Shielding advice now tied to new Covid tier alert level - so what has changed?

ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan has more

The clinically vulnerable will not have to automatically shield again, but they will be given new advice on what to do based on the Covid alert level in their area of England, the government has announced.

The guidance will be tied to the new three-tier system of alert levels in England, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday.

England has been divided into medium, high and very high alert levels – with the Liverpool City Region placed under the toughest measures.

Shielding will not automatically be triggered by an area going into a ‘very high’ alert level, but it will be “an additional intervention”.

The government will write to people in the highest risk areas if they advised to adopt formal shielding again.

Shielding will not automatically be triggered by an area going into a ‘very high’ alert level. Credit: PA

Advice for the clinical extremely vulnerable:

‘Medium’ alert level (Tier 1) - strictly observe social distancing, meet others outside where possible, limit unnecessary journeys on public transport and work from home where possible, but you can still go to work and children should still attend school. This is on top of restrictions for everyone to only meet in groups of up to six people.

‘High’ alert level (Tier 2) - reduce the number of different people met outside, avoid travel except for essential journeys, work from home where possible and reduce the number of shopping trips made or go at quieter times of the day. You can still go to work if you cannot work from home because all workplaces should be Covid-secure, and children should still attend school. This is on top of restrictions for everyone to not meet other households indoors, unless part of a support bubble, and to only meet in groups of up to six people outdoors.

‘Very high’ alert level (Tier 3) - work from home, in general stay at home as much as possible, and avoid all but essential travel. You should also significantly reduce shopping trips, and if possible use online delivery or ask people in your household, support bubble or volunteers to collect food and medicines. People in these areas are encouraged to still go outside for exercise, and can still go to school and to work if they cannot work from home. We recognise that a small number of individuals may require additional support to follow the guidance at this alert level, and they are advised to contact their local authority if they need assistance.

National measures across England have been rolled out, including the rule of six and mandatory face coverings, which were not in place when shielding was introduced in March.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries said: “The new system will provide clarity on how best those in this group can keep themselves as safe as possible depending on the rates of transmission in their local area.

“Whilst advisory, I would urge all those affected to follow the guidance wherever they can and to continue to access health services for their medical conditions.”

Dr Harries said health officials will continue to “monitor the evidence closely” and change advice, especially over the coming winter months.

The clinically extremely vulnerable group includes those with conditions affecting the immune system, certain cancers and organ transplant recipients among others.

Shielders in exceptionally high-risk areas may still be advised to adopt formal shielding in the future, and if the advice is reintroduced in their area, they will also be eligible for a support package - including food access support, medicines deliveries and any additional care or support required.