Some people have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying if they are infected with the novel coronavirus.

What are the risk groups for the novel coronavirus?

  • People over 70 years old   
    People who are over 70 years old have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This has become apparent from international research. That holds true in the Netherlands as well: half of the patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in this country are over the age of 69. Three-quarters of the deceased who had tested positive for COVID-19 were over 76 years old.
    Vulnerable older people who have difficulty staying self-reliant are more at risk than older people who are fit and healthy. Vulnerability increases with age and can manifest itself in various ways. For example, some vulnerable older people may need assistance with physical care, while others may have memory problems and regularly attend adult day services.
     
  • Adults (over 18 years old) with underlying health conditions
    Adults with certain underlying health conditions also have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This includes people who have one or more of the following health conditions:
    • People with chronic respiratory or pulmonary problems that are being treated by a lung specialist
    • Chronic heart patients who therefore qualify for a flu shot.
    • People with diabetes that is not fully controlled and/or involves complications.
    • People with kidney disease who need dialysis or are waiting for a kidney transplant.
    • People who are less resistant to infection because they are taking medication for an autoimmune disease, and people who have had an organ transplant or stem cell transplant. That includes: people who have a blood disease; people who are less resistant to infection because they are taking medication that weakens the immune system; cancer patients during chemotherapy and/or radiation, or within 3 months after receiving such treatment; people with severe immune disorders for which they require treatment from a doctor. People who do not have a spleen, or who have a non-functioning spleen, are not at additional risk from severe COVID-19, but do have an added risk of a possible (secondary) infection with pneumococcal disease. 
    • People with an HIV infection who are not (or not yet) being treated by a doctor, or with an HIV infection with a cluster of differentiation 4 (CD4) below 200/mm2.
    • People with serious liver disease.
    • People who are very seriously overweight (morbid obesity).

Advice for people in risk groups

People from risk groups are advised to be extra cautious and to comply with the measures carefully. It is especially important for visitors of people in risk groups to follow the basic rules.

General measures

The basic measures that apply to everyone in the Netherlands also apply to people in risk groups:

  • If you have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19: get tested and stay home until you get the results of the test.
  • Always stay 1.5 metres apart from people outside your household.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Follow the general hygiene guidelines.

Additional advice

For people in risk groups, it is important to avoid 'uncontrollable' situations. These are situations in which it is not possible to stay 1.5 metres apart and no one is checking whether people have symptoms. Here are some recommendations for avoiding situations that you cannot control, and reducing your risk of infection:

  • Receiving visitors in your home   
  • Ask visitors beforehand if they have any symptoms , stay 1.5 metres apart, and follow the hygiene measures. If it is possible to receive visitors outdoors, that would be better than indoors.
  • Visiting others
  • Be cautious. Ask your hosts and any other guests beforehand if they have any symptoms, stay 1.5 metres apart, and follow the hygiene measures.
  • Shopping Avoid locations where it may be difficult to stay 1.5 metres apart, such as supermarkets, building centres or busy shopping streets. If you cannot avoid going to the shops, choose a less busy time of day. Vulnerable elderly people should preferably have someone else do their shopping, or have groceries delivered to their home.
  • Meetings and gatherings
  • Avoid large gatherings of people.
  • Transport
  • Avoid using public transport. If you make use of adult day services, you can use the transport provided to go to those activities. The transport company will take appropriate measures.
  • Looking after (grand)children
  • The 1.5-metre measure for children has been relaxed, because children play a  minor role in the spread of the virus. Children up to and including 12 years of age do not have to keep 1.5 metres apart from each other and from adults. (See also the page Children and COVID-19) This means the following for people older than 70 years:
    • Vital people over 70 years old can look after (grand)children under 13 years of age. They do not have to keep 1.5 metres apart from the children and are also allowed to cuddle with the children.
    • Vulnerable elderly people can babysit, but we advise them to be extra careful and preferably maintain a distance of 1.5 metres.
    See also the advice for grandparents and grandmothers who would like to look after their grandchildren on the website of the Netherlands Youth Institute (in Dutch)






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If you do have visitors, ask them the following health questions:

  • Do you or one of your household members have cold symptoms, such as a nasal cold, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, mild cough, shortness of breath and/or elevated temperature?
  • Do you have any other symptoms, or are you feeling unwell?
  • Have you had any contact within the past 2 weeks with someone who has the novel coronavirus?

Cancel the visit if the answer to any of these questions is yes.

Measures for those sharing a household with vulnerable people

If you are sharing a household with someone who is vulnerable due to underlying health conditions, it is important that you follow the measures as closely as possible, just like everyone else, so you can prevent a COVID-19 infection.

No increased risk for children in risk groups

Children with underlying medical problems do not appear to have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 than healthy children. If you are unsure whether your child can go to school, childcare or after-school care, please consult your child’s doctor or paediatrician and the school management. If a family member is in a risk group and under specialist treatment, consult with the doctor and the school management about whether the child can go to school.

Frequently Asked Questions Risk Groups and COVID-19

I have asthma/allergies. Does that mean that I am more susceptible to COVID-19?

No. Based on current knowledge, it appears that asthma or allergy patients are not a higher risk for COVID-19. This is the case if you take your medication according to the instructions.

Do people who have had a flu shot have any advantage or disadvantage for the novel coronavirus?

The flu shot offers protection against flu (influenza). It does not protect against other viruses, such as the novel coronavirus. There is no evidence that people who have had the flu shot are more susceptible to the novel coronavirus. Having a flu shot does not weaken your immune system. Similarly, there is no evidence that the flu shot itself increases the risk of catching COVID-19. In addition, a flu shot does not affect how severe the symptoms are if you get sick.