Topic / Blog

A spotlight on England's recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions

Vulnerable groups (people with MS) should continue to take care

dolls with masks on

People with MS are classified by the UK Government as ‘clinically vulnerable people’ meaning you are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Government advice (as of 11 May 2020) is still to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household. This has applied to everyone except essential key workers up until now, but some restrictions are being lifted for those people who are not classed as clinically vulnerable (see below). 

There is an additional category, ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. This category includes people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection. (Please find a useful link to UK drug treatments for MS here) People who are clinically extremely vulnerable should have received a letter telling them they’re in this group or been told by their GP. The guidance here is to stay shielded and stay at home, until at least 30 June - this also means family, friends and carers.You may have received a Government text message about this recently. If you have any questions or concerns about your vulnerability you should raise them with your GP or hospital clinician. (If you are not registered and would like to be, you can find out more information here.)

A key difference with shielding, to the advice for the general population, is that people who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not leave their house. 

The general advice for everyone is stay alert to the virus and to try to stay at home as much as possible. And when out, to always remain two metres apart from anyone not in your household. Everyone is still being advised to follow good hygiene practices and wash hands regularly. 

Additional advice, which is new, for people who are neither clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his address to the nation on Sunday 11 May and includes:

  • People should continue to work from home, if they can. For those who can’t, for example in construction and manufacturing, Government is now ‘encouraging’ people to return to work in a COVID-secure way – observing social distancing and avoiding public transport where possible

  • Some non-essential retail would be allowed to re-open such as Garden Centres and DIY stores. Card payments will be required. Safe social-distancing is still required - staying two metres apart. 

  • More people are allowed to do unlimited exercise outside. This is good news for people without gardens who want to spend time in parks in the sunshine. And people can drive short distances for exercise. In addition some sports will be available to people in the same household including fishing, golf, basketball and tennis.

  • Two people from different households can now meet in an outside place if they stay two metres apart

  • From 1 June at the earliest, there may be partial re-opening of initially primary schools in England for certain year groups. The aim is to have all primary school children back before the end of summer term. (It remains unclear whether children should return to school if they live with a vulnerable family member, not if they need to be shielded and not before 30 June at the earliest.)

  • From July - parts of the hospitality sector may be allowed to re-open providing certain criteria are fulfilled

  • We are now advised to wear face coverings in areas where space may be confined, for example on public transport

The Government has since published a recovery strategy document. Government ministers and advisors are regularly reviewing scientific data and will make changes to avoid a second spike in infections, as needed. (Note there are limited regional variations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.)

There are varying COVID restrictions around the world and it is best to check individual Government guidelines for key differences, some examples are here:

In Australia, the National Cabinet has announced a three step plan to help the country recover:

New Zealand is moving to a lower Alert level (2) and allows gatherings of up to 10 people. The USA varies by State. President Trump’s Guidelines for Opening up America Again ( Germany is planning to open schools and ease some restrictions including the professional football Bundesliga


Photo credit: Evgeni Tcherkasski

Hide commentsShow comments

Kay Hutt (not verified)

Surely only people with MS on immunosuppressants are clinically extremely vulnerable? So why are they sending these very scary text messages to everyone with MS?


Hello Kay. Thanks for your comment. You are right people with MS on some drug treatments are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable. Everyone's situations are individual and hopefully medical advisors can help identify a person's level of risk. But everyone with MS is still classed as more at risk, clinically vulnerable, and is still being advised to take extra care. I've seen one recent text for 'clinically extremely vulnerable' advising still to shield at home until 30 June. As restrictions are eased it's an unsettling time for many and at OMS we'll try to provide updates and clarity on the latest governments' advice. Keep in touch.

Rachel77 (not verified)

I have had to postpone my second round of Lemtrada, which I was due to start on 16th March. I have been staying inside, but I have never received a letter or text from my GP/Neuro/the government telling me I should do so. I'm just playing it safe!


Hello Rachel. That sounds sensible and you should do whatever works best for you; everyone with MS is still advised to take extra care. Indeed in the UK we are all still advised to stay at home as much as possible - apart from to exercise and for important journeys - obviously this isn't an option for key workers and those returning to work. You could try registering via the Government link in the blog if you wanted to perhaps? We wish you well and keep in touch.