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Objectives: To mitigate risk of mortality from coronavirus 2019 infection (COVID-19), the UK government recommended ‘shielding’ of vulnerable people through self-isolation for 12 weeks. Methods: A retrospective cohort study using a nationally representative English primary care database comparing people aged >= 40 years who were recorded as being advised to shield using a fixed ratio of 1:1, matching to people with the same diagnoses not advised to shield (n = 77,360 per group). Time-to-death was compared using Cox regression, reporting the hazard ratio (HR) of mortality between groups. A sensitivity analysis compared exact matched cohorts (n = 24,752 shielded, n = 61,566 exact matches). Results: We found a time-varying HR of mortality between groups. In the first 21 days, the mortality risk in people shielding was half those not (HR = 0.50, 95%CI:0.41–0.59. p < 0.0001). Over the remaining nine weeks, mortality risk was 54% higher in the shielded group (HR=1.54, 95%CI:1.41–1.70, p < 0.0001). Beyond the shielding period, mortality risk was over two-and-a-half times higher in the shielded group (HR=2.61, 95%CI:2.38–2.87, p < 0.0001). Conclusions: Shielding halved the risk of mortality for 21 days. Mortality risk became higher across the remainder of the shielding period, rising to two-and-a-half times greater post-shielding. Shielding may be beneficial in the next wave of COVID-19.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Infection

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