in England is scheduled to take place in the week beginning June 15, with regular reviews taking place alongside the review of social distancing measures for the wider population.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick flagged on Sunday that guidance for those shielding could become strict again if the virus starts to flare up, but added that he is hopeful of future guidance being more tailored to each individual, rather than the current blanket approach.

Wales will also continue to monitor shielding measures.

  • What about the rest of the UK?

Only England and Wales have said shielders can leave their homes from Monday.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are believed to each be in the process of regularly reviewing their shielding guidelines and will issue information in due course.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know