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People at higher risk from coronavirus

Last updated: 16 September 2020 at 3.45pm

Coronavirus (COVID-19) 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
High risk people

Follow the advice on cocooning

Follow the advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus

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 had an organ transplant
  • are undergoing active chemotherapy for cancer
  • are having radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
  • have cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
  • are having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
  • are having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
  • have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • are on dialysis
  • have unstable or severe cystic fibrosis. This includes people awaiting a transplant
  • severe respiratory conditions including Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, lung fibrosis, interstitial lung disease and severe COPD
  • have a condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
  • are taking medicine that makes you much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppression therapies)
  • have a serious heart condition and you're pregnant

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

If you are in a very high risk group, you need to cocoon.

Read our guide on how to cocoon.

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:

What to do if you're at high risk

Take extra care to follow the advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus.

This means:

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


You should work from home if you are at high risk from coronavirus.

If you cannot work from home and you have to go to your workplace, 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 coronavirus.

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 coronavirus

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

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 coronavirus.

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

Quit smoking during the coronavirus outbreak

Community support

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

  • groceries
  • medicines
  • other essential items

Changes have also been made to make it easier for you to get your medicines and prescriptions.

Read more about how Local Authorities can help you during the coronavirus outbreak.

Pregnancy and coronavirus

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 coronavirus.

Read more advice on pregnancy and coronavirus.

Related topics

How to get tested for coronavirus

Minding your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

Exercise at home

Join the Fight Against Coronavirus.

Download the CovidTracker app