'Shielding' is one of the words most synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic. Used in conjunction with the group of people termed 'clinically vulnerable', it refers to the extreme guidelines that these people have had to follow during the pandemic in order to protect their health. As we come up to the first anniversary of the first UK lockdown, some people will have spent an entire year sheltering indoors, without the takeaway coffees, walks with friends and supermarket visits which have helped the rest of us stay sane throughout this ordeal.
For many, the typical person shielding is someone elderly; your nan, for instance. But there are plenty of young people who are classed as vulnerable, too. For these people, making up their own mind about whether an activity is 'too risky' to partake in is a privilege they do not have. They have been at the mercy of other people following the rules, and their frustration at those who've consistently banged the drum for lifting lockdown is understandable.
Ahead, we speak to five young women who've spent pretty much all of the last 12 months indoors, shielding from COVID-19. As vaccines roll out and lockdown measures look set to lift, we asked them how they've been surviving, what they've spent the past year doing and what they hope this pandemic will mean for the future.