An extra 1.7 million people will be added to the shielding list in England as part of an expansion of the shielding list, the government has announced.

With 2.2 million already on the shielding list it will mean a total of nearly four million people will be asked to shield in England in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus.

For some people being added to the list it will now mean they will be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The new model will now take into account other factors and not just be determined by someone’s health.

The shielding list was expanded after scientists developed a new tool which assesses whether someone is at risk of severe disease or death.

The tool looks at multiple factors including age, ethnicity, body mass index (BMI), other health conditions and also postcode, which is indicative of levels of deprivation.

The predictive risk model was developed by researchers led by scientists at Oxford University.

Around 2.2 million people are currently on the list in England, many of whom were identified for a single reason, such as specific cancers, people on immunosuppression drugs or those with severe respiratory conditions.

Of the 1.7 million extra people now being asked to shield, 900,000 have already received an offer to receive their first jab because they are over the age of 70.

The Department of Health and Social Care said the group includes more than 800,000 adults aged between 19 and 69 who will now be prioritised for a vaccination.

Shielding was re-introduced in England in December last year for tier four areas.

While in the first lockdown people were told they could not leave their home, people are now being advised that they only leave their homes in order to exercise.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said: “We have a new, evidence-based, data-driven, predictive risk model which allows us to identify adults with multiple risk factors that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19.

“We can now identify additional people and help protect them now and in the future.

“All of these people who are identified for the first time are those who have not had an individual clinical condition that we’ve previously been able to identify through the clinically extremely vulnerable group, but they are people who have multiple personal risk factors and underlying health conditions which move them into a higher risk group."

Dorset Echo: Covid-19 patients in hospital in England. (PA)Covid-19 patients in hospital in England. (PA)

She added: “As we learn more about Covid-19, we’re continuously reviewing the evidence… it was very clear that not all of those individuals who were at risk were identified by the binary approach.

“The model that is used combines a number of underlying risk factors. And those factors include specific health conditions, and some treatments which, for example, put your immune system at risk.

“Age, which is the highest risk factor, sex, ethnicity, body mass index and your postcode, which will also link to a deprivation score.

“It provides a weighted cumulative risk of serious outcomes from Covid-19, and therefore allows us to prioritise these individuals for vaccination, and to give them appropriate advice.

“And the easiest way for us to do that is to include them on the shielded patient list.”

The model has been shared with the devolved nations however it is being left up to leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to decide what to do with it.