Advice on protecting yourself against coronavirus (COVID-19)

Some people have a weakened immune system Open a glossary item or a blood cancer. If you are in this group, you should take extra care to protect yourself. Follow the advice of your healthcare team and the guidance for your part of the UK.

Some people have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of getting ill with severe COVID-19. This group of people were called clinically extremely vulnerable before. If you are in this group, the current advice is to follow the same rules as the rest of the population. But to keep certain things in mind to make sure you are safe (please see below).

You can read more detailed information on the advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus in each UK nation. Follow the links further down on this page.

We update our coronavirus advice with guidance as and when it becomes available.

A weakened immune system

Some people might have a weakened immune system Open a glossary item because of their cancer or cancer treatment. This includes people who had or recently have had a:

  • blood cancer (such as leukaemia Open a glossary item or lymphoma Open a glossary item)
  • weakened immune system due to a treatment (such as steroid Open a glossary item medicine, biological therapy Open a glossary item, chemotherapy Open a glossary item or radiotherapy Open a glossary item)
  • bone marrow transplant Open a glossary item

You will know that you are in this group if your GP or healthcare team have informed you that you are eligible for:

  • a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (this is not your booster jab)
  • the new treatments for COVID-19

How can I protect myself from the coronavirus if I have a weakened immune system?

If you have a weakened immune system, follow the advice from your healthcare team. In England, the advice on how to protect yourself if you have a weakened immune system is:

  • ensure you have had all of the vaccines you are eligible to have, including your booster
  • continue to follow any specific advice from your healthcare team for your cancer or treatment
  • work from home, but if you can't, speak to your employer about any temporary arrangements they can make to reduce your risk
  • wait 14 days after another person’s last COVID-19 jab before having close contact with them
  • avoid enclosed crowded spaces
  • practise social distancing if that feels right for you and your friends
  • ventilate your home by opening windows and doors to let fresh air in
  • ask friends and family to take a rapid lateral flow antigen test before visiting you
  • ask home visitors to wear face coverings
  • wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face

A health condition that puts you at higher risk

Some people have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of getting ill with severe COVID-19. This group of people were called clinically extremely vulnerable before.

The current advice for people with a health condition that puts them at higher risk is to follow the same advice as the rest of the population. They should also keep the following in mind:

  • wait 14 days after another person's last COVID-19 jab before having close contact with them
  • practise social distancing if that feels right for you and your friends
  • ask friends and family to take a rapid lateral flow antigen test before visiting you
  • ask home visitors to wear face coverings
  • avoid enclosed crowded spaces

What is the advice on protecting yourself from COVID-19 in the different UK countries?

For more detailed information for each UK nation follow the links below.

England

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

I’m taking extra care to protect myself and live with other people, what should we do?

Your healthcare team or GP might ask you to take extra measures to protect yourself. This is because of your individual risk and circumstances. Follow the advice from your healthcare team or GP.

If you have a very weakened immune system, you and your household contacts should have all your coronavirus vaccines. 

In general, anyone who lives with you should reduce their contact outside their home where possible. But they do not have to practice the same measures. They should practice social distancing (see below).

  • Spend as little time as possible with other people that you live with in shared spaces. This includes the kitchen or living room. Keep these areas well ventilated.
  • Everyone in the household should wear a face covering.
  • Try to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from people you live with. Sleep in a different bed where possible.
  • Use separate towels to other people in your house.
  • Use a separate bathroom if possible. If you need to share a toilet and bathroom, this should be cleaned after you use them.
  • Everyone should wash their hands regularly. They should avoid touching their faces and clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Depending on your situation, it could be very difficult to stay separate from others at home. Do what you can. It is important that you feel you can support each other through this.

Care and support if you're taking extra care to protect yourself

Visits for essential support

You can continue to have visits from anyone who helps you with essential support. For example, healthcare staff or carers. Visitors should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. They should do this when they arrive and often during their visit.

Getting help from the NHS

It is important that you continue to contact the NHS and other health providers. They can give support with your current and new health conditions.

There is a range of NHS services which you can access from home. It includes ordering repeat prescriptions or contacting health professionals for an online appointment.

You can also download the NHS App.

Help with work, shopping and medicines

Work

If you are too ill to work, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.

Children and young people should go to education settings unless their doctor has advised them not to.

Shopping and medicines

Many local authorities have schemes to help. This includes things like shopping and getting medicines. There might also be a local volunteer scheme in your area. Contact your local council to find out more or check your local authority's website.

NHS Volunteer Responders

In England the NHS Volunteer Responders can give short-term help with:

  • collecting shopping, medicines and other important items
  • contacting you with a friendly phone call
  • helping you get to medical appointments by giving you a lift

Priority supermarket delivery slots

Priority access to supermarket delivery slots ended on 21 June 2021. You can continue to book delivery slots in the usual manner with your supermarket.

For help with shopping and medicine in other UK countries, follow the above links to the different nations.

If you feel worried about shielding being ended

Some people have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of getting ill with severe COVID-19. This group of people were called clinically extremely vulnerable before. They had to follow strict rules to protect themselves at the start of the pandemic. This was called shielding. Shielding ended in September 2021.

Understandably you might feel anxious about shielding being ended. The decision about whether you follow the guidelines for the general public or not is yours. It will depend on your circumstances and how comfortable you feel about it. If you're feeling anxious, it can help to talk through your worries with your family.

The team caring for you can also talk to you about your individual risk.

For information and support, you can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Travelling to hospital

Many hospital appointments have changed to telephone or video appointments. But there might be situations when you need to attend the hospital. There are some practical tips that can help you feel safer:

  • Try to avoid public transport and go by car where possible. Ask a friend or family member to drive you if you can't drive. They won't be able to go into the appointment with you and will need to wait in the car for you.
  • Try to practise social distancing with the person driving you. Sit as far away as possible from them.
  • Wear a face covering.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Wash your hands where possible or use a hand sanitiser gel before, during and after the journey.

Hospital transport

Your hospital might be able to provide hospital transport. This is usually when you are unable to travel by yourself or find someone to drive you. The transport service will have safety and cleaning procedures in place. Talk to your medical team or contact the transport service at your hospital. They can give you more information.

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