Shielding advice updates

Shielding is a measure for people who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 (coronavirus) to take extra steps to reduce the risk of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus. Shielding has now paused in the UK.

As of October 2020, guidance on protecting those at most risk of the effects of coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable) has changed.

It's understandable that these recent changes might mean that you feel pressure to make a decision about whether you can – or should – leave your home, and you may feel anxious about whether this is safe for you. This information will help you to understand the advice in your area.

Information is correct as of 6 November 2020.

Why is shielding guidance changing? What's my risk as a woman with ovarian cancer?

Since March, at a time when the rate of Covid-19 (coronavirus) infection was high, shielding was recommended for people who were considered extremely vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus. This included women with ovarian cancer who are having chemotherapy or some other targeted cancer treatments, including PARP inhibitors.

Coronavirus cases are now rising again across the whole of the UK, so discussions around shielding are happening again.

It’s natural to worry about the risk of coronavirus to you, and to want to know your level of risk. While it's not possible to predict anyone’s risk exactly, your healthcare team will be able to talk you through your level of risk and what that means for you.

What has changed in the shielding advice?

In August 2020 it was advised that people who have been shielding in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland no longer needed to do so. However as cases of coronavirus are rising again across the UK it's advised that people who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable should be extra cautious. We’ve gathered all the advice together here.


As of 5 November 2020, England went into a second lockdown. The government issued new guidance to people considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable people at the same time. It’s advised that you should stay at home as much as possible but you’re still encouraged to go outdoors to exercise and go to health appointments.

Read the England update on shielding


As of 2 November 2020, there are five protection levels (tiers) across the different areas of Scotland. Those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable and are in a level 4 area (the highest protection level) are advised to minimise contact with other people and take extra care.

Read the Scotland update on shielding


As of 23 October 2020, any person considered clinically extremely vulnerable is being advised to take extra care, reduce contact with other people, and shop online or at quieter times. 

Read the Wales update on shielding

Northern Ireland

It's advised that people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to follow the general advice on limiting household contacts, keeping social distance, hand washing and wearing a face covering, but should be particularly careful when following this advice. 

Read the Northern Ireland update on shielding

What's the advice about returning to work?


You’re strongly advised to work from home if you can. If you can’t, then you should not go to work. You will receive a letter from that government that is a formal shielding notification and can act as evidence for your employer to show that you cannot work outside your home until 2 December, including for statutory sick pay (SSP) purposes. You may be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough).


As of 2 November, you're advised to work if required and it's safe to do so. Employers have a duty to protect your health and safety. The Scottish government has published a workplace risk assessment tool to help you and your manager assess and help reduce your risk from Covid-19.

If your area is in level 4 [PDF] you will be sent a letter that is similar to a fit note (a statement of fitness to work) and which will last for as long as your area is in this level. This letter can be used in the few cases where it’s not possible to make your workplace safe. However, being in level 4 doesn’t automatically mean you shouldn’t attend work. It’s best to talk to your employer about this.


As of 16 August, when shielding paused, it was advised that if you can’t work from home then you can go to work if your workplace is Covid-secure. This continues to be the case.

Your employer should take all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus. The Welsh Government has issued guidance to employers on taking measures to make the workplace safe.

Northern Ireland

From 31 July, when shielding paused, it was advised that if it’s possible to work from home then you are advised to. This is still the case. However, if you do need to go into the workplace then employers have a 'duty of care' for staff, customers and anyone else who visits that workplace. This means they should be taking all steps they reasonably can to support your health, safety and wellbeing.

If you're unable to follow guidance on social distancing at work or during travel to work, it's important to tell your employer that you need to follow government advice and avoid these risks.

Uncertainty about returning to work

We know that some people may feel uncertain about returning to work. The government is asking employers to make sure that appropriate measures are put in place for those currently considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable to return to work when they are able to do so. You should speak to your employer and discuss your situation, agree a plan for continuing to work and confirm that appropriate adjustments have been made before returning to your workplace.

If you have concerns or questions about whether it's safe for you to go to work, speak to your healthcare team.

Please remember that you can always call our support line on 020 7923 5475 (9am–5.30pm, Monday–Friday) and speak to one of our specialist nurses if you have any concerns or questions or just need someone to talk to. 


We make every effort to ensure that the information we provide is accurate. If you're concerned about your health, you should consult your doctor. Target Ovarian Cancer cannot accept liability for any loss or damage resulting from any inaccuracy in this information or third-party information on websites to which we link.