Coronavirus lockdown restrictions are in place across the country, but now 1.7 million people nationwide will be asked to shield, as it has been revealed they are at serious risk from the virus. They have been identified by a new algorithm created by Oxford University looking at multiple factors. Those affected by the changes will be sent a letter by the NHS in the coming days and will be invited to have their jab as a matter of urgency.
A risk analysis tool from a team at Oxford University and commissioned by England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has highlighted 1.7 million more people who are at risk for the virus.
Ethnicity and deprivation have for the first time been recognised as risk factors for severe Covid in new modelling.
Other risk factors include several medical conditions, including serious mental health issues, and as a result, more than 800,000 people are now being fast-tracked for the Covid vaccine.
Who is being asked to shield now? Will you have to shield?
Those newly-identified as being at higher risk, because of multiple factors, including underlying health conditions, will get priority access for vaccines, officials confirmed.
The new tool means a total of four million people will be asked to shield.
The deputy chief medical officer for England, Dr Jenny Harries, said: “We have a new, evidence-based, data-driven, predictive risk model which allows us to identify adults with multiple risk factors that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
“We can now identify additional people and help protect them now and in the future.
“All of these people who are identified for the first time are those who have not had an individual clinical condition that we’ve previously been able to identify through the clinically extremely vulnerable group, but they are people who have multiple personal risk factors and underlying health conditions which move them into a higher risk group.
“As we learn more about COVID-19, we’re continuously reviewing the evidence… it was very clear that not all of those individuals who were at risk were identified by the binary approach.
“The model that is used combines a number of underlying risk factors. And those factors include specific health conditions and some treatments which, for example, put your immune system at risk.
“Age, which is the highest risk factor, sex, ethnicity, body mass index and your postcode, which will also link to a deprivation score.
“It provides a weighted cumulative risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19 and therefore allows us to prioritise these individuals for vaccination and to give them appropriate advice.
“And the easiest way for us to do that is to include them on the shielded patient list.”
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Up until now, only people with specific conditions or undergoing certain types of treatment have been advised to shield until March 31.
These individuals include those with Down’s Syndrome, organ donor recipients and people with severe respiratory conditions.
Not everyone with these conditions will automatically be told to shield but individuals with certain or multiple conditions may be asked to shield.
The current Government guidelines urges all those who are told to shield to remain at home at all times except for attending medical appointments and for exercise.
The shielding advice mandates all contact be kept to an absolute minimum and avoid busy areas.
When going out, shielding individuals are told to maintain strict social distancing, wash their hands regularly and to avoid touching their face.
According to the NHS, 2,261,111 people were shielding in England as of February 11 which are broken down as follows according to age:
- 0 to 17: 55,517 people
- 18 to 29: 94,341 people
- 30 to 39: 130,240 people
- 40 to 49: 190,291 people
- 50 to 59: 352,309 people
- 60 to 69: 460,463 people
- 70 to 79: 562,579 people
- 80 to 89: 342,170 people
- 90 and over: 73,200 people.
The next report on the current number of shielding patients is due to be published on February 18.
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