Shielding

The shielding advice is being paused nationally from 31 March 2021.

From 1 April, Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) individuals are no longer advised to shield but must continue to follow the rules in place for everyone under the current national restrictions. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to take extra precautions to protect themselves.

If you previously shielded, or have a medical condition you think would class you as clinically extremely vulnerable, please discuss with your GP. 

We recognise that individuals may require additional support during these times. If you need further support, please contact the Coronavirus Wellbeing Service on 0208708 5555.

More guidance on national lockdown.

Shielding FAQs

  1. Why is shielding being paused? What is the evidence base for this decision?
  • The decision to pause shielding has been taken based upon the latest scientific data and on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer.
  • Since the national restrictions and shielding measures were introduced in January, cases of COVID-19 have fallen considerably across all parts of the country, Prevalence rates are now low enough that we can relax shielding advice.
  • In addition, the majority of CEV people have now received their first dose of the vaccine. Whilst no vaccine can be 100% effective, this means CEV people are in general better protected against the virus.
  1. Will you be writing to clinically extremely vulnerable people?
  • Yes, we will write to everyone on the Shielded Patient List in England advising them of these changes. Emails are also being sent where CEV individuals have registered their email address with their GP. The letters will be available online here and the main guidance page will be updated from 1 April
    • Accessible versions of the letter will be produced as soon as possible and made available on GOV.UK.
  1. Will CEVs need to shield again in the future? How will those decisions be taken?
  • In the future, the Government will only reintroduce formal shielding advice in the very worst affected areas and for a limited period of time. This will be based on a recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer.
  • The Government will write to you separately to inform you if you are advised to shield. You are not advised to follow formal shielding advice again unless you receive a new shielding letter advising you to do so.

CEV guidance

  1. What is the guidance for CEVs post 31 March?
  • CEVs are no longer advised to shield from 1 April 2021.
  • They should still work from home if they can, but if that is not possible, they can return to the workplace.
  • CEVs are advised that if they do go out to the shops or pharmacy, they consider going at quieter times of the day.
  • Children on the SPL are advised they should return to school or college.
  • People on the SPL should continue to take extra precautions set out in the guidance. This is set out in the letter we are issuing to people on the SPL, and from 1 April will also be available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19
  1. If CEVs have received their vaccine, do they still need to follow CEV guidance after 31 March?
  • Yes. Even if a CEV individual has had both doses of a vaccine, there is still no guarantee that they will not become ill from COVID-19 if they catch the virus. Therefore, they should continue to follow the extra precautions set out by the Government, to help reduce their likelihood of infection.
  • The guidance to CEVs is only advisory. It is not mandatory that they follow this advice, although they should be aware that not doing so may increase their risk of catching COVID-19.
  • Everyone must continue to follow the regulations in place at each stage of the roadmap.
  1. Will CEV households be prioritised for the vaccine? Why not?
  • CEV households are not prioritised for a vaccine in phase 1.
  • Many individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable will have some degree of immunosuppression or be immunocompromised and may not respond as well to the vaccine. Therefore, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to follow government advice on reducing their risk of infection. Consideration has been given to vaccination of household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals. However, at this time there is no data on the size of the effect of COVID-19 vaccines on transmission. Evidence is expected to accrue during the course of the vaccine programme, and until that time the committee is not in a position to advise vaccination solely on the basis of indirect protection.
  • Adult Carers: Those who are eligible for a carer’s allowance, or those who are the sole or primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who is at increased risk of COVID-19 mortality and therefore clinically vulnerable will be prioritised for a vaccine in cohort 6, alongside individuals with certain underlying health conditions.

Support

  1. Where can CEVs go for help after the shielding support offer finishes?
  • We recognise that councils will continue to support those in their communities in need and have systems and relationships in place with other organisations to provide that.
  • Councils will be able to provide ad hoc discretionary support to those that need it from existing COMF funding. They should use their judgement in assessing eligibility for further support, ensuring individuals are supported to be as self-sufficient as possible.
  • The NHS Volunteer Responders Programme will continue providing support with food, prescriptions and essential items to those who are self-isolating for any reason. This also includes anyone that is clinically extremely vulnerable, or anyone that is vulnerable for another reason.
  • CEVs can contact NHSVR on 0808 196 3646 and ask for help. More information is available here: https://volunteering.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/nhs-volunteer-responders-portal/isolating

Food support

  1. Will CEVs keep priority access to a supermarket delivery slots after the 31 March?
  • All supermarkets have committed to continuing priority access to supermarket delivery slots until 21 June (step 4 of the roadmap) for those clinically extremely vulnerable individuals who have already signed up for support. Some supermarkets may choose to extend their offer beyond 21 June but will be in touch to explain the terms of any offer. Even where supermarkets end priority access on 21 June, individuals can continue to book deliveries from a supermarket.
  • CEVs without friends, family, or other support networks to rely on can continue to register to request priority access to a supermarket delivery slot up until 31 March via the Shielding Support website, www.gov.uk/coronavirus-shielding-support. CEVs will not be able to register using this website after midnight on the 31 March.
  1. Can CEVs now safely leave their homes to go shopping for food or medicines?
  • Whilst CEVs are not advised to avoid going to the shops, individuals may wish to continue using online delivery for food and essential shopping, or to rely on family and friends. If they do go out to the shops or pharmacy, CEVs should consider going at quieter times of the day. Individuals must wear face coverings in all shops unless they are exempt.

