Clinically extremely vulnerable to receive updated advice tailored to local COVID alert levels

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Clinically extremely vulnerable people in England will receive new guidance to help them reduce their risk from coronavirus, tailored to where they live the government has announced.

The guidance will be tied into the new local COVID alert levels framework, meaning those at the highest risk of serious illness from the virus will receive specific advice depending on the level of risk in their local area, as coronavirus rates continue to rise.

With many national measures now in place that apply to everyone – for example, the rule of 6 and mandatory face coverings – the clinically extremely vulnerable group is already helped by wider protection measures not previously in place when shielding was originally introduced in March.

These additional precautions set out today, recommended by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) for England, will ensure an extra layer of protection specifically adapted to people’s locations and level of risk, as dictated by the local COVID alert levels.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said:

"Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the prevalence of the virus across the country and we know those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are looking for practical advice on how they can carry on their lives while the virus remains in our communities.

"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.

"We will continue to monitor the evidence closely and fine-tune this approach to make sure everyone in this group is clear about the safest way to go about their daily lives, particularly over the coming winter months." 

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

"With coronavirus rates continuing to increase, now is the time to take action and ensure we protect the most vulnerable in our society.

"Today’s announcement will mean every person most at risk from serious outcomes from the virus will have specific advice targeted to local levels, which they can follow to keep themselves as safe as possible, while ensuring they can also keep as much normality in their lives as possible."

The clinically extremely vulnerable group includes those with conditions affecting the immune system, certain cancers and organ transplant recipients among others. The new advice will help this higher risk group better protect themselves from the virus, without needing to follow more restrictive shielding guidance.

Those in exceptionally high-risk areas may still be advised to adopt formal shielding in the future, including to stay at home, not go to work or school and limit social interactions to their own household and support bubble. Those in these areas will also be updated if the decision is not to follow shielding advice. If shielding 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. They may also be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance.

Shielding advice will not automatically be triggered by an area going into local COVID alert level very high, but will be considered as an additional intervention, agreed by ministers under advice from local public health experts and the Chief Medical Officer or DCMO. The government will write to people in these areas if they are advised to adopt formal shielding again.

There are currently 2.2 million people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable. The Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS will write to all those identified as clinically extremely vulnerable and their doctors, outlining the changes to the guidance. Anyone advised to shield in the future will be written to individually as before.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director and Director of Health Protection at Public Health England (PHE), said:

"People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If you are in this group, we recommend that you follow the advice to help protect yourself at each alert level as set out in the guidance.

"In addition to the rules you must follow at each alert level, you can take additional precautions. Continue to maintain strict social distancing, wash your hands regularly and try to keep the number of social interactions that you have low. The fewer social interactions you have, the lower your risk of catching COVID-19."

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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: Clinically extremely vulnerable to receive updated advice tailored to local COVID alert levels
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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
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