Over 60s classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ for second Covid lockdown in major clinical change to shielding guidance


EVERYONE over the age of 60 is now classed as “clinically vulnerable” in a major clinical change to the Government’s coronavirus guidance.

It means almost 5.9 million extra people are considered to be at a higher risk of Covid-19 than in the first lockdown.

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All those aged over 60 should avoid contact with others, new Covid guidance reveals

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All those aged over 60 should avoid contact with others, new Covid guidance revealsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Previously, the advice was that all those aged 70 should stay at home.

Pregnant women and obese people should also be “especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others,” the guidance states.

It also includes younger people with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma.

During the first national lockdown, around two million “clinically extremely vulnerable” people were asked to shield themselves at home.

Under the shielding programme, people were supported with offers of food parcels and home deliveries of medication.

However, those at higher risk are not being asked to shield this time round and instead will be advised to minimise contact with others.

They will be advised to work from home and those who cannot will be eligible for benefits.

The Government scrapped the shielding programme after health officials warned it caused “harm” and “left people feeling imprisoned”.

People will also be allowed to leave their house for daily exercise – something that was advised against last time.

NEW ADVICE

In his address to the nation on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “If you are clinically vulnerable, or over the age of 60, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others.

“I know how tough shielding was, and we will not ask people to shield again in the same way again.

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“However we are asking those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to minimise their contact with others, and not to go to work if they are unable to work from home.”

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty added that the more than two million people on the previous shielding list need to take “extra precautions”, but shielding would not be reintroduced due to “the issue of people having significant problems with loneliness and feeling completely cut off from society”.

The Government has classed “clinically vulnerable” people as those aged 60 and over, and those under 60 with an underlying health condition including chronic diseases, respiratory diseases like asthma, pregnant and overweight people.

Previously, this only applied to those aged 70 and over, which means a further 5.9 million people now need to take extra care.

Are you classed as extremely clinically vulnerable?

Those with the following conditions fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable group:

  • solid organ transplant recipients
  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
  • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • people with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • people with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell)
  • people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
  • other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decision
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There is a further different group of 2.2 million people who are defined as “clinically extremely vulnerable” to coronavirus.

This includes those undergoing treatment for cancer, those who are immunosuppressed, or people with conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

Health officials said all those classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” should now receive a letter explaining the changes to the guidance.

Although the list is likely to remain largely unchanged, GPs will be expected to contact anyone believed to fall into the high-risk category.

The Government is due to provide more clarity on guidance for both groups today.

CAMPAIGNERS WARNING

While some people classed as vulnerable have welcomed the second lockdown, charities warned that millions who were previously asked to shield need urgent clarity and support.

Age UK has said older people are likely to struggle with “less direct contact with family and friends”, adding the charity will be “mobilising to help in every way we can”.

The charity’s director Caroline Abrahams said: “Many older people’s hearts will have sunk to their boots after hearing this news.

“That’s why this weekend it’s really important we reach out to the older people in our lives to tell them we love them, they are not forgotten and we’ll be there to support them through this new period of national lockdown.

“If you are worried for yourself or someone else please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You are not alone.”

 

James Taylor, a director for disability equality charity Scope, urged the Government to provide clarity and more accessible advice about “the renewed form of shielding” for disabled people and their employers, adding it is “vague at best”.

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He said millions of disabled people have been shielding since March, and will now be feeling “that same aching worry as they face more time away from loved ones without essential support”.

Mr Taylor said: “We are concerned that there are still too many disabled people who will fall through the gaps of the financial support measures offered and will have to choose between heating and eating this winter.

“Disabled people felt forgotten by Government during the first wave and must not be abandoned now.”

Mental health charity Mind has also urged the Government to support those who feel alone through a second lockdown.

The charity’s chief executive Paul Farmer said there is an “urgent need” for a “winter mental health support package” including in-person and online services.

He said: “The Government has to learn from mistakes in the first wave, making sure people can get help early on.”

The Government has promised to write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice for the second lockdown.

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