People who are especially at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they get coronavirus were asked to shield during the height of coronavirus. We have up-to-date information and advice about shielding.

What is shielding?

The latest guidance about coronavirus

Updated on Friday 16th October

As we are now in the second wave of the pandemic, the UK Government has announced new measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. What these measures are will depend on what part of the country you live in. Please look at your local authority website for what is happening in your area and visit government websites for guidance on what you can and cannot do in:


At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic people with certain medical conditions were identified as being at greater risk of becoming seriously unwell if they got coronavirus (COVID-19). This is called being ‘at highest clinical risk’ or being ‘extremely vulnerable’. If you were one of these people, you will have had a letter from the NHS or been told by your GP or hospital doctor.

You will have been asked to follow ‘shielding’ guidelines. Shielding means staying at home at all times. You need to avoid contact with other people, including those you live with, as much as possible in order to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus. 

In this video, Clive and Della talk about their experiences of shielding and how they're coping. 

Changes to shielding guidance

Local restrictions

In August shielding was paused because the level of coronavirus had gone down. But recently levels of the virus have been rising again.  Across the UK the governments have introduced local systems of COVID alert levels. There are different levels of restriction which tell people the rules they need to follow to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Should I be shielding

Government advice is that people should follow the guidance for the COVID alert level in their area. In some areas shielding may be re-introduced. If you need to follow formal shielding advice again you will be told this in a new shielding letter. If you’re unsure you can check with your healthcare team. In the meantime, you can find out more about guidance in your local area: 

You can also use this postcode checker to see what local restriction apply where you live or work.

What is the updated advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people?

The government has set out detailed information for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from coronavirus.

General guidance

There is general guidance for everyone who is clinically vulnerable no matter what level of local restriction they are under. This includes: 

  • Maintain strict social distancing, hand washing and avoid touching your face
  • Limit the number of social interactions you have 
  • Continue to observe social distancing with anyone outside of your household / support bubble
  • If you can meet others outside your risk of catching coronavirus is lower. If you meet inside, keep the area well ventilated.
  • Work from home if possible, particularly if you have received a new letter advising you to shield. 
  • Wear a face covering when travelling / shopping unless you are exempt.

In addition to the general advice you can find further advice depending on the level of alert in your local area (see links above).

Shielding - high alert areas

The government may advise that people who are clinically extremely vulnerable in the worst affected high alert areas take more restrictive shielding measures than those outlined above. This will only apply to some very high alert areas and you will receive a letter telling you more about this if it applies to you.  Support will be available from your local authority and from pharmacies to help you during this period.

  • If you cannot work from home, you should not attend work.
  • Stay at home as much as possible. 
  • You can go outside but avoid contact with people outside of your household / support bubble.
  • You cannot meet friends or family who are not part of your household / support bubble.
  • Try to stay 2 metres apart from people in your household if possible especially if they have any symptoms of the virus or are self-isolating. If anyone in your household is advised to self-isolate then you must also self-isolate.
  • Avoid the shops and use online shopping. If you can’t access food your local authority will be able to help. There will be information about this in your shielding letter.
  • If friends or family can’t collect medicines for you, you will be eligible for free medicines delivery.
  • You may be eligible for extra care and support from your local authority. The shielding letter will tell you more about this. 

Taking care of yourself while you are shielding

Looking after your mental well-being

Shielding can have an impact on your mental health. You might be feeling anxious, isolated and lonely and find that your mood goes up and down. This is perfectly understandable. It is really important to take care of your mental well-being as well as your physical well-being.

Create a routine

Having a daily routine can help you feel more in control. Try keeping to your regular daily routine. Waking up at the same time, getting ready for the day, and going to bed at the same time as you usually would can help bring some normality to your day.

Keep in touch

Staying in touch with people can help you feel less isolated even if you can’t be in the same room. Use the phone and social media to help you keep in touch. Having a video call can help you feel less isolated as you can see the person. There are video conferencing sites that you can use so you can see several people at the same time.

Stay active and eat healthily

Eating regularly and healthily and staying active really helps our mood and energy levels. We know it’s not easy when you’re at home and getting certain food is more difficult.

We have detailed information about eating healthy and staying active while you’re isolating at home.

Take up a new hobby

It is important to keep occupied. As well as your favourite hobbies, you might want to take up something new. Cooking, reading, online learning, puzzles, knitting, drawing, there are lots of things you can do from home to help give you a sense of achievement.

Get help

Ask for support if you need it. Speak to your friends and family over the phone or on social media. You can also call the Macmillan Support Line or reach out to people on our Online Community.

There are also some great sources of support and information online that can help:

The Government also has guidance on looking after your mental health.

How we are supporting people with cancer

How we are helping

Coronavirus is having a huge impact on people living with cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support are doing the best we can to support people during this time. We have:

  • introduced new support services, delivered over the phone or online
  • set up our new Telephone Buddies service where you can sign up for someone to talk to
  • maintained our Information and Support section on the website with up to date information about all aspects of living with cancer and how to access support
  • created a virtual version of our Mobile Information and Support team where you can email to get information about local services and support.
  • set up a virtual appointment system with our No7 Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors who can give make-up and skincare advice to help with the side effects of cancer treatment. 
  • launched SafeFit. This is a free remote service that connects you with a cancer exercise specialist to help you stay fit and healthy.

How you can help

Cancer nurses need urgent support

We need to be there for people living with cancer. But we can't do it alone. Your support has never mattered more. Find out more about how we're supporting people during the coronavirus outbreak, and how you can help us be there.

Read more about how we are supporting people with cancer