As of February 10 there were 2.26million people shielding in the UK, according to NHS figures. That number equates to a huge four percent of the population. Those who have been forced to shield are predominantly in the older age groups, mainly 50-year-olds and above. This is likely due to the fact their age makes them at higher risk for serious illness from the virus, and a combination of any underlying health condition heightens that risk further.
The data from NHS England includes all patients identified by GPs, the NHS and hospital doctors.
However, it doesn’t include any patient within a clinical commissioning group outside England or patients who have since died, so it’s likely the real number of people within the UK is much higher.
Shielders have had it especially hard during the lockdown periods, and will likely be counting down the days until they can get back to work.
While people were still able to enjoy trips to the shops and one form of exercise outdoors, many people shielding opted out of these everyday activities for fears over their health – which is completely understandable.
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People shielding have been strongly advised to work from home wherever possible, while others have been forced to turn to benefits or the Government’s support schemes for help.
The Government also advises shielders to stay at home as much as they possibly can.
They definitely shouldn’t travel unless it’s absolutely essential; for example, to attend a mandatory health appointment.
Instead of venturing out to the shops if you’re shielding, you’re advised to take advantage of the numerous delivery options, and should steer clear of pharmacies.
The official Government guidance, issued on Monday, reads: “The Government anticipates that it will no longer be necessary to advise shielding beyond the end of March 2021.
“The Government will confirm advice and next steps nearer the time to keep clinically extremely vulnerable people safe.”
As ever, the guidance could change at any time, especially if there’s a lag or any kind of delay with the ongoing vaccine rollout.
Initially, the Government asked 2.2million people to shield at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020.
Many of these people are considered to be “clinically extremely vulnerable”, which is why they’ve been asked to take extra care and precautions.
Everyone on the shielding list should have at least been offered the first dose of the Covid vaccine.
However, of the 1.7million new people told to shield, it’s understood only 800,000 or so have actually had their first dose.
Dr Jenny Harries said the group will receive additional support over the coming weeks, including medicine deliveries, priority slots for supermarkets and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
Those within this group who are aged 70 and over will have already been invited for their jab, but 820,000 adults will now be prioritised for the jab.