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Am I vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19) and what is shielding?

Who is classed as vulnerable, what is a long-term condition, do I need to be worried, should I self-isolate? These are current common health concerns of the nation as whole.

It appears that people who are older, have a weaker immune system, or who have an underlying health condition, are more at risk of severe symptoms and side effects of Coronavirus. The presence of a health condition though does not make you more likely to contract Coronavirus than anyone else. For the majority of people if they contract Coronavirus, they will get mild cold-type symptoms, cough, temperature and slight shortness of breath, and should recover within a week without any medical intervention.

People who are deemed at higher risk and therefore more vulnerable, include those who are over 70, regardless of whether they have a medical condition or not, and people under 70 with any of the following underlying health conditions:

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis

  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

  • chronic kidney disease

  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy

  • diabetes

  • problems with your spleen - for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed

  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy

  • being seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)

  • those who are pregnant

  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis

What is shielding?

Shielding is a way of supporting and protecting our most vulnerable members of society.  Those who are extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness if they are to contract Coronavirus.  Shielding is being instigated for the following people to increase their personal protection:

  • recipients of solid organ transplants

  • cancers of the blood or bone marrow

  • cancer treatments including active chemotherapy, radical radiotherapy for lung cancer, immunotherapy for antibody treatment, those on protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors, or those who have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last six months.

  • severe respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis, severe COPD or severe asthma

  • a rare disease that significantly increases the risk of infection i.e. SCID, sickle cell

  • immunosuppression therapy that significantly increases the risk of infection

  • pregnant women with significant heart disease

For those members of our society who come into the shielding categories it is strongly recommended they always stay at home and avoid any face to face contact for a minimum of 12 weeks. A letter will be sent out from the Government providing full details how home care provision can be accessed. If you are at all concerned regarding the management of your condition, please telephone your local GP provider.

For those who are worried about how to protect themselves or those vulnerable within society, the advice remains the same ensure good hand hygiene, limit face touching and support those that have to self-isolate.

This information has been compiled using Government advice and third party information. This page is being reviewed and updated as appropriate, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. However, please be aware that Government advice may have changed since the last update.