Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ and ‘vulnerable’ people
Everyone in Northern Ireland needs to comply with current coronavirus restrictions. However, if you’ve previously been identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ or ‘vulnerable’, you may wish to consider extra precautions.
Advice for people who were identified as being ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (CEV) is kept under continual review in line with the wider review of restrictions by the Northern Ireland Executive.
The advice to shield has been paused since the end of July 2020. The evidence available, together with new treatments and preventative measures, means it is unlikely that you will be asked to shield in the future.
Restrictions have eased across a wide range of settings, including mixing indoors in private dwellings; overnight stays in private dwellings; and the reopening of indoor hospitality, accommodation, and visitor attractions.
Full details of the current restrictions are available at:
If you were identified as CEV, it is important to remember that the virus is still circulating in our communities with an increase in rates of virus activity in line with the easing of restrictions. The potential impact of the Omicron variant is being carefully monitored.
Vaccination is a key protective measure and vulnerable people were among the highest priority groups in the roll out of the vaccination programme.
The single most effective measure you can take to protect yourself is to get vaccinated as well as getting your booster and you are strongly encouraged to do so if you haven’t already.
You can still get vaccinated by booking at one of the community pharmacies. First vaccinations are also available at walk-in Trust hubs.
The details on getting a first vaccination or booster are available at the link below:
If your immune system has been severely suppressed, either as a result of the condition you have, or a treatment you’re receiving, you are advised to get a third dose of the vaccine.
You should have been contacted by your GP or hospital clinician with details on how to go about receiving a third dose.
Whilst vaccination provides significant protection against serious illness, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective. While you can take part in the re-opening of society, it is vitally important that you continue to exercise great care.
- limit household contacts and keep the number of social interactions that you have low - the fewer social interactions you have, the lower your risk of catching COVID-19
- follow social distancing guidelines
- wash your hands well and often and avoid touching your face particularly after touching hard surfaces which others may have been in contact with
- use a face covering and encourage others to do so too
Shops, cafes, restaurants and other hospitality settings are likely to be busy. If possible, try to go at quieter times and adhere rigidly to the safety guidance when you do:
- stick to social distancing guidelines
- use your face covering at all times unless you are exempt
- try to spend as little time as possible in an indoor setting, where ventilation is likely to be poorer
If you feel uneasy about the easing of restrictions, you can continue to ask friends, family or volunteers to collect shopping and medicines for you.
There is no 'once size fits all' advice and you should consider what is best for you and the key precautions you can take to minimise personal risk. Take advice from your GP, clinician/ specialist consultant if needed.
If you were identified as CEV you should work from home where this is possible.
If it is currently not possible to work from home, you can attend your workplace, as long as your employer has taken the proper social distancing measures in your place of work, and you can travel to work in a way which allows for social distancing.
All employers have a 'duty of care' for staff and, in practice, this means taking all steps they reasonably can to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff.
This change in advice will be subject to ongoing review of the status of the virus in Northern Ireland.
Information and advice for employers and employees on COVID-19 and working safely across a range of workplace settings is available on the nibusinessinfo website.
If you have any concerns about your safety in the workplace, you are encouraged to discuss these with your employer or human resources department.
They will be best placed to advise on appropriate measures for your particular role and workplace at this time, including, for example, if there might be scope to re-design your role, change your working pattern or location, or reduce contact with others.
If you have concerns about social distancing in your workplace, or require further information, you can visit the Health and Safety Executive (HSENI)’s website or call 0800 0320 121 to speak to someone about it.
Where you find that you have a disagreement with your employer, which you are unable to resolve, you should consider contacting the Labour Relations Agency (LRA).
In addition, the Law Centre NI provides free, independent, specialist legal advice on employment rights and has established a dedicated COVID-19 response team for COVID-19 related employment rights matters.
If you need to travel, walk or cycle if you can. For longer journeys, or if you are unable to walk or cycle, try to minimise the number of people you come into close contact with.
Where it is necessary for you to use public transport, consider travelling outside peak hours to reduce the number of people with whom you come into contact with, wear a face covering unless you are exempt, and wash your hands after touching shared hard surfaces.
Travelling by car is likely to mean fewer social contacts than travelling by public transport. You should avoid sharing a car with people outside of your immediate household or support bubble.
Pupils previously shielding or with a family member who was previously shielding due to being identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ can continue to go to school.
There is clear evidence of a very low rate of severe disease in children of primary and secondary school ages even if they do catch the disease. COVID-19 is a mild, self-limiting illness for the vast majority of children. Risk of serious illness or death are extremely low for children, even those with serious underlying conditions.
This is also the case for those who are ‘vulnerable’ to COVID-19. If you have concerns about this, you may wish to speak with your GP or hospital consultant. Their advice can be shared with the school if you wish. The school can then determine if it needs to take any additional actions to reduce the risk further.
A small number of children will be advised by their clinical team not to attend an educational setting. The vast majority of these children would routinely be advised not to attend school even outside pandemic period due to the risk of infections other than COVID-19.
If you're receiving domiciliary care or those living in nursing and residential care homes, guidance for these settings is available from the Public Health Agency website:
If you are worried about your health and social care during COVID-19, the Patient and Client Council offer a freephone support service, supporting you with any questions, concerns or complaints you may have.
Advisors will be able to help you to navigate your care should it be affected by the new pressures being faced by the Health Service during COVID-19.
Contact details are below:
- freephone telephone number: 0800 917 0222
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about this service visit the Patient Client Council website.
Mental health support
This is a difficult time for many people and may be particularly worrying for those who have an underlying condition which means they are more clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.
If you are finding things difficult, there are a range of supports available which can help.
The Minding Your Head website contains information to help you look after your own mental health and to support others.
Tailored information and self-help guides from local mental health and wellbeing charities are available at the COVID-19 Virtual Wellbeing Hub.
If you have concerns about your health or mental wellbeing, you should speak to your GP.
If you're in distress or despair, you can call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000 where you can speak to a trained counsellor. This service is available 24/7 and is free from all NI landlines and mobiles.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has published a leaflet 'Take five steps to wellbeing’ which offers tips on supporting your mental and emotional wellbeing while staying at home during the current COVID-19 outbreak.
It sets out a practical framework around five steps:
- be active
- take notice
Loneliness and isolation
Feeling lonely or disconnected is a natural reaction to the current coronavirus pandemic, and it’s important that you don’t blame yourself for feelings of loneliness, at this or any other time.
If you feel unable to take these steps, you can also contact one of the helplines.
You can read guidance on looking after your mental health and wellbeing during this time on the COVID Wellbeing NI website.
Advice if you are claiming benefits or considering claiming benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, is available at: