Number of shielding people 'expected to double' as coronavirus cases soar

The amount of people told to shield in March could double in a second coronavirus wave, as cases once again increased by more than 3,000.

Boris Johnson is currently considering asking 4,500,000 at-risk people to stay at home or take tailored advice to protect themselves, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

These people would be selected based on a ‘risk model’ that would assess their underlying health conditions, age, sex or weight. 

It was originally reported that the new shielding scheme would be implemented in local areas which had seen a spike in cases in a similar way to how local lockdowns are being enforced around the country. 

But a Whitehall source has reportedly said that if the transmission rate becomes high enough across the whole of England, the government is ‘prepared to do it on a blanket basis’.

It comes as the R number, the amount of people that one coronavirus carrier infects, is at 1.7. The UK only came out of lockdown in July after the R number went below one, which experts deemed a safe level for some aspects of normal life to resume.

A leaked Department of Health memo has also revealed that the virus is spreading in care homes again, the Telegraph reported.

Professor Peter Openshaw, an adviser to government SAGE experts, urged the country to ‘act fast’ because a delay of just a ‘few days’ could become dangerous.

On Sunday, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge that he thinks Britain is on the ‘edge of losing control’.

He said:’It’s a bit like water seeping through a dam. It starts as a trickle and if you don’t do something about it, it can turn into a real cascade.’

The latest increase in confirmed coronavirus cases was the highest the UK has seen since just after the virus’ peak in April. 

What is the R rate?

An R number between 1.0 and 1.2 means that on average every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 12 others.

A growth rate between -1% and +3% means the number of new infections is somewhere between shrinking by 1% and growing by 2% every day.

The UK estimates of R and growth rate are averages over very different epidemiological situations and should be regarded as a guide to the general trend rather than a description of the epidemic state.

Most recent R rate by regions:

England: 1.0-1.2

East of England: 0.9-1.2

London: 1.1-1.3

Midlands: 0.9-1.1

North East and Yorkshire: 1.0-1.2

North West: 1.1-1.3

South East: 1.0-1.2

South West: 0.9-1.2

Source: GOV.UK

Although the alleged new shielding plans do not include the national food parcel delivery service that was used during the first programme, the Government would reportedly give extra funding to councils to help checking on people and looking after their needs.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News a full national lockdown is only a ‘nuclear option’ and that keeping schools, colleges and the economy open is more of a priority than family gatherings. 

He said: ‘This is like a half marathon. Normally this time of the year I’m running half marathons and you get to a point in the race where the gradient starts to go up, it feels really tough.

‘You have to dig in, remember that the finishing line is there, and just concentrate on doing the job.’ 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We keep all aspects of our response to the pandemic under review and in line with the advice of our scientific and medical experts.

‘Shielding for the clinically extremely vulnerable has been paused since the start of August in most of the country while average rates of coronavirus remain low. Shielding is still advised in specific areas of the country where prevalence of the virus is higher.’

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