Coronavirus: shielding

Published 18/06/2020   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

18 June 2020

Since the middle of March 2020, those who were deemed to be extremely vulnerable to coronavirus have been told to ‘shield’. This blog post explains what this means, the help they can receive and the number of shielding patients in Wales.

What does shielding mean?

Shielding means protecting those people who are extremely vulnerable to coronavirus due to certain existing health conditions. A list of these health conditions is included in the Welsh Government’s shielding guidance.

People identified as extremely vulnerable should have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales. Those people are strongly advised to stay at home and reduce face-to-face contact.

If a person believes they fall into one of the categories of extremely vulnerable people and have not received a letter, the Welsh Government advises them to discuss concerns with their GP or hospital doctor. The guidance says that “to ensure all high risk patients are contacted, GPs and hospital doctors are able to add people to the shielding list”.

The Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, announced two changes for people who are shielding from 1 June. Firstly, they can exercise outdoors an unlimited number of times a day, but they are advised to do so at times that are less busy to reduce the risk of contact with others. Secondly, they can meet with another household outside on the same terms as the everyone else in Wales.

How long will people need to shield for?

The Health Minister announced that as the initial shielding period of 12 weeks is coming to an end on 15 June, the Chief Medical Officer will write new letters to those shielding. The letters will outline the two changes above and advise people to follow the current advice of not going shopping or to work.

The Chief Medical Officer will review the advice for those shielding in line with the review of the lockdown restrictions. However, the Welsh Government does “not expect that any further relaxation will be possible for this group for some time” and letters will be sent again by 16 August.

What help is there for those shielding?

If those who are shielding have a regular prescription which is not delivered or collected by others, and family and friends can’t help at this time, the Welsh Government advises that they should contact their pharmacy to arrange a delivery service.

If the person shielding also has difficulties getting food, then they are able to request a free weekly food box from their local authority. Local authority contact details are included in the letter from the Chief Medical Officer.

The Welsh Government says that “major supermarkets now have the details of all of those who have received a shielding letter to enable them to prioritise internet orders”. Local authorities and supermarkets will receive the updated Welsh shielded patient list from the Welsh Government.

Getting help and support from these services is conditional on receiving a letter. The Royal College of General Practitioners said people were asking GPs to be put on the list because they needed these services and that “it would have been better to try and separate the access to services from the medical advice”.

How many people are on the shielded patient list in Wales?

The Welsh Government publishes summary data on the shielded patient list in Wales. The list is based on the latest version of the shielded patient list as defined by NHS Wales Informatics Service methodology. The data provides patient counts by local authority, local health board and age band. The Welsh Government explains that the data are taken from management information and are subject to change. It also cautions that the data are not subject to the same validation processes undertaken for official statistics.

The latest data published on 17 June (which were extracted on 15 June) show that there were a total of 127,095 people on the shielded patient list in Wales. Of these 4,040 (3.2%) were aged under 16, 71,165 (56.0%) were aged between 16 and 69 and 51,660 (40.6%) were aged 70 and over. The age was unknown for a small number of patients.

The interactive map below presents data on the shielded patient list for each Local Authority in Wales. The controls can be used to show either the number or proportion of people on the shielded patient list and either all ages or just those aged 70 and over. Hovering over an area will show the numbers or proportion of people.


All ages: Count of shielded population
All ages: Percentage of total population on shielded patient list
70 and over: Count of shielded population
70 and over: Percentage of total population on shielded patient list


Source: Welsh Government, Shielded Patient List in Wales during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: as at 15 June 2020

Blaenau Gwent (4.9%) had the highest proportion of the total population on the shielded patient list and Newport (3.4%) had the lowest proportion. Merthyr Tydfil (13.3%) had the highest proportion of people aged 70 and over on the shielded patient list and Monmouthshire (8.1%) the lowest.


Article by Helen Jones, Joe Wilkes and Lucy Morgan, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament

We’ve published a range of material on the coronavirus pandemic, including a post setting out the help and guidance available for people in Wales and a timeline of Welsh and UK governments’ response.

You can see all our coronavirus-related publications by clicking here. All are updated regularly.