Almost two million more people will be asked to shield in England, after experts identified additional adults at serious risk of complications from Covid-19.
Around 2.2 million are currently on the shielding list in England, but they’ll soon be joined by another 1.7 million who have recently been identified.
These extra people will be advised to stay home as much as possible, avoid the shops and work from home if they’re not already doing so. Those who can’t work from home will be entitled to statutory sick pay.
The shielding guidance will be in place until at least March 31. Here’s what you need to know about the extended system.
Who has been added to the shielding list?
The original shielding list includes people with single-risk factors, such as those with various cancers, people on immunosuppression drugs, transplant recipients, or those with severe respiratory conditions.
The expanded shielding list includes people who might be at higher risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19, who not initially identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV).
A single illness does not make these people CEV. However, they may be subject to “combined risk factors”, which meet the agreed threshold for CEV.
Risk factors considered include age, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), other health conditions and also postcode, which is indicative of levels of deprivation.
Why has the shielding list been expanded?
Researchers at Oxford University developed a tool called the Covid-19 Population Risk Assessment to identify people at an increased risk of death or serious illness if they catch coronavirus.
The tool has taken time to develop while experts learn more about the effects of Covid-19. As the pandemic has progressed, they’ve found some people are at higher risk than others, because they fall under multiple risk factors.
Using medical records, the new tool identifies people who might be at higher risk, based on these multiple factors.
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the approach is “risk averse” to “protect as many people as possible” as England continues to battle with fast-spreading Covid variants.
How will you be told if you need to shield?
You’ll receive a letter in the post asking you to shield if you’ve been identified via the new system. You’ll be added to the Shielded Patient List (SPL) in England.
“The letter will note that this is more likely to be an overestimate of risk in a way which hopefully handles any of their anxiety,” Dr Harries said.
“And it makes it absolutely clear that it is a choice for them if they choose to follow shielding advice or not – that has always been the case.”
Those added to the list will receive the additional support available to those deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable, including medicine deliveries, priority slots for supermarkets and statutory sick pay, confirmed Dr Harries.
How will this impact the vaccine rollout?
More than 800,000 of the people newly added to the shielding list are between 19 and 69 years old and will now be prioritised for a vaccination, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed. They will receive an invite to have your vaccine “as quickly as possible”.
The other 900,000 people on the list are over 70 and will have already been offered their jab.