Coronavirus (COVID-19):  pausing of shielding for extremely vulnerable people

From 31 July, it is anticipated that shielding for extremely vulnerable people will be paused. This page outlines what these changes will mean for people who have been shielding.

Shielding guidance update

The COVID-19 virus still poses a high risk if someone who is shielding is exposed to it.  However, the rate of community transmission has now dropped to a level that means that the risk of catching COVID-19 has significantly reduced.

As the risk is lower, and considering the most recent scientific advice, the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland has updated the guidance for those who are shielding.

Subject to the rate of community transmission continuing to be low, from 31 July there will be no need for anyone who is extremely vulnerable to have to shield to manage the risk.

Further letters will be issued to all those who have been advised to shield, with details of the change and ways you can continue to get the help you need.

If you are shielding, you should continue to follow the updated shielding advice until 31 July.  The advice may change in the coming weeks and this page will be updated with any further guidance.

There is information below on what these changes mean for you.

Shielding timeline

People who have conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to severe complications if they contract COVID-19 are strongly advised to shield until 31 July. 

However, shielding is not compulsory, and you will not be penalised if you choose not to follow the guidance.  You must, of course, continue to follow the social distancing rules which apply to everyone.

Shielding in the future

Shielding will be paused from 31 July 2020. Pausing, rather than stopping shielding is just a precaution and there are no plans for it to restart at the moment. The pause is indefinite, but it remains possible that it will need to reactivate the guidance if the risk increases in the future. 

Shielding and safety concerns

It is impossible to guarantee safety in any walk of life. However, the level of risk in the community is now considered to be low. If this continues to be the case, from 31 July it will no longer be necessary for anyone who is in the extremely vulnerable category to have to shield.

What to do if your workplace does not practice social distancing

Employers have a 'duty of care' for staff, customers and anyone else who visits the workplace. In practice, this means taking all steps they reasonably can to support the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff. 

Where vulnerable staff cannot follow guidance on social distancing at work or during travel to work, they should tell their employer they need to follow government advice and avoid these risks.

Information about food parcels

If you are shielding and have previously registered your need for a food box through the Community Helpline you will automatically continue to receive this until 31 July 2020.

If you are shielding and have not previously registered through the Community Helpline,  contact the helpline now to register, using the number below. This will allow you to talk to your local Trust and facilitate continued delivery of a food box until 31 July.

For those not shielding but who were getting a weekly food box this will end on 26 June. If you still need help to access food after this date you should contact the COVID 19 Community Helpline who will direct you to other supports that are available.

You can find out more about getting help with food, medicines and essential services, supplies and the priority online shopping service at the following page:

COVID-19 Community Helpline

Information about child care arrangements

Information for people who are returning to work and are experiencing issues with child care is avaiable at the following link:

Guidance over maintaining social distancing

For now, people who have been advised to shield should still maintain strict social distancing.  This includes family members. 

The position will be kept under review in line with the on-going assessment of the likelihood of catching the virus.  You should continue to follow the updated shielding advice until 31 July. 

Support after the ending of shielding

It is understood some people will be anxious about the end of the shielding.  If you have any concerns about your health or mental wellbeing, you should speak to your GP. 

Work is also underway to develop a range of supports that will be available for people once shielding ends.  Details of these supports will be contained in the letters that are being issued to those who are shielding. 

The Minding Your Head website contains information to help you look after your own mental health and to support others. 

In addition, tailored information and self-help guides from local mental health and wellbeing charities are available at the Covid-19 Virtual Wellbeing Hub

These resources are designed to help promote positive mental health and wellbeing both during and after the Covid 19 Pandemic.

If you would like to speak to someone, you can still contact your GP, or if you are 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.’

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.