AROUND 1.7million people in England will be told to start shielding due to being at higher risk from Covid-19.

We run through who is at risk, how this decision has come about and what happens next.

What is shielding?

People who are considered as clinically extremely vulnerable have been advised to follow more stringent Covid-19 restrictions.

No one is supposed to be out and about unless it is absolutely necessary during national lockdown but even your permitted daily exercise comes with more caveats if you are on the shielding list.

NHS advice says those shielding should stay at home as much as possible and “only leave your home for medical appointments, exercise or if it's essential”.

It is advised to “limit how long you spend outside your home, keep all contact with other people to a minimum and avoid busy areas”.

The work from home advice becomes mandatory and is similar for education settings.

“If you cannot work from home, you're advised not to go to work,” reads the advice.

“You will get a letter advising you to stay at home. You can use this letter as proof you're unable to go to work.”

Online shopping for essentials and medication, or getting friends or relatives to help, is advised instead of making trips to shops.

Why are so many people now being added to the list?

It comes after a “clinical risk model” was put together by the NHS after work by Oxford University on research commissioned England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty.

Worcester News: Chris Whitty

It identified 1.7million people, more than half of which are over 70 and would have been offered a Covid-19 vaccination anyway, with a further 800,000-plus now set to be offered a jab sooner.

A statement on the government’s website reads: “The technology analyses a combination of risk factors based on medical records, to assess whether somebody may be more vulnerable than was previously understood, helping clinicians provide vaccination more quickly to them and ensuring patients can benefit from additional advice and support.

“This assessment is made possible today for the first time thanks to new technology and emerging evidence about the impact of Covid-19 on different groups and who could be most vulnerable – which means further steps can be taken to protect those most at risk.

“The risk assessment uses the model to predict on a population basis whether adults with a combination of risk factors may be at more serious risk from Covid-19, enabling them to be flagged to clinicians for priority access to vaccination, alongside appropriate advice and support.

“These individuals will be added to the Shielded Patient List on a precautionary basis and to enable rapid vaccination.”

Who is considered vulnerable? 

According to current NHS advice, you're automatically considered clinically extremely vulnerable if:

  • you've had an organ transplant
  • you're having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
  • you're having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
  • you're having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
  • you have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  • you've had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • you've been told by a doctor you have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD)
  • you have a condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
  • you're taking medicine that makes you much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppressant medicine)
  • you have a serious heart condition and are pregnant
  • you have a problem with your spleen or your spleen has been removed (splenectomy)
  • you're an adult with Down's syndrome
  • you're an adult who is having dialysis or has severe (stage 5) long-term kidney disease

People at moderate risk from coronavirus include people who:

  • are 70 or older
  • have a lung condition that's not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • have heart disease (such as heart failure)
  • have diabetes
  • have chronic kidney disease
  • have liver disease (such as hepatitis)
  • have a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy)
  • have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections
  • are taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids)
  • are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • are pregnant

What happens next?

Any patients identified will be sent a letter from NHS England in the coming days explaining that their risk factors and shielding advice. Their GPs will also be notified.

How long will this go on for?

The previous shielding guidance lasted until February 21 but will now be extended until March 31.