Interim Operational Considerations for Implementing the Shielding Approach to Prevent COVID-19 Infections in Humanitarian Settings
Updated July 26, 2020
What is the Shielding Approach1?
The shielding approach aims to reduce the number of severe COVID-19 cases by limiting contact between individuals at higher risk of developing severe disease (“high-risk”) and the general population (“low-risk”). High-risk individuals would be temporarily relocated to safe or “green zones” established at the household, neighborhood, camp/sector or community level depending on the context and setting.1,2 They would have minimal contact with family members and other low-risk residents.
Current evidence indicates that older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.3 In most humanitarian settings, older population groups make up a small percentage of the total population.4,5 For this reason, the shielding approach suggests physically separating high-risk individuals from the general population to prioritize the use of the limited available resources and avoid implementing long-term containment measures among the general population.
In theory, shielding may serve its objective to protect high-risk populations from disease and death. However, implementation of the approach necessitates strict adherence1,6,7, to protocol. Inadvertent introduction of the virus into a green zone may result in rapid transmission among the most vulnerable populations the approach is trying to protect.
A summary of the shielding approach described by Favas is shown in Table 1. See Guidance for the prevention of COVID-19 infections among high-risk individuals in low-resource, displaced and camp and camp-like settings 1,2 for full details.