Older people and those with underlying health conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) are at greater risk of developing serious illness due to Covid-19.
Official guidance on how to minimise your risk of getting coronavirus, and what to do if you develop symptoms, is the same for everyone, regardless of age. But there are some specific considerations to help older people protect themselves.
If you develop symptoms of Covid-19 - that's a continuous cough, high temperature or loss of your normal taste and smell - you must stay at home and . If you test positive for coronavirus or have been in contact with somebody who has, you will need to self-isolate in your home for at least 10 days.
People with underlying health conditions and those who are 70 or older are still considered to be more vulnerable to the virus than the general population. The government urges everyone in this category to follow the latest rules carefully.
In addition, some people with specific serious health conditions are considered to be 'clinically extremely vulnerable'. If you are in this group you should take extra precautions and follow 'shielding' advice, such as only leaving your house for medical appointments and minimising contact with others as much as possible. This means you should not go to the shops or a pharmacy and should avoid all non-essential travel.
Being extremely vulnerable includes people with severe respiratory conditions, specific cancers, chronic kidney disease and . If you're identified in this group, you'll receive a letter from the NHS explaining the latest guidance and support that's available to help you.
Support for the extremely vulnerable includes priority access to and an online tool to let your local council know if you need help. You can also contact the if you need help getting to a medical appointment or for other essential support. Or call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm.
If you live by yourself, you may be able to form a 'support bubble' with another household - even if carers visit you to provide support or you are classed as extremely clinically vulnerable.
Being in a support bubble means you can have close contact with the other household you're linked with. You can visit their house and stay the night, for instance. You should continue to follow social distancing guidance with people outside of your support bubble.
Once you've formed your support bubble, you can't change who's in it. And it's best to form a bubble with a household that lives locally. It's also safer to make a support bubble with the smallest group of people possible. And you may want to avoid forming a bubble with a household that is more exposed to coronavirus, such as people who are healthcare workers.
If anyone in your support bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, you will need to self-isolate.
Self-isolation means staying at home and avoiding all direct contact with other people.
You should self-isolate if:
If you have symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus, you'll usually need to self-isolate for at least 10 days.
There are currently three coronavirus vaccines approved in the UK. Each jab needs two doses (within 12 weeks of each other) to be fully effective. On January 4 the Prime Minister pledged that all over 70s and vulnerable people will receive the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by mid-February. The target is for all elderly care home residents to receive their first jab by the end of January.
When it's your turn, the NHS will get in touch to invite you to your appointment. This may be via a phone call from your GP practice, or by email, text message or letter.
Unfortunately, many non-urgent health appointments have been cancelled or postponed during the pandemic. But don't assume your GP, dental or optician appointment has been cancelled. Keep any appointments or procedures you have booked unless you're told not to go.
It's also vitally important to get medical help if you think you need it. So don't put off going to the hospital if you're advised to go. Hospitals have dedicated coronavirus-free zones to treat patients safely if needed.
During the crisis, you'll only be asked to visit your GP surgery if absolutely necessary. But phone and video appointments may be available.
Limiting physical contact with others can be an important way to protect the health of those who are vulnerable, but cutting off all social connections can be harmful for older people.
Here's what you can do:
If you don't have close friends or family nearby, you may be more likely to feel isolated. It's important to take steps to keep in contact with those who can offer support.
Local community support groups
A number of local volunteer initiatives have been established around the country to support vulnerable or isolated people.
The to COVID-19, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. This network of community groups and charities promotes local initiatives to support vulnerable and isolated people during the pandemic, especially those who do not have close family nearby.
The key thing to consider is that while social distancing is essential, older people should be given as much support as possible during this period.