What is shielding?

Download our infographic about shielding here.

Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising their interaction with others.

This means that extremely vulnerable people should not leave their home. Within the home, they should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household.

If you think you have a condition that makes you extremely vulnerable or have received a letter from NHS England, then you are strongly advised to shield yourself, to reduce the chance of getting coronavirus (COVID-19).

Practise the following self-distancing measures too.

  • Avoid face-to-face contact with anyone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include a high temperature and/or a new and continuous cough.
  • Do not leave your house.
  • Do not attend any gatherings of friends or family. 
  • Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel.
  • Arrange for deliveries of food or medication to be left at the door. 
  • Use technology and social media to keep in touch with friends and family. Use telephone or online support to contact your GP and other healthcare services.

Follow this advice for at least 12 weeks from the day you were informed you are highly vulnerable and should shield.

What should you do if you have someone else living with you?

While the rest of your household are not required to adopt these protective shielding measures for themselves, we would expect them to do what they can to support you in shielding and to stringently follow guidance on social distancing.

  • Minimise the time you and other family members spend in shared spaces, such as the kitchen and bathroom. Keep shared spaces well ventilated.
  • Keep 2 metres away from people you live with and encourage them to sleep in a separate bed where possible. If you can, use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. Always use separate towels for showering and handwashing.
  • If you share a toilet and bathroom with others, all users should wipe any surfaces they have come into contact with, after every use. Draw up a rota for bathing, with you using the facilities first.
  • If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it while they are present. If possible, take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery. Otherwise, wash all crockery and cutlery, using washing-up liquid and warm water, and dry them thoroughly. If you are using your own utensils, use a separate tea towel to dry them.
  • Everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face and clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • If the rest of your household stringently follow advice on social distancing and minimise the risk of spreading the virus within the home, then there is no need for them to shield alongside you.

Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

Below are general principles you should follow to help prevent the spread of airway and chest infections caused by respiratory viruses.

  • Wash your hands often, including after you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and before and after eating or handling food. Clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.
This article was reviewed by the Chair of our Medical Panel, 2nd April 2020