Shielding is a measure to protect those at very high risk of severe illness by minimising all interaction between them and others.

Most people who were shielding can now follow the advice for the general population, however, you should strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures. You may also want to think about the levels of risk associated with work and daily activities.

If you were previously told to shield

Before the virus, clinicians advised some people to avoid doing certain things. This is because of their specific health condition or specific treatments. You should continue to follow any specific advice that your clinician provides. Examples include people who:

  • are waiting for a solid organ transplant
  • are having treatment for cancer or have recently completed treatment

Those awaiting a solid organ transplant should contact their transplant team to discuss whether specific recommendations should be in place for them, in addition to this updated advice.

People living in a residential care or nursing home

The advice for the general population does not apply to anyone living in a residential care or nursing home. Your care home should be following The Scottish Government’s Care Home Visiting pathway.

Making choices about what it is safe to do

The Scottish Government has information to enable you to make informed choices about balancing risk with your health and daily activities including:

Returning to work

As for the general population, remote working should remain the default position for those who can do so.

From 1 August, The Scottish Government has advised that most people who were shielding should be able to return to their workplace, if required and if it is safe to do so. You can use their workplace risk assessment tool to review your individual risk when returning to work.

Returning to school

All children and young people who have been asked to shield will be able to return to school, unless they are given advice not to from their GP or specialist healthcare provider.

Children and young people who live with someone who has been shielding will also be able to return to school.

Will shielding start again if the number of infections increase?

If the Scottish Government see an increase in infection rates that gives them concern, they may ask you to take extra steps again to stay safe. If so, they’ll let you know by letter and through the SMS Shielding Service.

Changes to support

Now that shielding is paused, the weekly grocery boxes have stopped.

Priority access to supermarket online delivery slots will continue to anyone who had signed up before 31st July.

The Scottish Government will also keep sending updates through the SMS Shielding Service, which will include a new COVID-19 forecasting service for shielding. This will allow people who have been shielding to sign up to an SMS update that tells them about their risk of being exposed to COVID-19 in their local area.

Text message (SMS) service

You will have received information about this service in the letter sent to you by the Chief Medical Officer telling you that you’re considered to be in the shielding group. Even though shielding is now paused the SMS service will be available for as long as it is needed.

Signing up to the SMS service

You can join the SMS service by texting your 10 digit Community Health Index (CHI) number to 0786 006 4525. You can find your CHI number on the shielding letter you have received. Your letter will include your CHI number and more information about the SMS service.

The SMS service will send you text messages to update you about any changes to the shielding advice.

They will never ask you for financial or other personal information. The text messages will always come from 0786 006 4525.

If you have been told by your GP that you’re in the shielding group, but you haven’t yet received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer, you may find there is a delay of several days before you are able to register for the text message service while your records are being updated.

Helpline for vulnerable people

A helpline (0800 111 4000) has been set up for those at increased risk who don’t have a support network, such as family or existing community support. This helpline will continue to be available even though shielding is now paused.

Callers will be connected to their local authority who will help them access the services they need, such as:

  • essential food and medication
  • links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults
  • emotional support
  • contact with local volunteer groups

The helpline is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.


The Government is helping pharmacies to deliver prescriptions.

Prescriptions will continue to cover the same length of time as usual. If you don’t have your prescriptions collected or delivered, you can arrange this by:

  • asking someone who can, to pick up your prescription from the local pharmacy - this is the best option, if possible
  • using the text message service
  • phoning your local authority's shielding support line

You may also need to arrange for collection or delivery of hospital specialist medication that’s prescribed to you by your hospital care team.

Health and social care support

If you receive support from health and social care organisations, such as care support through your local authority, this will continue as normal.

Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you’re protected.

Further information

Common questions

What should I do if I develop symptoms of coronavirus?

If you develop symptoms, phone 111 as soon as possible.

If you’re seriously ill, or in an emergency, phone 999 for an ambulance. Tell the call handler if you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, out of hours centre or hospital.

