Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for vulnerable people

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause mild symptoms. But for older people and those with an underlying health condition, it can be more serious. This page has guidance on how vulnerable people can help reduce the risk of getting coronavirus and what help others can offer them.

People considered vulnerable

People over the age of 70 are considered vulnerable, even if they do not have an underlying health condition. This also applies to those who are pregnant.

Others considered vulnerable include people who have:

Those with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus must stay at home to protect themselves.

GPs will be writing to those in Northern Ireland most at risk (approximately 40,000 people) to provide them with more detailed advice.

COVID-19 Community Helpline

A freephone helpline to help those in vulnerable groups to access information, advice and guidance in relation to COVID-19 is open 9.00 am to 5.00pm, seven days a week.

The helpline is local to Northern Ireland, and is managed by Advice NI.

  • freephone number:  0808 802 0020

You can also get in touch by email and text message:

Advice for a vulnerable person staying at home

Everyone should be staying at home and following social distancing measures. Older people and vulnerable people, including those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women should be particularly strict when following them.

If you know an older or vulnerable person who has been advised to self-isolate is worried about going out or decides they’d prefer not to, there are still plenty of things you can do to help, including:

  • staying in touch over the phone
  • checking if they need any shopping or help
  • encourage others to stay in contact
  • encourage them to keep active by moving around the house or spending time in the garden/ outdoor area

Vulnerable persons receiving care

Vulnerable people may include those receiving domiciliary care or those living in nursing and residential care homes. Guidance for these settings is available from the Public Health Agency website.

Advice for extremely vulnerable people (shielding)

There is guidance for people, including children, who are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition, and for their family, friends and carers.

How to help reduce the risk of getting coronavirus

Everyone should be staying at home and following social distancing measures.  Another important thing you can do to reduce the risk of infection for yourself and the people around you is to wash your hands, frequently and thoroughly, with soap and hot water.

You should also make sure you catch coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve – not your hands – and put used tissues in the bin. Then wash your hands. Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Getting help with foods and medicines

If you need help, ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services, such as food delivery services. If this is not possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home.

Speak to others and ask them to help you to make arrangements for the delivery of food, medicines and essential services and supplies, and look after your physical and mental health and wellbeing.

If you receive support from health and social care organisations this will continue as normal. Your health trust or health care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you are protected.

Medicines and COVID-19

There is no need for you to do anything new or different when ordering or taking your medicines.

People should order prescriptions and take their medicines as normal.
Extra supplies should not be ordered from your doctor.

Stockpiling or buying medication that you do not need is unnecessary and could disadvantage other people.

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