People who are at a higher risk of being really unwell if they catch coronavirus (people who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable) have been previously told by their GP or clinical team to shield or take extra precautions. If you’re not sure if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you should check with your clinical team.
You may still have questions about what you should and shouldn’t do, even though restrictions are due to lift in different stages across the UK. You can find information from the government website for your country, or from your GP or clinical care team.
For children with cancer there is also information on the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia (CCLG) website.
What are the coronavirus guidelines for people with cancer?
Legal coronavirus restrictions are being lifted across the UK. Each UK country is reviewing their guidelines separately, meaning the restrictions and timings will be different depending on where you live or are visiting.
Lifting of restrictions will apply to clinically extremely vulnerable people too.
But it’s still advised to take extra precautions to reduce your risk of catching coronavirus. You may also have been advised by your clinical team to try to avoid other infections too.
The best way of getting all the latest information is to check the page on clinically extremely vulnerable people on the government website for the country you live in regularly.
So even if legal restrictions have lifted for you, here are some ways you can help keep yourself and others safe:
- Follow all the advice from your clinical care team, which may include continuing to stay away from others. Cancer treatment sometimes involves periods of isolation anyway, if it’s important for your immune system to be protected from different infections (not just coronavirus). We know this can be really hard, so check out our isolation hacks for some ideas of how to keep a routine.
- Keep up to date with and follow the government coronavirus guidelines for where you live or where you are visiting. This is important because the rules will be different depending on which country you’re in. And it is possible that things could change again.
- Wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap, and use hand sanitiser when you’re out and about. It’s also a good idea to avoid touching your face.
- Choose to meet outside if you’re able to see other people, or make sure the space you’re in is well ventilated.
- Wear a mask if you’re indoors with lots of people, or if it would make you more comfortable. Masks will still be mandatory or required in some countries and some places, like clinical settings (the hospital or doctors) and on some public transport. But even if they’re not, governments and advisers are still recommending people wear masks in busy indoor spaces.
- Choose to limit your contact with other people – you might want to only see a few select people and not meet in big groups, or you might decide you don’t want to start hugging people just yet. It’s OK to ask people if they’ve been vaccinated too, as that might reassure you.
- Choose to limit how much you use public transport. You can talk to your school, college or place of work about how you can avoid peak times, if it’s not possible for you to drive or cycle yourself.
- Use free coronavirus lateral flow tests regularly, and ask those you’re meeting up with to test before you see them, too. You can order these here, or check your local government website.
- Keep an eye on how you’re feeling – if you’re feeling unwell, always look after yourself and check in with your clinical team. If you have symptoms of coronavirus, they can advise whether you need to get tested. The legal rules around self-isolating because of coronavirus are due to change at different times across the UK, so always make sure you know what you need to do by checking online.
- Consider getting the coronavirus vaccine. If you haven’t had it already, and you’re old enough to be eligible, talk to your care team about any questions you might have. The vaccine provides the best protection for you and those around you, especially after your second dose.
I’m clinically extremely vulnerable and I have been asked to go back into work. What are my rights?
Now that coronavirus restrictions are due to be lifted across the UK, you might be asked to go back into work, if you haven’t already. It’s OK to have mixed feelings about this, especially if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable.
Your employer still has a legal requirement to make sure vulnerable people are kept safe at work. So you should only make changes to your place of work once you’ve spoken to your GP or clinical care team about making sure you stay safe.
If you are asked to change your working pattern, there are a few things you might find helpful to do:
- Talk to your employer. Explaining your situation and why you’re anxious about going back into work can help them find a way to make sure you’re safe. They will keep whatever you say confidential if others at your workplace don’t know about your cancer treatment.
- Ask if you can work somewhere else. You might be able to keep working from home for longer, for example.
- You can ask your employer about things they could put in place to help you feel safer, like continuing with mask wearing or social distancing in your place of work.
- Ask if they’ve read the latest guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive about how to keep vulnerable people safe at work from coronavirus, and ask which of their suggestions they’ll be able to put in place.
- In the short term, you could ask to take some paid holiday, if you have any owed to you.
- You can ask if your employer can make use of the furlough scheme for you, if it’s still available in your country and you’re eligible.
As someone with cancer, you are also protected by the Equality Act (England, Scotland and Wales) or the Disability Discrimination Act (Northern Ireland). That means that your employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make sure you’re able to work safely.
Macmillan Cancer Support (PDF) also have some really helpful info on reasonable adjustments, and a directory of organisations who could help you with questions about your workplace.
You can find more detailed information about employment help and support available to you in your country through your government’s website.
I’ve had cancer in the past/I’m in remission – how will coronavirus affect me?
This depends on the type of cancer and the treatment you have had.
Most people make a full recovery after cancer treatment and their immune system either recovers fully or is not affected.
But if your GP or clinical team think you need to take extra precautions, you should have been contacted with advice on how to keep yourself safe.
If you haven’t been contacted or you have questions about keeping yourself safe, you can always contact your GP or clinical team.
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