If you need to go to hospital as a result of catching coronavirus, prepare a single hospital bag. This should include:

  • your emergency contact
  • a list of the medications you take, including dose and frequency
  • any information on your planned care appointments
  • things you would need for an overnight stay such as snacks, pyjamas, toothbrush and medication
  • your advanced care plan, if you have one

Full guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection

What should you do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

You should access medical assistance remotely (not face-to-face), wherever possible.

If you have a scheduled hospital or medical appointment, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need. Consider whether appointments can be postponed.

If you have to visit a care home, adult hospital, GP practice or pharmacy you must wear a face covering.

What’s the advice for visitors, including those who are providing care for me?

If you receive essential care from friends or family members, speak to your carers about extra precautions they can take to keep you safe.

It’s also a good idea to speak to your carers about what happens if one of them becomes unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, your local council should be able to help you.

What is the advice for informal carers who provide care for someone who is extremely vulnerable?

If you’re caring for someone who’s vulnerable, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them:

  • Wash your hands on arrival and often - use soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands
  • Don’t visit if you’re unwell and make alternative arrangements for their care
  • Provide them with and prominently display information on who they should call if they are alone and feel unwell (their GP phone number and 111) and how to use NHS inform
  • Access advice on creating a contingency plan from Carers UK
  • Find out about different sources of support that could be used
  • Look after your own well-being and physical health

Do not visit if you’re unwell. Try to make alternative arrangements for their care. If carers and family and friends are unable to provide essential care for someone, they should contact their local social work department.

The Scottish Government have published coronavirus advice for unpaid carers, option 1 and 2 advice for personal assistants and guidance for accessing PPE.

Making an emergency plan

Carers who do not already have an emergency plan should speak with family and friends to find out who could take over their caring role if they become ill or need to self-isolate. This is especially important while social work services are under additional pressure during the coronavirus outbreak. Your local carers’ centre may be able to help you to develop an emergency plan over the phone or online.

Make sure you have key information about the person you care for easily available. This will help anyone taking over their care.

How do I look after my wellbeing?

Social isolation, reduction in physical activity, unpredictability and changes in routine can all contribute to increasing stress. Many people including those without existing mental health needs may feel anxious.

If you’re receiving services for your mental health, learning disability or autism and you’re worried about the impact of isolation, contact your keyworker, care coordinator or provider to review your care plan.

If you have additional needs please contact your key worker or care coordinator to develop a safety or crisis plan.

Constantly watching the news can make you feel more worried. If you think it’s affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting this to a couple of times a day. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to and who you get information from.

You may find your mood and feelings are affected by shielding. You may feel bored, frustrated low or worried and have problems sleeping.

It can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse.

There are simple things you can do that may help, to stay mentally and physically active during this time, such as:

  • sitting less and moving more – try doing some simple strength and balance exercises, look for ideas on keeping active at home or have a go at an online fitness class
  • going outside to exercise or meet people from another household
  • spending time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to/watching favourite radio or TV programmes
  • eating healthy, well-balanced meals
  • drinking enough water
  • trying to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs
  • keeping your windows open to let in fresh air
  • arranging a space to sit with a nice view, if possible
  • getting some natural sunlight if you can or sit on your front step, staying more than 2 metres away from your neighbours
  • taking vitamin D if you’re not getting enough natural sunlight

If you’re still struggling with your mental health and it’s affecting your daily life, you should phone 111.

Looking after your mental wellbeing during coronavirus

What steps can I take to stay connected with family and friends during this time?

Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post or online.

Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing. You may find it helpful to talk to them about how you’re feeling.

Remember, it’s okay to share your concerns with others you trust. You may end up providing support to them too.

What is the advice for people living in long-term care facilities, either for the elderly or persons with special needs?

The advice for the general population does not apply to anyone living in a residential care or nursing home. Your care home should be following the Scottish Government Care Home Visiting pathway.