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MS Society Medical Advisers release consensus statement on pausing shielding

Governments are advising that from July and August (depending on which nation you live in) people who were advised to shield don't need to keep shielding unless they live in a local lockdown area. We spoke to our medical advisers about how it applies to people with MS.

We know these changes have been concerning for people with MS who are shielding, as they don't feel clear about the risks of pausing shielding or increasing social contact during the pandemic. So we asked our Medical Advisers, who are some of the leading clinicians for MS in the UK, to agree a consensus statement about it.

This is a new version of our previous consensus statement on shielding. We updated it on 31 July to reflect the new government advice and latest evidence about risks from COVID-19 for people with MS.

MS Society Medical Advisers' consensus statement

Our MS Medical Advisers agreed:

“Where the relevant national government (in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland) has decided that the risk from COVID-19 is low enough to recommend that those shielding can go stop shielding, then we would generally agree that a person with MS can do so.

“In this scenario, the physical and mental health benefits of going outside would generally be likely to outweigh the risk of infection, for someone who has been shielding for a number of weeks already.

“However, it is important to note that everyone’s risk is different and that people may be comfortable with different levels of risk. If you are feeling unsure you can consult our previous advice on the wider risk factors for people with MS from COVID-19.

“The latest evidence indicates that other factors such as frailty or having long-term conditions besides MS (for example obesity or diabetes) increase your risks more than being on a particular DMT.

“People should still be particularly cautious for at least 12 weeks after courses of alemtuzumab and cladribine, which significantly increase the risk of infection. A course of ocrelizumab within the last 12 weeks may also moderately increase your risk of more severe Covid-19. If this applies to you, you should discuss the most appropriate social distancing with your MS team.

“When going outside, there are a few important points to remember:

  • you should still stick strictly to social distancing rules if you do go outside – and when meeting others outside your household or support bubble
  • you should minimise time in enclosed spaces like shops and public transport (this does not include your workplace, as long as your employer has put measures in place to minimise risk of infection in line with Government guidance)
  • open spaces like parks or fields will generally be safest, rather than for example urban pavements

“We also emphasise the importance of attending appointments with healthcare professionals, or seeking help if you feel seriously unwell. The consequences of not getting regular or emergency healthcare can be very serious for people with MS.

“If you are still feeling uncertain after having considered the risks and the precautions that you can take, you can contact the MS Society Helpline to talk over your situation.”

We're here for you

We're here for you. If you’re worried about your MS and coronavirus and want to chat to someone, call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm except bank holidays.

You can also sign up to our new Keep in Touch service, for a weekly catch up with one of our friendly volunteers.

Read more about staying safe during the pandemic

We updated this page on 31 July 2020

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