People who were shielding during the height on the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic are to be given updated guidance on what the new Covid alert levels mean for them, the Prime Minister has said.
The new three-tired system in England will see areas put into different categories labelled as medium, high or very high risk.
Announcing the new system in the Commons, Boris Johnson said that updated guidance would be published for those who are deemed to be “clinically extremely vulnerable” – or those at highest risk from developing complications from Covid-19.
He said: “We are publishing updated guidance to explain what the Covid alert levels mean for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.”
Patients are not currently advised to shield in any local areas in England.
During the first wave of the pandemic people deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable in England were advised to take extra precautions, also known as shielding.
The shielding programme was paused on August 1, and people who stayed at home to protect themselves from Covid-19 were allowed to return to work.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people may include: solid organ transplant recipients; people with specific cancers; people undergoing some cancer treatments; people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs; people with some rare diseases which increase their risk of infections; pregnant women with significant heart disease and people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
More than 2.2 million people in England – almost 4% of the population – are on the NHS Digital shielded patients list.
At a Downing Street press conference, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: “Jenny Harries (deputy chief medical officer for England) is going to give a much longer discussion on this tomorrow, but the short version is that people who were previously in the shielding group are at greater risk and we would advise them always to take greater precautions.