Advice to clinically extremely vulnerable people varies by local lockdown area

7th Sep 2020

We’ve been asked by readers whether people who were classed as extremely clinically vulnerable, and who live in areas affected by local lockdowns, are supposed to continue shielding.

This depends on which area you live in. There are currently local lockdowns in England and Scotland. The Scottish government is not advising people to shield. Clinically extremely vulnerable people in England are being advised to shield in Leicester and Blackburn. The government says it has written to people who need to continue shielding in these areas. 

The situation with local lockdowns is very changeable. This information was accurate as of 7 September but since then the situation may have changed. Please follow the latest guidance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Regardless of which area you live in, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been told to work from home if possible.

Who is clinically extremely vulnerable and what is shielding?

People with specific health conditions which made them particularly vulnerable to a Covid-19 infection were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable back in March.

These people were told to “shield” which meant they were advised not to leave their homes if possible, to wash their hands more often and minimize all face-to-face contact. 

In England this advice was paused on 1 August, in Wales on 16 August, and in Northern Ireland on 31 July. In Scotland, the advice to shield was paused on 1 August with the exception of care and nursing home residents

People who were previously shielding are being told to work at home if possible, but are permitted to go to work if that’s not possible in all four nations.  

Local lockdowns

Currently there are local lockdowns in parts of England and Scotland. The advice to clinically extremely vulnerable people isn’t the same across each area. 

The government website says: “If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable and live in an area where additional public health measures require you to resume shielding, the government will write to you and advise you to stay at home and shield.”

It adds: “If you work inside an area where clinically extremely vulnerable people are still being advised to shield, you are advised to work from home where possible, and not attend a workplace within the area where local restrictions are in place. If you live outside of that area, you may need to request a shielding letter as proof for your employer that you cannot attend your usual workplace.”

Clinically extremely vulnerable people living in parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire, Preston and West Yorkshire (the specific areas are here) are not being advised to shield. 

However they are being advised to shield in Leicester

As for the “Blackburn with Darwen, Oldham, Pendle” area, the government website doesn’t specify whether people should shield or not. 

When we asked the Department of Health and Social Care, a spokesperson said: “In the event of a local lockdown, visit your local authority’s website for further guidance and follow the public health guidance for your local area.”

As of 7 September, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council says people in Blackburn are to shield until at least 21 September. 

Oldham Council tells residents “who have recently shielded to continue taking extra care now that the shielding process has formally ended in Oldham.” A spokesperson told us: “This means taking a common-sense approach to decision making and they must follow the localised guidance in Oldham, along with everyone else, around such matters as people coming to their homes and social gatherings.”

Pendle Borough Council does not say anything on the matter on its website but a spokesperson told us: "We're not telling people who were previously shielding to continue shielding in any or all parts of Pendle, while the local restrictions are underway". 

In Scotland there are currently local lockdowns in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.

The advice from the Scottish government is that shielding is not being reinstated, but that people who were previously shielding “should strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures” and “may also want to think about the levels of risk associated with work and daily activities.”