Study highlights at-risk group for return to work

A new study says many more people than are currently shielding are at high risk from COVID-19 if they return to work.

Woman in bed with ventilator and nurse in PPE


Over eight million people in the UK – about 20% of the population –  should be exempted from returning to their workplaces due to having a higher risk of dying from COVID-19, according to researchers based on a new study.

The study from University College London researchers and published in the Lancet says at least 20% of the population falls within the high-risk mortality category for COVID-19: 13·7% based on age older than 70 years, something it calls “an arbitrary cut-off”, and a further 6·3% based on having one or more underlying conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, COPD [pulmonary disease] and diabetes.

Many are not on the Government’s clinically vulnerable list and have not been advised to shield. Many have several risk factors. Experts say the papers shows they may be more at risk than those shielding.

The study says: “We found that patients with conditions not on the vulnerable patient list may be at as high or greater mortality than those who are. For example, cardiovascular disease is not on the vulnerable patient list and has a one-year mortality of 6%; we found that the one-year mortality risk of people with two or more conditions was 11%—but multiple morbidities co-occurring in the same individual do not yet qualify as extremely vulnerable. A more systematic, transparent understanding is needed of which underlying conditions are important for policy and patients.”

Lead author Dr Amitava Banerjee from the UCL Institute of Health Informatics, said any move out of lockdown required clearer guidelines for those at greater risk of death from COVID-19. There is no mention of this group in  the Government’s guidance on return to the workplace.

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