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Shielding ‘effective in protecting vulnerable patients’ from Covid

Rate of emergency admissions and deaths from coronavirus fell sooner for shielded patients than for the general population, data from NHS Digital shows.

Daily emergency admissions fell by 46% for those on the shielding list compared with 33% in a control sample of the general population form the start of March to the week beginning the 13 April, the report concluded.

While the mortality rate remained higher for shielded people than the general population across the three-month period looked at, deaths peaked and started to reduce sooner, the figures suggest.

The peak daily mortality rate for those shielding was 1 in 2,500 on the 2 April 2020 compared with 1 in 7,000 for the general population on the 12 April and a similar pattern was found for mortality rates where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate.

Positive Covid tests from the pillar 1 testing programme peaked for everyone in early April at 1 in 3,500 for shielding individuals and 1 in 9,500 for the age-matched control group.

By the middle of June this positive tests had fallen to 1 in 66,700 for those on the shielding list compared with 1 in 166,700 for the general population, the report found.

Around 2.2 million were asked to stay at home and have no face-to-face contact for 12 weeks.

NHS Digital said the data could not show the impact of shielding because there was no way to reliably estimate what the emergency admission and death rates would have been if shielding had not been put in place.

The ‘extremely vulnerable’ people on the shielding list have been told they can return to work from the start of August.

Guidance has already been relaxed to allow for outdoor social distanced contact with up to six people; and support bubbles with another household for shielding people who live alone or are single parents.

Experts have warned that more people may need to shield should a second wave of coronavirus take hold with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease more important that first thought.