Urgent protection needed to protect people with diabetes from Covid, warn experts

URGENT action is needed to protect millions of people with diabetes from Covid, experts have warned.

With cases of mutant Covid continuing to surge, the shielding list must be widened to include those with the condition, campaigners say.

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Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes puts people at a higher risk of serious illness or death if they catch coronavirus.

Research from early in the pandemic found almost one in three people who have died from coronavirus in hospital had diabetes.

And for those who have to continue working outside of their home, it's putting them "in harms way", charities Diabetes UK and JDRF’s say.

They are calling for an immediate extension of the shielding list to include people with diabetes who are at the highest risk.


Shielding these people will give them access to additional financial protections, specifically furlough and Statutory Sick Pay.

The charities have today written to the UK's four Chief Medical Officers, urging them to classify the highest risk diabetes cases as clinically extremely vulnerable (CES).

That doesn't mean all of the approximately four million diabetics in Britain should need to shield – but those who are most at risk.

This would include people with any type of diabetes who are aged 50 or older, who have a HbA1c of 75mmol/mol (nine per cent) or more, and who have had treatment for a diabetes-related complication, they say.

We are extremely worried… we cannot allow people with diabetes at greatest risk to be forced into harm’s way

In a joint statement, Chris Askew OBE, Chief Executive at Diabetes UK, and Karen Addington, Chief Executive at JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charity, said:
“One in three people who have sadly died from coronavirus had diabetes.

"The increased transmissibility of the new strain, and the extreme pressures currently facing our NHS, mean it is time for those with diabetes whose health is at greatest risk if they get coronavirus to be given the
protections and support of shielding.

“We are extremely worried. We cannot allow people with diabetes at greatest risk to be forced into harm’s way in order to protect their income.

"The Government, together with the Chief Medical Officers of the UK, must listen to our concerns, and act urgently to protect these people.”


Around two million people were told to shield once again as Britain was put into its third national lockdown earlier this month.

The current shielding advice applies to everyone in England who has been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CES).

People in this group are most at risk from Covid and will have previously received a letter from the NHS or their GP advising them to shield.

They are being advised to stay at home as much as possible – unless they need to attend a medical appointment.

They will also get priority access to the Covid vaccine before the general population – with the Government aiming to have everyone in this group vaccinated by mid-February.

Definition of clinically extremely vulnerable groups

People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

There are two ways you may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:

  • You have one or more of the conditions listed below
  • Your hospital clinician or GP has added you to the shielded patients list because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at higher risk of serious illness if you catch the virus

Adults with the following conditions are automatically deemed clinically extremely vulnerable:

  • solid organ transplant recipients
  • those with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs


    However, people with diabetes are classed as "clinically vulnerable", rather than "clinically extremely vulnerable" – such as those with cancer or heart diseases.

    Over the course of the pandemic, scientists are debating whether diabetics need more protection now that more research has been carried out.

    Official figures showed people with autoimmune type 1 diabetes are three-and-a-half times more likely to die if they catch Covid-19 than non-diabetics, while type 2 diabetics – generally linked with being overweight – are twice as likely to die.

    During the first national coronavirus lockdown in March millions of vulnerable Brits were told to stay inside – but this again didn't include those with diabetes.

    As part of the second lockdown in November, restrictions on the vulnerable group were relaxed slightly – allowing the vulnerable to go outside for exercise.

    In the third national shutdown, the most vulnerable were again told to stay at home but this time other members of their household can leave for essential reasons.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this month those affected will receive a letter outlining what it means for them.



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