About coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information about coronavirus and who is at risk.
This page was last updated on: 24 September 2020, 9.49am

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are common across the world. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus.

The most common symptoms are a continuous cough and/or a high temperature (fever). People may also lose their sense of taste or smell. For most people, COVID-19 will be a mild infection.


Who is more vulnerable?

Anyone can get coronavirus. However, some people are more vulnerable to getting severe symptoms.

There are 2 levels of higher risk:

  • high risk – people who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • moderate risk – people who are clinically vulnerable


High risk – clinically extremely vulnerable

  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
  • are having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
  • are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  • have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • have been told by a doctor they have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or severe COPD)
  • have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
  • are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppressant medicine)
  • have a serious heart condition and are pregnant

People who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will have received a letter from their GP. They are highly advised to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe.


Moderate risk – clinically vulnerable

People at moderate risk from coronavirus include people who:

  • are 70 or older
  • have a lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
  • have heart disease (such as heart failure)
  • have diabetes
  • have chronic kidney disease
  • have liver disease (such as hepatitis)
  • have a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy)
  • have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections
  • are taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids)
  • are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • are pregnant

People in the moderate risk group are advised to continue to follow the Government guidance on keeping themselves safe.

Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/


Other things that can affect your risk

A report by Public Health England found that other things might also mean you are more likely to get seriously ill from coronavirus.

These include:

  • your age – your risk increases as you get older
  • being a man
  • where in the country you live – the risk is higher in poorer areas
  • being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background
  • being born outside of the UK or Ireland
  • living in a care home
  • having certain jobs, such as nurse, taxi driver and security guard

See the full report: GOV.UK disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19



Nationally, the shielding programme has been paused for now. However, in areas where virus transmission is high and where further restrictions are in place, people who are extremely clinically vulnerable may be advised to shield. 

Shielding is a measure to protect clinically extremely vulnerable people by minimising interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.

This means that those who are extremely vulnerable should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household. This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) from coming into contact with the virus.

More information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19