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People at higher risk from COVID-19

Stay at home – Ireland is at level 5.
Read about the current government restrictions on

COVID-19 (coronavirus) can make anyone seriously ill. But for some people, the risk is higher.

There are 2 levels of higher risk:

There is different advice to protect people in each group.

What each group should do

Very high risk people should follow the advice on staying at home.

High risk people should follow the advice on how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

You should also wear a medical face mask instead of a cloth face covering when in public if you are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

Very high risk groups (extremely vulnerable)

The list of people in very high risk groups include people who:

  • are over 70 years of age - even if you're fit and well
  • have Down Syndrome
  • have cancer and are being treated with chemotherapy or similar drugs other than hormone therapy
  • have lung or head and neck cancer and are having radical surgery or radiotherapy
  • are having radical radiotherapy for lung cancer or head and neck cancer
  • are having certain complex cancer surgery, for example, surgery for lung cancer, head and neck cancer or oesophageal cancer
  • have advanced cancer or cancer that has spread to another part of the body
  • are on dialysis or have end-stage kidney disease and an eGFR less than 15
  • have a condition affecting the brains or nerves that has significantly affected your ability to breathe, meaning you require non-invasive ventilation (such as motor neurone disease or spinal muscular atrophy)
  • have unstable or severe cystic fibrosis, including people waiting for a transplant
  • have severe respiratory conditions including Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, lung fibrosis, interstitial lung disease and severe COPD
  • have uncontrolled diabetes
  • have had an organ transplant or are waiting for a transplant
  • have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 12 months, or are waiting for a transplant
  • have a rare condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections (such as APECED or errors in the interferon pathway)
  • sickle cell disease
  • have been treated with drugs such as Rituximab, Cyclophosphamide, Alemtuzumab, Cladribine or Ocrelizumab in the last 6 months
  • have certain inherited metabolic disorders (such as Maple Syrup Urine Disease)
  • have obesity with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40

What to do if you're at very high risk (extremely vulnerable)

If you are in a very high risk group, you need to stay at home as much as possible.

Read advice for people at very high risk from COVID-19

Work from home where possible. If you are not able to work from home, get advice from your occupational health service and your healthcare team.

High risk groups

The list of people in high risk groups includes people who:

  • are over 60 years of age
  • have a learning disability other than Down Syndrome
  • are being treated for cancer but are not very high risk
  • have been treated in the past 5 years for a cancer of the blood or bone marrow (such as leukaemia, lymphona or myeloma)
  • have been treated in the past 1 year for a cancer that did not start in the blood or bone marrow
  • have chronic heart disease (such as heart failure)
  • have chronic kidney disease with an eGFR below 30ml a minute
  • have chronic liver disease (such as cirrhosis or fibrosis)
  • have a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson's disease or cerebral palsy) that affects their breathing or ability to protect or clear their airway
  • have clinically stable cystic fibrosis
  • have a serious lung condition but are not at very high risk, for example, moderate COPD, severe asthma, emphysema or bronchitis
  • have diabetes
  • are taking medicine that makes you much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids)
  • have a condition that means you have a high risk of getting infections (such as HIV, lupus or scleroderma)
  • have an inherited metabolic disorder but are not very high risk
  • have obesity with a body mass index (BMI) between 35 and 40
  • have a severe mental illness (such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression)

What to do if you're at high risk

Take extra care to follow the advice on how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

This means:

You do not need to self-isolate unless you have symptoms of COVID-19.


You should work from home if you are at high risk from COVID-19.

If you cannot work from home because you are an essential worker, take extra care to:

  • practice social distancing where possible
  • wash your hands regularly and properly

If you work in a school, it is safe to return to work once you follow the advice about social distancing and hand hygiene. But talk to your school's occupational health service. They will carry out an individual risk assessment based on your situation.

Ask the people in your life to take extra care to protect you from COVID-19.

If you develop a fever or any respiratory symptoms contact your GP or HSELive on 1850 24 1850

Caring for someone at high risk from COVID-19

If you are caring for someone at a higher risk from COVID-19, it is very important you follow the advice on how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Also, make sure the person you are caring for understands how important it is that they protect themselves.


Smoking may increase your risk of a more severe infection from COVID-19.

Smoking affects the immune system in the airways, lung tissue and throughout the body. This reduces your natural protection against infections, like COVID-19.

Quit smoking during the COVID-19 outbreak

Community support

Community support is available for people at higher risk from COVID-19. The support includes help with collecting:

  • groceries
  • medicines
  • other essential items

Read about how getting your medicines and prescriptions has been made easier

Read how local authorities can help you during the COVID-19 outbreak

Pregnancy and COVID-19

The information we have so far shows that pregnant women or their babies are not at a higher risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19.

Read more advice on pregnancy and COVID-19

Related topics

How to get tested for COVID-19

Minding your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Exercise at home

Last updated: 12 March 2021 at 6.05pm

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