People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions however advice for this group is changing and those who have been self-isolating in England during the pandemic will no longer need to shield from 1 August and from 6 July, they will be able to meet

up outdoors, in a group, with up to five others and form 'support bubbles' with other households.

The measures can be eased because COVID-19 infection rates have decreased significantly during the month of June.

What's changing from 6 July?

Those in the general population, in England (i.e. not clinically vulnerable):

  • Can meet in groups of up to two households indoors or outdoors however even inside someone’s home social distancing rules continue to apply with anyone not in your household or bubble.
  • Can continue to meet outdoors in groups of up to six people from different households, following social distancing guidelines
  • Can stay overnight away from your home with your own household or support bubble, or with members of one other household

In addition to this businesses and venues, including restaurants, pubs, cinemas, visitor attractions, hotels, libraries, community centres, places of worship, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms will be able to open.

Those shielding in England (note this guidance remains advisory)

  • Can meet in a group of up to 6 people outdoors, including people from different households, while maintaining strict 2 metre distance from others
  • No longer need to observe social distancing with other members of their household
  • If living alone or in single-parent households, they may form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household. All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight, without needing to socially distance

What's changing from 1st August?

From 1st August the government will be advising that shielding will be paused in England. From this date, people shielding must continue to adopt strict social distancing but no longer need to fully self-isolate. This means those currently shielding:

  • Can go out to more places and see more people but should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household or support bubble.
  • Can return to work, if they can't work from home, as long as their workplace is COVID secure.
  • Can return to their education settings (if they are children) and if they are eligible and in line with their peers. Where possible children should practise frequent hand washing and social distancing
  • Can go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise so long as strict social distancing is maintained.

What’s changing in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?

The government in Northern Ireland has already said people will no longer need to shield from 31 July but have also said this pausing of the advice will only happen if the rate of community transmission remains low.

People who are shielding and living alone in Northern Ireland will also be able to form a support bubble from 6 July with one other household. Until then, people shielding across the UK are advised to stay at home as much as possible and to practise social distancing when they go outside.

In Scotland, the advice is in place until at least 31 July.

In Wales, the Chief Medical Officer has advised that their current guidance on shielding will run until at least 16 August.

BBS UK understands the benefits of being able to get outside, take exercise and meet with friends and family however we would like to continue to urge caution and must stress the importance of maintaining a physical 2 metre distance from those you come into contact with,  keeping strict hygiene routine and avoiding crowded places and public transport where possible. Individual decision making should be based on medical history, locality and individual ability to maintain social distancing.  

For more detailed information about the changes in England and how the advice in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differs follow the links provided below 




Northern Ireland:

Covid-19 and Bardet-Biedl Syndrome

Coronavirus (COVID-19) can make anyone seriously ill. But for some people, including those who have BBS the risk is higher. There are two levels of higher risk:

  1. clinically vulnerable
  2. clinically extremely vulnerable

Patients who have BBS are likely to fall within one of these two categories.  BBS is a complex disorder and we therefore cannot take the individual problems (for example, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and respiratory issues) lightly as we don’t know how having a combination of (for example) hypertension and BBS, or obesity and BBS, magnifies the risk of Covid-19.  It is also thought that chronic kidney disease stages 3-5 would place one in the extremely vulnerable group.

We understand that many who have BBS will feel well and may not feel they present with any of the above risk factors at a serious level however we would reiterate that this disease is still largely unknown and we are urging everyone to take every precaution they can.

People who are clinically vulnerable (moderate risk)

If you have any of the following health conditions, you are ‘clinically vulnerable’, meaning you are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

Clinically vulnerable people are those who:

  • are 70 or older
  • are pregnant
  • 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)

What to do if you are at moderate risk/ clinically vulnerable

If you are  70 and over, have certain underlying conditions or are pregnant you may be more clinically vulnerable, so you need to continue to take particular care to avoid contact with others. If you are clinically vulnerable you can meet people outdoors and, from 4 July, indoors, however you need to be especially careful and diligent about social distancing and hand hygiene.

With the exception of members of your household you should stay socially distant from others, use a tissue when sneezing and dispose of it safely, cough into the crook of your elbow and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser if washing facilities are not easily available.

Unlike people at high risk, you will not get a letter from the NHS advising you to stay at home at all times.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable (high risk)

If you are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, you are at high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus (COVID-19) and should have received a letter advising you to shield or have been told to shield by your GP or hospital clinician.

People falling into this extremely vulnerable group are:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients.
  • People with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell).
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
  • Other people have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decisions.

Advice for those at high risk

People classed as clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to take additional action to prevent themselves from coming into contact with the virus. Although restrictions are been relaxed from July those that are clinically extremely vulnerable should remain cautious as they are still at risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus, so the advice is for them to stay at home where possible and, if they do go out, follow strict social distancing.

The updated guidance for the extremely clinically vulnerable is as follows:

  • If you wish to spend time outdoors you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping 2 metres apart.
  • If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household and from 6th July with up to 5 other people from a different household. If you live alone, you can also spend time outdoors with up to 5 other people from another household.
  • Keep the number of visits outside to a minimum (for instance once per day)
  • Go outside when there are fewer people around, such as early in the morning and ideally in open areas
  • You should not attend any gatherings, including gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, parties, weddings and religious services.
  • Take particular care to minimise contact with others and strictly avoid contact with anyone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of, or change in, your sense of taste or smell)
  • Do not share or exchange personal belongings (such as cups) with others
  • If you would prefer not to spend time outside of your property, try spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air and get some natural sunlight or get out into any private space (such as a garden or balcony), keeping at least 2 metres away from your neighbours and household members at all times.

Updated advice for those living with an extremely vulnerable person

Those living with an extremely vulnerable individual from 6th July will no longer need to maintain a 2-metre distance with members of the same household however they will still be required to adopt some protective measures particularly if there is a possibility that they have been exposed to the virus.

  • Working from home if possible, avoiding public transport and reducing their contact outside of the home as much as possible.
  • Shared spaces should be kept well ventilated - open a window.
  • Where possible, the extremely vulnerable individual should have a separate bathroom and bedroom from the rest of the household. Make sure separate towels are used.
  • If there is no option but to share a toilet and bathroom, they should be cleaned after every use. Consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with the shielded individual using the facilities first.
  • The extremely vulnerable individual should use the kitchen when others are not in there and take their meals back to their room to eat. Coronavirus is spread through droplets (from coughs and sneezes), so cutlery or crockery should not be shared, unless it is clean. A dishwasher should be used if available otherwise soap or washing up liquid and water gets rid of the virus too.
  • Surfaces that are frequently touched should be kept clean including door handles, taps and handrails.