Last reviewed 21 September 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has agreed to end the requirement for Covid-19 shielding guidance for people previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV).

The shielding programme was launched at the start of the pandemic and has been paused since 1 April 2021, when those on the shielded list were told they could “begin to follow the national restrictions alongside the rest of the population”. They were still advised to take extra precautions, including “strict” social distancing and low levels of social contact.

However, the DHSC announced on 15 September 2021 that those previously considered to be CEV “will not be advised to shield again”.

The Government’s decision was based on the fact there is more information available on Covid-19 and what makes individuals more or less vulnerable, success of the vaccination programme and new treatments such as dexamethasone and tocilizumab to support improved outcomes in clinical care pathways.

This means that, although research and evaluation for some clinical groups will continue, the Government has agreed to end the requirement for centralised guidance for these groups.

The Government’s statement said shielding was “the right decision at the time” to protect the most vulnerable in the initial waves of the pandemic. However, it acknowledged that the advice was “extremely restrictive” and had a significant impact on some people’s lives and their mental and physical wellbeing.

A return to routine individual advice from relevant specialists is now recommended for patients who may have a reduced immune response because they are, for example, immunocompromised or have particular cancers such as haematological malignancies, and who are at risk from infectious diseases more generally.

Those who were previously on the shielded patient list will receive a letter from the Government in the coming days to inform them of this decision.

The updated guidance to reflect this decision is available here.

There is different guidance available for people living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.