Medicine delivery

  1. Will the medicine delivery service end after 31 March?
  • Those supported by the Medicines Delivery Service will continue to receive this support until the end of March.
  • After this date, if it is not possible for someone to attend their pharmacy, and friends and family are not able to collect medicine for them, then the NHS Volunteer Responders will continue to offer medicines deliveries. If someone is vulnerable or at risk and needs help with shopping, medication or other essential supplies, they should call 0808 196 3646 (8 am to 8pm).

Employment and welfare support

  1. Can CEVs go back to work if they cannot work from home?
  • Everyone is currently advised to work from home where possible. If individuals cannot work from home, they can still go to work.
  • Employers are required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to the measures they have put in place to keep people safe at work. We encourage CEV employees and their employers to have conversations as early as possible about their return to work,
  • Where employers are not managing the risk of COVID-19, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply with enforcement notices, this could lead to prosecution.
  1. Do CEVs have to go back to work even if they don’t feel safe to? What are their rights?
  • Employers are required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain the measures they have put in place to keep people safe at work.
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau also has information about workers’ rights and how to solve problems in the workplace: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/.
  1. What about if CEVs are concerned about their risk during their journey to work (e.g. they have to use public transport)?
  • The Department for Transport (DfT) has worked with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Business Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to develop Safer Guidance for Transport Operators in order to protect transport workers and passengers: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-transport-guidance-for-operators/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-transport-guidance-for-operators#social-contact
  • Operators are also ensuring they implement the Safe Workplace guidance. These actions ensure that operators are keeping their workers and passengers safe.
  • DfT has also consulted industry stakeholders and trade unions throughout the pandemic in order to ensure best practice approaches are followed and the transport sector operates safely.
  • Since the start of the pandemic we have encouraged the public to follow mitigations, introducing requirements for mandatory face coverings on all public transport
  • DfT has also provided emergency support to public transport operators to ensure the continuity of essential services during pandemic. This has included express provision for measures to protect transport workers and the public including PPE, passenger spacing, screens, barriers, additional cleaning services.
  1. What financial/employment support is available for CEVs at this time?

Education

  1. Can CEV children and young adults go back to school/college/university now that shielding has been paused?
  • From 1 April clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and students should return to their school or other educational setting now that shielding has been paused.
  • Higher education students who are on practical or practice-based courses began to attend from 8 March, as well as those who were on specific courses who returned in January. 
  1. Is it safe for CEV pupils and students to attend education settings?
  • As our knowledge of COVID-19 has grown, we now know that very few children and young people are at highest risk of severe illness due to the virus.
  • Education settings have implemented a range of protective measures recommended by the Public Health England (PHE) endorsed in guidance published by Department for Education (DfE) which, when followed, creates an inherently safer environment for pupils, staff and families.
  • Where parents are anxious about their child's attendance, they should speak to their child's school or college about their concerns and discuss the protective measures that have been put in place to reduce the risk. They should also discuss other measures that can be put in place to ensure that their children can regularly attend school or college.
  1. What measures will be put in place by schools and colleges to allow them to return?
  • Rapid testing using Lateral Flow Devices (LFD)s will support the return to face-to-face education by helping to identify people who are infectious but do not have any coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. Lateral flow tests can also be picked up directly for households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary school pupils and for households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary school staff.
  • To support the return of face-to-face education rapid lateral flow devices are being made available to schools. In addition to testing, secondary schools and colleges are continuing to put in place a range of protective measures to help children minimise their risk of infection by and transmission of Covid-19. These include social distancing, handwashing, face coverings where needed, bubbles, enhanced cleaning and ventilation and managing confirmed cases. Implementing the system of controls outlined in DfE guidance, creates a safer environment for students and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced.

Housing

  1. What help is available for people who are struggling with their mortgage?
  • Applications for the mortgage holiday close on 31 March 2021, and mortgage holidays can run until 31 July. Borrowers that have been impacted by Coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six-month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.
  • The FCA has been clear that for borrowers who have taken six months’ holiday and continue to face ongoing financial difficulties, firms should continue to provide support through tailored forbearance options. This could include granting new mortgage payment holidays. Mortgage customers in this situation should speak to their lender to discuss their options.
  • Any forbearance granted beyond six months of payment holidays will be reflected on the consumer’s credit file in the usual manner. As borrowers still requiring assistance after that point could be in serious financial distress, the FCA believe it is right that lenders are able to understand their financial position in order to lend responsibly.
  • Further information on mortgages and the support available during the coronavirus outbreak is available from the Money Advice Service and UK Finance.

19.   Will support for homeless and rough sleeping continue now that shielding is being paused?

  • We have redoubled our efforts to ensure that people who sleep rough are kept as safe as possible and that we do everything we can to protect the NHS. This is backed by £10 million to protect rough sleepers and ensure their wider health needs are addressed.
  • We have asked all local authorities to ensure that even more rough sleepers are safely accommodated, and that this opportunity is actively used to make certain that all rough sleepers are registered with a GP, where they are not already, and are factored into local area vaccination plans, in line with JCVI prioritisation for Covid vaccinations.
  • We have taken huge steps working with local authorities and their partners to protect rough sleepers during the pandemic. This work has not stopped, and by the end of January, we had supported over 37,000 people with over 11,000 in emergency accommodation and over 26,000 already moved on into longer-term accommodation.

More information on mental health and wellbeing can be found here: https://www.redbridge.gov.uk/coronavirus-information-hub/support-for-home-family-and-the-essentials/

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